LIBER Calls On Elsevier To Withdraw TDM Policy

Posted: 08-10-2014 Topics: Digital Skills

LIBER is leading a campaign asking publishing giant Elsevier to withdraw its current policy on text and data mining.

Over 50 research and library organisations have so far joined our call by signing a letter which explains why we believe that Elsevier’s current TDM policy places unnecessary restrictions on researchers by limiting their ability — and their right — to mine content to which they have legal access.

In the letter, the full text of which is available below, we outline how the Elsevier policy restricts researchers’ abilities to perform TDM and how it unfairly mandates conditions by which research outputs derived from TDM can be disseminated.

We provide constructive alternatives in every instance and reiterate our plan to continue advocating for conditions by which TDM can become an increasingly valuable tool for European researchers. Elsevier’s response to our letter is available here.


LIBER Letter to Elsevier

Realising the innovative potential of digital research methods: a call from the research community.

Open Letter to Michiel Kolman, Senior VP Global Academic Relations, Elsevier

On behalf of research community stakeholders, we are calling on Elsevier to withdraw its current policy on text and data mining (TDM).

TDM is a digital research method which enables the analysis of vast and heterogeneous types of content. It has led to new medical and scientific discoveries and is set to be key to increasing the productivity of research and become an established element of research methodologies.

Europe is falling behind in the exploitation of TDM because the lack of clarity in the current European copyright framework is disincentivising the uptake of TDM by researchers. In the UK, an exception for TDM has been introduced into legislation. What this means is that TDM will no longer be an activity that is subject to licence in the UK; any researcher will be free to mine content to which their institution has legal access. We see no reason that researchers across Europe and beyond should not have equal rights to mine content to which they have legal access.

Restrictive licences provided by publishers for access to content for the purpose of TDM have the potential to further disadvantage the research community by enforcing strict parameters around how content can be mined and under what conditions the results may be made available.

We have strong reservations¹ about whether the updated Elsevier TDM policy², released on January 31st 2014, will meet the needs of researchers over the long term. The API that Elsevier is offering to access content can be a useful tool for developers, but limiting this service to only text will force researchers to continue to negotiate one-to-one licences for access to the full content (images, figures, etc.). Also, explicitly preventing direct crawling of content disregards the most common method of performing TDM. What is more, we believe that, because it places conditions on how TDM outputs may be made available, the policy will have a negative impact on the dissemination and transparency of research results. We call on Elsevier to abandon this policy and adapt their licence terms and conditions which will set a positive example that other publishers may follow in order to:

  1. Protect the academic freedome of the researcher. Presenting researchers with no other option but to register their details and agree to a click-through license, the terms of which can change at any time, in order to gain access to content for the purpose of TDM is unacceptable. It places undue liability on the researcher and undermines the role of the institution as an intermediary tasked with protecting its researchers’ privacy, as well as its ability to protect its intellectual capital.
  2. Support responsible research and dissemination. In order to ensure transparency and reproducibility of results, it is essential that institutions are permitted to securely store a copy of the individual datasets which researchers have used for their experimentation. Moreover, we do not agree that any publisher should mandate how researchers licence the output of their TDM research.
  3. Prevent the creation of a monopoly. The licence for access to content should not limit the choice of text and data mining tools available to researchers, neither those developed by the researcher themselves or provided by a third party.
  4. Make technological prevention measures a last resort. Rather than putting technical measures in place to prevent crawling by robots, publishers should encourage the adoption of protocols for responsible crawling of content, which would ensure that the load placed on publishers’ servers by TDM activities remains negligible.
  5. Deliver value for money. Research institutions are already paying a significant amount to Elsevier and other publishers for electronic access to journals. Given this significant revenue, we believe that publisher infrastructure should be robust enough to cope with the added load of TDM. Nor should licence terms prevent researchers using digital methods to exploit this content. Digital content analysis such as TDM is the most effective way of deriving value out of the large digital collections to which institutions subscribe. It can also help institutions to measure, justify and increase return on investment on its large e-journal spend by surfacing valuable elements of the scholarly process such as providing links from new findings to the original publications.

Yours sincerely,



  1. LIBER Europe
  2. ADBU
  3. Asociación del Personal Bibliotecario de Gran Canaria (Abigranca)
  4. Association of Libraries of Czech Universities (ALCU)
  5. BIBSAM consortium
  6. Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research (CESAER)
  7. ContentMine
  9. CSUC
  10. EBLIDA
  11. EIFL
  12. Electronic Library of Ukraine consortium (ELibUkr)
  13. ENCES
  14. FinELib consortium
  15. Finnish Research Library Association (STKS)
  16. Flemish Library and Archive Association
  17. FOBID – Netherlands Library Forum
  18. GASCO consortium
  19. Ghent University Library
  20. Iceland Consortium for Electronic Subscriptions
  21. IFLA
  22. LATABA
  23. Library Association of Latvia
  24. LERU
  25. Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung
  26. National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  27. Nereus consortium
  28. OpenAIRE
  29. Open Knowledge Foundation Germany
  30. Open University
  31. Plazi
  32. Portuguese Association of Librarians, Archivists and Documentalists
  33. REBIUN
  34. Research Libraries UK
  35. SPARC Europe
  36. Stowarzyszenie EBIB
  37. The European Library
  38. UKB consortium
  39. University of Piraeus Library
  40. Wellcome Trust



  1. Alessandro Sarretta, Researcher, Institute of Marine Sciences, Italy
  2. Andras Kornai, Senior Research Advisor, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary
  3. Derek Jones, Coordinator of the Library Commission, Italian National Research Council, Italy
  4. Marsha Bubb, Librarian, ERM, South Campus Library, South Africa
  5. Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, Permanent Researcher, National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France
  6. Pep Torn, Director de Serveis Acadèmics i de Biblioteca, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
  7. Sarantos Kapidakis, Dean of Faculty of Information Science and Informatics, Ionian University, Greece
  8. Tessa Piazzini, Academic Health Librarian, University of Florence, Italy
  9. Tom A.B. Snijders, Professor, University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and University of Oxford, United Kingdom

This letter is also available to download as a PDF: