Note: This post is by my colleague Lee de-Wit. I wanted to repost it here so that it is accessible outside Facebook.
Elsevier has apparently requested that several papers shared on Academia.edu be taken down. This is a logical request given their ownership of the copyright of these pdfs, but I think it brings into clear focus, that the goals of traditional publishers are increasingly coming into conflict with our desire to share our research.
I personally regard it as a genuine service when researchers openly share pdfs on their website. Indeed I know a number of my colleagues actively encourage such sharing, but I have never seen anyone openly encourage it.
I think it is time we started doing so. Publishers were created in a time when access to scientific work was dependent on the professional printing of scholarly work. This print service still has a role to play, but there is massive scope for innovation in online publishing, evident in companies like PeerJ who organize the review process, and make your article openly accessible following a life time subscription of just 99 dollars. Established publishers however seem to be more focused on the ease with which they can make profits (and buy houses on the beach) than in innovating with better services. Elsevier, for example, has reported an operating profit margin of 40%, larger than companies like News Corporation.
I think it is our responsibility to the tax payers who fund our research to challenge the status quo. If we all share our articles, this not only facilitates access, but also undermines the subscription model that transfers funding for research into the profits of publishers like Elsevier, and will therefore force them to innovate. I would therefore like to encourage everyone to share their pdf’s and be open about the fact they have done so. Elsevier cannot enforce that every scientist in the world removes papers from their websites, and even if they try, it will be a terrible public relations move that will hasten the demise of their current business model.
I think it is time we call their bluff.