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DATE 2018-07-01


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DATE 2018-07-06
FROM Ruben Safir
SUBJECT Subject: [Learn] Open Science troubles
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Complaint to the European Ombudsman about Elsevier and the Open Science
Monitor Introduction

We, the below signed, wish to raise a formal complaint to the European
Ombudsman about the recent announcement that Elsevier, a scholarly
publisher and data analytics provider, has been subcontracted to monitor
the future progress of Open Science in Europe. We became aware of
Elsevier=E2=80=99s involvement in this on March 12, 2018, when information =
the Open Science Monitor was first publicised, and then again on May 30,
2018 when further details were released, including the first version of
the monitorand the underlying methodologies. The original tender award
notification can be found here(PDF).The reason we are pursuing this
route is due to the fact that the opportunity to raise a formal appeal
was denied to us. In the tender award statement, it states that =E2=80=9CWi=
2 months of the notification of the award decision you may lodge an
appeal to the body referred to in VI.4.1.=E2=80=9D, which is the General Co=
in Luxembourg. The notification of the award was on January 11, 2018,
and it was exactly 2 months and 1 day later when the role of Elsevier as
subcontracted was first publicly disclosed. Due to this timing, we were
unable to lodge an appeal.Elsevier is the single subcontractor for a
consortium consisting of the Centre for Science and Technology
Studies(CWTS), The Lisbon Council for Economic Competitiveness and
Social Renewal, and the ESADE Business & Law School. The contract was
awarded to this consortium, with the consortium in charge of
subcontracting part of the work and deciding who it should be awarded
to. The proportion of the work to be subcontracted is estimated at 10%
in the tender award notification. However, it also remains unclear
whether the identity of the subcontractor played a role in the tender
process, or whether the subcontractor was chosen after the contract was
awarded.The core aspects of this complaint

As such, we see a number of critical administrative issues withthe
process of the subcontract award that will have a detrimental impact on
the future of Open Science and innovation in Europe, the livelihoods of
European citizens, and the legitimacy of the European Commission (EC) as
an institute.

These can be broadly separated into two main issues. First, there
appears to have been a lack of sufficient care and transparency with the
process of the contracting procedure. Second, and as a consequence of
this, Elsevier are now in a position where they will be monitoring and
evaluating the very same science communication (e.g., products,
licenses, database access) that they, and their competitors, sell as
their primary products, which amounts to a clear conflict of interest
(COI). Furthermore, the metrics and data sources identified to be used
in the evaluation are overwhelmingly biased towards those owned and
operated by Elsevier, which creates an inherent bias and additional COI,
to the exclusivity of their competitors and other primary data sources
(e.g., Web of Science, Dimensions, Crossref, DataCite, BASE, SHARE,
PubMed, and other publishing-based services).Transparency in the
awarding processThere is a general lack of transparency in many elements
of the decision process leading to the award. This includes specific
points regarding the award of the tender to the consortium, which remain
relevant in this context:

=E2=97=8FHow did the 3 bids received for the tender score on the specific
criteria that were used to select the contractor? Why is this
information not required to be made public?

=E2=97=8FWho evaluated the suitability of each candidate? Were independent
external experts involved in the evaluation process?

=E2=97=8FWas there a consultation process involved?

=E2=97=8FWhy are tenderers only required to identify subcontractors whose s=
of the contract is above 15%?

=E2=97=8FWas the identity of this subcontractor made known to the EU during=
tender process?

=E2=97=8FWas a risk analysis performed as to the ramifications of the choic=
e of

=E2=97=8FCWTS worked for many years on the development of journal
indicatorsbased on Scopus. What was the nature of putative collaboration
and/or business, and how did this historical relationship (as well as
with, for example, The Leiden Manifesto) factor into the decision
process for the Monitor? And specific points focussing on the
subcontractor itself:

=E2=97=8FWhat was the selection method for the different tools and services=
be used for the Monitor? This is essential for reliability, robustness,
and reproducibility of the methods, and part of standard Data Management
best practices.=E2=97=8BIronically, The Leiden Manifesto specifically recom=
against such non-transparent processes and exclusive data source usage.

=E2=97=8FHow do the consortium and the EU resolve the incredibly high profit
margins (~37%) of Elsevier with the intrinsic motivations behind open
science, including financing and governance?

=E2=97=8FHow is the proportion of work in this project that is allocated to=
subcontractor (10%) calculated?

=E2=97=8FWho is accountable for the monitoring process itself, including
resolution of internal disputes during the monitoring (not just the
performance of the contract as a whole)?

=E2=97=8FIt is not clear what exactly Elsevier's role is. Who is setting the
goals, deciding on the metrics and variables, on the indicators, on data
sources, on data cleaning protocols, on computation/analysis methods, on
presentation, and on outreach and dissemination? The consortium should
make clear exactly what the role of Elsevier as subcontractor is.

=E2=97=8FGiven the EU=E2=80=99s emphasis on Open Science, including Open Da=
ta, why is
there (apparently) no requirement to insist that the Open Science
Monitor must be based upon open data, open standards, and open source
tools (with appropriate licenses for re-use accessibility) as a matter
of principle? For example, elements of this could follow the EC=E2=80=99s o=
Open Source Software Strategy.

=E2=97=8FHow will the comments on the indicators(including my own and a num=
of the undersigned), many of which specifically also mention the bias
towards Elsevier services, be handled as part of the consultation?

=E2=97=8FDid all persons and partners within the consortium declare their
potential conflicts of interest (CWTS, Lisbon Council for Economic
Competitiveness and Social Renewal, and the ESADE Business & Law
School)? If so, are these public?Consequences of Elsevier as the sole

=E2=97=8FThe position of power for Elsevier will have an impact on the futu=
re of
a fair scholarly publishing market in the EU. From a scientific
perspective, selectively choosing and restricting data sources to the
exclusion of others (as clearly indicated in the methods for the
Monitor), is generally considered to be bad practice.

=E2=97=8FBy using predominantly, and for many indicators almost entirely,
Elsevier-based services, such as Mendeley, Scopus, and Plum Analytics,
subcontracting to Elsevier creates an inherent bias in the primary data
sources. The potential direction and size of these biases are unknown at
the present time.=E2=97=8BThis is partly a function of the products (metric=
and data themselves being proprietary, and represents an irresponsible
approach towards metrics usage for evaluation.=E2=97=8BThe metrics proposed=
be used for the monitor are not acquired by an independent body, but
based on Elsevier products and services, creating an inherent bias in
the data sources.=E2=97=8BThe fact that Elsevier is a publisher offering
services that monitor scholarly publishing also presents a serious COI,
and does not respect current competition laws.=E2=97=8BThis also actively
discriminates against the competitors of Elsevier, creating unfair
market conditions around academic publishing in general, and Open
Science evaluation and metrics.

=E2=97=8FIt is as yet unclear whether, as Elsevier services are featured so
prominently, these services will become more of a requirement (either
formal or implicit) for EU researchers and research institutions to use,
since this is becoming a primary assessment tool.
=E2=97=8BA potential consequence of this is that researcher careers become =
dependent on Elsevier=E2=80=99s product workflows, and ultimately are =E2=
in=E2=80=99.=E2=97=8BA further consequence of this is that many other compe=
services and workflows will be discriminated against. =E2=97=8BThis creates=
further inherent COI in having Elsevier as the sole subcontractor.

=E2=97=8FWhether or not Elsevier will benefit by being able to sell more of
their metrics and the underlying data sources.=E2=97=8BThis creates another
inherent, and virtually inevitable, financial COI in having Elsevier as
the sole subcontractor here.=E2=97=8BThey are now in a position to evaluate=
very same scientific products that they and their competitors sell.=E2=97=
these data will be used to guide public policy in theEC in the future,
Elsevier clearly stand to benefit from being subcontracted.

=E2=97=8FWill the data sources be made openly available (including explicit=
open licenses) for independent inspection and analysis? Will data
gathering protocols be transparent and replicable? Without this, it is
unlikely that the wider Open Science community will accept any outputs
from the Monitor.

=E2=97=8FHow will the EC ensure that the closed, profit-driven practices of
Elsevier match and align with the expectations of government
accountability that makes the EU so successful?

=E2=97=8FWhat =E2=80=98sanity checks=E2=80=99 for the data will be emplaced=
to compensate for
the risk associated with using a single data source?Many of these
questions revolve around whether the responsibility for the Monitor lies
with theconsortium or the EC. It should be noted that the EC and the
consortium deserve some credit in their handling of this, by making the
methods and data sourcestransparent (in that we can see what is being
done), as well as for inviting feedback to improve the indicators.
However, we believe that the almost complete lack of transparency in the
administration and functionality of this service, as well as the process
that led to Elsevier being awarded the subcontract potentially violates
the fundamental rights of European citizens. Furthermore, it is
discordant with the Jussieu Call for Open Science and Bibliodiversity
signed by many EU institutions. It comes at an intriguing time in Europe
when many university consortia are cancelling their licensing contracts
with Elsevier and their kin over disputes concerning
transparency,pricing, and unfair market conditions.Related concernsThere
is also a concern that Elsevier already is very present at many places
where the EC is helping to shape the future of Open Science. We know
that RELX, the organisation that owns Elsevier, has 6 lobbyists within
the EC, 3 of which have direct access to parliamentary premises, and
which have an estimated expenditure inthe EC of up to half a million
euros each year. RELX also have a representative for the Horizon 2020
expert group on Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly
Communication. RELX is also a member of the International

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  1. 2018-07-05 Ruben Safir <ruben-at-mrbrklyn.com> Subject: [Learn] Jobs -
  2. 2018-07-06 Ruben Safir <ruben-at-mrbrklyn.com> Subject: [Learn] Open Science troubles
  3. 2018-07-09 From: "Pat Schloss" <pdschloss-at-gmail.com> Subject: [Learn] [mothur] August mothur workshop
  4. 2018-07-14 Ruben Safir <ruben-at-mrbrklyn.com> Subject: [Learn] AI course for pay any price

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