Elsevier Agrees UBC Researchers Can Text-Mine For Citizen Science, Research Tools

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Editor’s Note: We’ve been (justifiably) beating up on Elsevier and other major publishers for setting up arbitrary barriers to amateurs and other non-academics who want to access scientific literature. While this does not mean the literature has been “liberated” for the likes of us, I am hopeful that it signals a trend toward openness on their part. -SG

Source: Research Remix

Elsevier has agreed that that researchers at the University of British Columbia can text-mine Elsevier content for a wide variety of purposes, including:

  • direct analysis for research
  • selection of excerpts for citizen science, and
  • calculating statistics on the usage of research objects for open dissemination in research tools.

I believe this is an epic win.  Let me tell you why.

First, this agreement is out in the open.  Publishers have traditionally required that their contracts with libraries are secret: prices and terms.  When terms are open it means that other libraries can determine if they are getting a fair deal, researchers can know how publishers are facilitating/inhibiting reuse of their content, and we can all assess if a publisher’s behaviour matches its rhetoric.

Second, these terms are head and shoulders ahead of what standard contracts have allowed.  Want to know what standard contracts allow?  NO TEXT MINING AT ALL.  (excerpts collected in the face of secret agreements).  In my n=1 sample of negotiating for text-mining rights, the standard text-mining-is-allowed clause suggested by publishers does not allow text mining result data to be disseminated outside the university.  In contrast, the terms Elsevier is permitting in this agreement allow the sort of broad uses that are the future of research: combining text-mining with citizen science, using text-mining to power tools for researchers, open dissemination of aggregate results, and the like.

As such, the terms of this agreement should serve as a minimum template for what publishers offer (and subscribers insist upon) within standard subscription agreements going forward.  Libraries, you don’t know when your researchers are going to need this.  Get it for them now so they have it when they need it — negotiating when they need it is a serious delay to research.

Third, Elsevier is not charging UBC any more money for these terms.

Read the full article here.

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