Elsevier defends stance on anti-open-access bill

The journal publisher Elsevier has hit back after being pilloried for supporting an anti-open-access bill in the US Congress.

A row has been rumbling along for weeks over the publisher's support for the Research Works Act introduced to Congress in December by New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney, which seeks to overturn and ban policies such as the one adopted by the National Institutes of Health requiring taxpayer-funded research papers to be deposited in open-access repositories within a year of publication.

Several other publishers, including Nature Publishing Group, have stated their opposition to the proposals.

Thousands of people have signed a petition denouncing Elsevier's stance, while a number of prominent academics have vowed to stop publishing in and refereeing for Elsevier journals.

Writing last month, Mike Taylor, research associate at the department of earth sciences, University of Bristol, accused Elsevier of pursuing an agenda that is "nothing nobler than to line their pockets at the expense of scientists worldwide and everyone with a preventable or treatable disease".

However, in a statement to Times Higher Education, Elsevier insists that allegations that it is "anti-science" are misplaced.

"We respect the freedom of authors to make their own decisions, and we are happy to engage to discuss their concerns," it says.

"The facts upon which the petition is based, however, are not correct.

"Access to published content is greater and at its lowest cost per use than ever before.

"This is a direct result of the investments publishers have made to digitise and disseminate content.

"We offer purchasing options from pay-per-view, title by title, to a wide range of collections; however there is no contesting that the introduction of optional packages has added enormous access at fractions of the list prices and resulted in reduced cost per use."

The statement adds that Elsevier "is in the business of expanding access to content, not restricting it".

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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