Elsevier, a Dutch publisher and one of the world’s major providers of scientific, technical, and medical information, announced this week the acquisition of bepress, formerly the Berkeley Electronic Press, an academic repository and software firm founded by academics in 1999.
Elsevier is part of Reed Elsevier, the parent of LexisNexis. Much of the publishing Elsevier sells is authored by professionals and submitted for peer review.
As I understand it, the research and information then published is only available by subscription, including as to any authority who would want to access their own submissions.
Elsevier has been subject to criticism of late from academic institutions worldwide, and even governmental agencies, for their having to fund research/scholarly writing, give it to Elsevier for free and then pay millions to Elsevier to get access to the research and writing.
In the case of government funded schools and research centers, the taxpayers pay twice. To fund research that goes to Elsevier, then to pay Elsevier for access to the reasearch their colleges, healthcare centers and government agencies require.
Bepress, on the other hand, has open access tools under its “Digital Commons” that allows institutions, including law schools, to showcase and preserve their scholarly output. Law review articles and other legal scholarship is available for free through bepress’ Law Commons, part of the larger Digital Commons network encompassing other academic areas.
Bepress’ acquisition comes on the heals of LexisNexis’ acquisition of SSRN, another repository of scholarly output, including that from law professors. Some librarians are looking with some suspicion at whether LexisNexis will retain open access and freely allow legal scholars to use their work freely across the net.
How did librarians and knowledge management professionals recact to the bpress acquisition? Not well, looking through the “Top” tweets on a Twitter search of bpress in the hours after the acqusition announcement.
Elsevier announced the acquisition at 8 AM PT on Wednesday.
Elsevier acquires bepress, a leading service provider used by academic institutions to showcase their research https://t.co/eDalGkj5ch
— Elsevier News (@ElsevierNews) August 2, 2017
With the news announcement, via ZDNet, coming at the same time.
— ZDNet (@ZDNet) August 2, 2017
Following a few minutes later was a personal tweet of the “exciting news” from Elsevier’s Global Head of Corporate Relations.
— Tom Reller, Elsevier (@TomReller) August 2, 2017
Then came big question marks of Elsevier’s motives and ensuing problems for the academic community, beginning with a tweet from a digital projects coordinator and librarian at a major university.
Elsevier has acquired institutional repository provider bepress https://t.co/ZcgzXxCrXb
— Jim DelRosso (@niwandajones) August 2, 2017
Followed by the the library director at Macalester College.
Awful news! Bepress joins Elsevier! Very sad day. #bepress what were they thinking?!
— Terri Fishel (@TAF986) August 2, 2017
Then more from the library community.
OF COURSE bepress has been acquired by elsevier. OF FREAKING COURSE.
— Anastasia (@chiuchiutrain) August 2, 2017
Then a college librarian who made her feelings clear.
I used to be sad we couldn't afford BePress. Now I'm relieved.
— barbara fister (@bfister) August 2, 2017
An associate librarian for public services and scholarly communication had much to say (and did below), but feared “repository-sabotaging retribution.”
I have SO MUCH to say to bepress. But genuinely fear repository-sabotaging retribution. Mea culpa for prioritizing speed of launch.
— Jill Cirasella (@jillasella) August 2, 2017
Bepress replied that it’s hard to hear all of this.
It's hard to hear this, @TAF986, but we appreciate your sharing. We hope you'll give us some time to show you otherwise.
— bepress (@bepress) August 2, 2017
Within an hour of Elsevier’s announcement, professionals were looking for an alternative to Elsevier’s bpress, beginnning with a librarian at Georgetown Law.
With Elsevier acquiring bepress, we need to develop an institutionally-supported, non-profit platform for law school institutional repos.
— Tom Boone (@faketomboone) August 2, 2017
The Associate University Librarian for Publishing / Director of University of Michigan Press continued the alternative solution discussion by questioning commercial platforms altogether.
Elsevier buying BePress may suggest that commercial platforms may not be the best way to go for library publishers. Just sayin' . . . https://t.co/U5ZM9ySwWh
— Charles Watkinson (@charleswatkinso) August 2, 2017
And the alternative discussion, and what it would take, continued.
The first OSS platform offering a viable BePress exit strategy wins.
It’s not viable without the journal-publishing piece IMO.
— Ondatra iSchoolicus (@LibSkrat) August 2, 2017
From this library director, it’s clear Elsevier was the issue, and why an alternative repository was needed.
— Terri Fishel (@TAF986) August 2, 2017
Elsevier and its practices being an issue was made more than clear by this college librarian and director of communications.
"If Elsevier buys the company, this deal is forfeit. "
— Jenna Freedman (@zinelib) August 2, 2017
A librarian and open access advocate shared a summary of tweets from his colleague, who earlier feared retribution, on why bpress selling to Elsevier was such a problem.
— Matt Ruen (@winterking07) August 2, 2017
And the displeasure only continued four hours after the acquisition announcement with the Scholarly Communication Librarian at Cornell finding the acquisition troubling.
Curious what editors, board members, & reviewers of #bepress hosted journals are thinking about today's news. (I'm one. I'm troubled.)
— Gail Steinhart (@gailst) August 2, 2017
By mid-afternoon an engineer with an information services company wondered why bepress would expect any other reaction.
one wonders if bepress expected any other reaction..
— chris diaz (@chrisdaaz) August 2, 2017
The above represents a good sampling of top tweets on the acquisition. Although I saw people comment on bepress being a good organization, historically, with good people to work with, I did not find any library professional who looked with favor on the acquisition.
Attorney and legal tech blogger, Bob Ambrogi, reporting on the acquisition noted that the announcement said nothing about the future of the bepress’ Digital Commons. Ambrogi said “we’ll have to wait and see what impact this has on scholarly publishing in law.”
It doesn’t appear many in the library community are going to wait and see. Librarians find Elsevier’s purchase of bpress troubling, at best.