Scholar Commons and the Elsevier Acquisition of bepress

Hopefully you’re familiar with Scholar Commons, the University’s institutional repository for research content produced by faculty, students, and staff. (If not, take a look at our previous post about sharing your work!) But either way, you are probably less familiar with the business deal between bepress (the company that created the digital repository service) and the academic publishing giant Elsevier that has sparked a lot of debate in the library community.

Last August, Elsevier acquired bepress for an undisclosed sum. According to Elsevier this purchase, along with other recent acquisitions, signals the company’s shift from solely being a publisher of academic journals to being a research and technology data management business. And bepress believes that joining with Elsevier will allow them to provide more services to their customers while enhancing their current products and services with increased analytics capabilities.

The response within the academic library community to this event has been decidedly mixed. While many are taking a wait-and-see approach, a fairly significant and highly vocal contingent within the library world have voiced their strong fear and concern over these developments.

While some worry about the lack of transparency in the deal, the primary issue for most is simply the involvement of Elsevier at all. For many, Elsevier has earned an extremely negative reputation for price gouging and other unfair practices and the fear is that Elsevier’s commercial financial objectives will poison the support that bepress has historically had for the academy and academic libraries.

At the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) annual meeting in December, the situation was addressed from several perspectives. Librarians from Penn discussed their plans to ultimately leave bepress, including identifying current alternatives to the Digital Commons product and exploring the possibility of developing a new product that would include support for, among other things, online institutional repositories. But the managing director of bepress also held a session to address librarians concerns and explain plans for the future.

Why might this acquisition matter to you as a researcher?

  • With the Elsevier acquisition of bepress in addition to Mendeley, SSRN, and Plum Analytics, the possibility arises that scientists will become locked-in to a prescribed academic workflow.
  • Elsevier has a history of removing or issuing take-down notices for self-submitted content in SSRN and other self-arching websites. Concerns have been raised that faculty research archived within the repository could potentially be affected in a similar manner.

The University Libraries have, at this time, adopted a “wait and see” approach. We’ll keep you informed of any changes and welcome your feedback.

-Contributed by Glenn Bunton

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