Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Elsevier acquires SSRN

News release.  I hope this works out (being a big SSRN user myself). Elsevier, alas, has a terrible reputation in various academic communities.

UPDATE:  For some concerns, see this post.  I'm opening this for comments from readers, in law or other fields.


Law in Cyberspace, Of Academic Interest | Permalink


I haven't taken ResearchGate very seriously so far, but this might persuade me to give it a shot.

Posted by: EE | May 17, 2016 6:13:27 PM

There has been some question about whether there will be a difference in terms of how SSRN posts material after the Elsevier acquisition. I have some concrete evidence that there will be. About a week ago, I tried to upload to SSRN a paper I published with a Taylor and Francis journal, as I have done countless times in the past without no objections. I was informed by SSRN staff that the paper could not be uploaded because most T&F journals do not permit it (it seems that they now have this blanket policy in place). They say this has always been their policy, but I have uploaded T&F papers many times in the past to SSRN, and this was the first time the upload was refused.

Posted by: Rebecca Gould | May 18, 2016 7:11:18 AM

How did SSRN make its money before its owners sold out?

Posted by: Anita Bernstein | May 18, 2016 7:53:13 AM

SSRN offers institutional subscriptions to its scholarship "networks." For example, the law school at Berkeley subscribes to the Legal Scholarship Network. Not sure what the cost is.

Posted by: Dean C. Rowan | May 18, 2016 9:40:59 AM

Unfortunately, this whole area of "sharing networks" is bedeviled by organizations who in their own way are just as capitalist as Elsevier and far less up-front about it. Bill Gates has put over $30 mil. of his own money into ResearchGate, for example. Academia is just as bad and has recently evinced a Trumpesque penchant for megalomania. This comes from their hiring pages:

“Are you aware of how inefficient, inaccurate, slow, and costly, scientific publishing is? Imagine a world where scientific experiments can be peer reviewed and published with an order of magnitude more speed and efficiency.

Academia’s strategy is to fix this broken 100-year old monopolistic system by becoming the largest academic publisher in the world, which is a $10 billion market. We are already the world’s largest academic distribution platform, by users and traffic (10% of the world’s Internet traffic visited our site last year). Now, we’re building and scaling out a modern peer review system, which will turn our distribution platform into a publishing platform.”

At a conference I attended last week, I learned that some academics have already become aware of the threat that Academia poses and have started warning their colleagues and students not to create accounts on the site. I also learned from talking to editors and authors of science journals that there have been cases of Academia software creating profiles for authors without their knowledge or volition. The trigger seems to be pulled if the author performs a search on the site or has entered it via a Google search. This profile is created, it seems, on the fly by scraping an author’s personal webpage. Bibliographies, biographies, photos can all end up on this automated profile.

For any academic society whose continued existence derives in any way from its journal income, the activities of Academia.edu constitute a very real threat, not unlike that of SciHub (the hacked collection of 50 mil. academic articles residing on the Dark Web). The difference here is that the content on Academia is in most cases coming from the authors themselves, under the impression that the site is a genuinely non-profit vehicle to facilitate informal peer-to-peer communication. Instead, we have learned in the course of the past few months that Academia is clearly trying to become a publisher in its own right by parasitically gaining access to work that has been performed and paid for by others, and then monetizing it in some not yet clearly defined way. Classic Silicon Valley charlatanry.

Michael Magoulias
Director, Journals
University of Chicago Press

Posted by: Michael Magoulias | May 18, 2016 1:25:14 PM

It's very difficult to conceive of any scenario whereby anything good could come of this.

Hopefully Elsevier recognizes that if it makes SSRN significantly more restrictive, either for posting or for downloading, someone will invent an SSRN replacement, and (despite substantial transition costs) a lot of us will bolt.

Posted by: Joey Fishkin | May 19, 2016 7:29:56 PM

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