As regular readers here might know, me and Elsevier are not the greatest friends. Last year saw a lot of activism against them, and other scholarly publishers, as a great threat to democratic access to knowledge and the future of [open] science. One of the major points of tension was around Elsevier and their role in the EU’s Open Science Monitor. This led to a rather interesting sequence of events:
- I wrote an opinion piece in The Guardian expressing concerns with having Elsevier as the sole subcontractor for the European Commission Open Science Monitor. Fox, meet hen-house.
- A response by Elsevier on their website, which has also received some comments and annotations.
- Point-by-point reply to Elsevier’s response here.
- Overview of the discussion to that date by the news outlet Research Professional, including comments from an EC spokesperson.
- Formal complaint filed with the EU Ombudsman accompanied by 432 signatories (but now with more than 1100).
- Press release issued by The Lisbon Council, responding to the original Guardian article.
- Point-by-point response to the Lisbon Council’s response by me, condemning the tone and content of the two responses.
- The European Commission responded to our complaint, addressing a number of our original concerns; this response document now being annotated here.
- I have requested the original contract, which the EC have informed me is being delayed for unknown reasons.
While all of this was happening, I also filed a formal complaint with Björn Brembs to the EU antitrust authority about Elsevier and abuse of a dominant market position, as well as general problems within the ‘market’ sector. And while all this was kicking off, we released a report with Education International, entitled Democratising Knowledge: a report on the scholarly publisher, Elsevier. This basically contains everything you ever wanted to know about Elsevier. It also helps to answer the question of why they get so often singled out among all other commercial publishers. The results of both of these things are still in development.
The latest step
Now, as if this wasn’t enough, while all of this was happening I filed a request for a formal petition to the European Parliament about Elsevier and the Open Science Monitor. I’m happy to announce that they finally have processed it and released it online! They provide the following summary:
The petitioner denounces the award to a subcontractor to monitor the future progress of Open Science in Europe, as well as the fact that the opportunity to raise a formal appeal was denied to him and others, due to the late notification of the award. He claims that the process of the subcontract award will have a detrimental impact on the future of Open Science and innovation in Europe, the livelihoods of European citizens, and the legitimacy of the European Commission as an institution. He denounces the lack of sufficient care and transparency with the process of the contracting procedure. Second, and as a consequence of this, there would be a clear conflict of interest (COI) as the subcontractor would be monitoring and evaluating the very same science communication that they, and their competitors, sell as their primary products.
This petition is the result of a number of things. First, the complaint to the Ombudsman might not be successful (which seems to be the case at the moment). Second, it might not effectively communicate the voice of the scientists who signed, including those who did after submission. Third, this is required for the times in which citizens are frustrated with Elsevier, but have no formal route to communicate that. And finally, we were denied the opportunity to submit a formal appeal about Elsevier’s role here. The window for this was only 2 months, and the time gap between the award decision and the announcement of Elsevier as subcontractor was 2 months and 1 day.
Nearly 100 have already signed, but it would obviously be great if this could go viral within the academic community. Hint hint. Some folks have also said that the website is a bit clunky, which I apologise for. I have messaged the Secretariat about too (as well as the seemingly broken PDF link). All the content you need is on the web page linked to above. I hope you join us and help to combat the threat that Elsevier poses on the future of science. If the European Parliament can get involved, we can actually make big changes! But to get there, first it is up to us.