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Elsevier: a look inside a publishing leviathan

To our enduring frustration, much of the academic publishing process is hidden from view unless of course you are having a paper published. At first thought this makes perfect sense, especially as an information overload is an affliction best avoided. However, for us in the OARPS (Open Access and Research Publications Support) team such information is extremely valuable. As we commented in a previous post, having detailed information about the payments process can increase the effectiveness of the service we offer. This is why we were so pleased when our close liaison with authors meant we were able to see screen shots of the publishing process at Elsevier.

Firstly, the author is sent a link to this page, where they can add additional details like funder codes and Open Access payments, as well as sign the publishing agreement. Crucially, this link can also be sent to us and a member of the OARPS team will complete the subsequent steps and sign on behalf of the author.
The author is then required to enter information about funding. This is hugely important in order to ensure that the research output is compliant with funders' open access policies. It is also very encouraging to see the prominence given to grant numbers as this is a further requirement made by many funders. However, as the screenshot shows this can be a daunting form to complete.
It's great to see that the system automatically prompts authors to select a particular license that complies with the chosen funder's policies (in this case an RCUK research council was chosen). However, troublingly authors are able to circumvent the funder's preferred option by choosing one of the other 2 Creative Commons licenses available, neither of which are acceptable to RCUK research councils. What is perhaps more troubling is the use of the word "preferred", when it should really say "required".
The author will then have to agree to the rights statement and publishing agreements, after which they will be given an order summary:


Armed with this sort of information we can better support researchers who come to us with questions as we can talk them through the process and see exactly what they see.

We would like to extend a special thank you to our confidential informant for providing us with this information, keep safe out there.

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