I don’t often have good things to say about Elsevier, but today the company made an announcement that I can support.

Elsevier signed the Declaration on Research Assessment and (more importantly) declared its intention to make the reference lists of its articles open access through Crossref.

This is great news for academic libraries, authors, and open access advocates. Elsevier was one of the last (and certainly the largest) holdout for making reference lists open access. With this data openly available, projects like the I4OC, OpenCitations, and WikiCite can work toward building non-proprietary bibliometric tools. More to the point, the near monopoly that one company’s faulty metric (the JIF) has on the publishing choices of authors, may be coming to a gradual end. As long as we have human authors, we’ll probably have some “prestigious” journals, but open citations gives us a chance to build alternatives to that very expensive and non-inclusive marketplace.

But why would a for-profit company that sells citation metrics tools (Scopus, SciVal, etc.) give away the data? The company’s Senior Director of Research Evaluation, Andrew Plume, observes:

“Metrics and indicators in research assessment should not be centered solely on bibliometrics such as publication and citation metrics. They must encompass other measures as required to address the broad range of assessment-related questions.”

Maybe the article citation counts and the metrics based on them, just don’t pay the bills anymore. Or, maybe Elsevier doesn’t think the commons can build open access tools that its customers will prefer. Or maybe, as seems more and more likely the case, the real marketplace is not data about publications, but data about each and every one of us and what we do with our mouse clicks, downloads, and devices—that is, surveillance capitalism.

Jere Odell, CC-BY.