WOSP2014: Text and Data Mining: II Elsevier’s Presentation (Gemma Hersh)

WOSP2014 – http://core-project.kmi.open.ac.uk/dl2014/ – is a scholarly, peer-reviwed workshop. It consists of submiited, peer-reviewed talks and demos and invited talks from well-known people in the field (Lee Giles,  Birger Larsen). At ContentMine we submiited three papers/demos which were peer-reviewed and accepted (and which I’ll blog later) .

But there was also one Presentation which was, as I understand, neither invited nor peer-reviewed.

“Elsevier’s Text and Data Mining Policy” by Gemma Hersh

It is usually inappropriate for a manufacturer to present at a scholarly conference where the audience are effectively customers. It ends up as a products pitch which is offensive to attendees who have paid to attend, and offensive to those who have submmited papers which were rejected, while product pitches are allowed.

This was one of the most unacceptable presentations I have ever seen at a scholarly workshop and I said so.

Before I add my own comments I simply record the facts. Professor Charles Oppenheim agrees that this is a factual record.

GH = Gemma Hersh (Elsevier)
CO = Prof Charles Oppenheim
GH arrived 10 mins before her presentation and left immediately afterwards. She did not stop to talk. She later tweeted that she had a meeting.
GH Presentation

(1) Elsevier’s presentation was not an invitation or peer-reviewed submission but appeared to have been a result of pressuring the organizers.

(2) it was a manufacturer-specific product pitch not a scholarly presentation

(3) It made no attempt to be balanced but presented only Elsevier’s product. In particular:

  * no mention was made of Hargreaves

  * no mention that it had been rejected by LIBER and associates

  * no mention that the library community had walked out of Licences for Europe

(4) Elsevier said that their studies showed researchers preferred APIs. No mention was made that researchers had to sign an additional agreement

Public Discussion (no record, but ca 20 witnesses)

PMR challenged the presentation on the basis of bias and inaccuracy.

GH cricitized PMR for being aggressive. She stated that it was the libraries fault that L4E had broken down

PMR asked GH to confirm that if he had the right to read Elsevier material he could mine it without using Elsevier’s API

GH replied that he couldn’t.

CO told GH that PMR had a legal right to do so

GH said he didn’t and that CO was wrong

Discussion continued with no resolution. GH showed no intention of listening to PMR and CO

Later tweets from GH
@petermurrayrust check the explanatory notes that accompany the legislation.
@petermurrayrust would prefer a constructive chat rather than an attack though….
@petermurrayrust very happy to keep talking but I’ve just come straight from one appointment and now have another.


PMR I believe that any neutral observer would agree that this was roughly factually correct.


PMR: now my comments…

It is completely unacceptable for a product manager to push their way into a scholarly workshop, arrive 10 minutes before their presentation, give a product pitch and leave immediately without deigning to talk to anyone.

The pitch itself was utterly one-sided, presenting Elsevier as the text-miner’s friend and failing to give a balanced view of the last several years. Those of us in the UK Hargreaves process and Licences4Europe know that STM publishers in general and Elsevier in particular have thrown money and people in trying to control the mining effort through licences. To give a blatantly biased presentation at a scholarly meeting rules them out as trustable partners.

Worse, the product pitch was false. I called her on this – I was forthright – and asked whether I could mine without Elsevier’s permission. She categorically denied this. When challenged by Professor Oppenheim she told him curtly he was wrong and Elsevier could do what they liked.

The law explicitly states that publishers cannot use terms and conditions or other contractual processes to override the right to mine for non-commercial research processes.

So it’s a question of who do you believe:

Gemma Hersh, Elsevier or Professor Charles Oppenheim, Loughborough, Northampton, City?

(and PMR, Nottingham and Cambridge Universities)

If GH is right, then the law is pointless.

But she isn’t and it isn’t.

It gets worse. In later discussions with Chris Shillum, who take a more constructive view, he made it clear that we had the right to mine without Elsevier’s permission as long as we didn’t sign their terms and conditions. The discussion – which I’ll cover in the next post – was useful.

He also said that Elsevier had changed their TaC several times since January, much of this as a result of my challenging them. This means:

  1. Elsevier themselves do not agree on the interpretation of the law
  2. Elsevier’s terms and conditions are so mutable and frequently changed that they cannot be regarded as having any force.

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Scotland's (main, but not only) #OpenScience #OpenAccess #OpenData #OpenSource #OpenKnowledge & #PatientAdvocate Loves blogging http://figshare.com/blog Glasgow, Scotland.

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