CAUL Advisory Committees

Elsevier opens its papers to text-mining

Courtesy of Danny Kingsley, AOASG

“Elsevier opens its papers to text-mining – Researchers welcome easier access for harvesting content, but some spurn tight controls.” Richard Van Noorden, 03 February 2014,


researchers at academic institutions can use Elsevier’s online interface (API) to batch-download documents in computer-readable XML format. Elsevier has chosen to provisionally limit researchers to 10,000 articles per week. These can be freely mined – so long as the researchers, or their institutions, sign a legal agreement. The deal includes conditions: for instance, that researchers may publish the products of their text-mining work only under a licence that restricts use to non-commercial purposes, can include only snippets (of up to 200 characters) of the original text, and must include links to original content


And, in the past year, large institutions and pharmaceutical companies have started to ask for text- and data-mining rights when renegotiating site licences, says Jessica Rutt, rights and licensing manager at Nature Publishing Group (NPG), the publisher of this journal. Anyone with those rights may mine NPG content. Many publishers are also experimenting with delivering text-minable content to pharmaceutical companies for an extra fee, she adds.


But some researchers feel that a dangerous precedent is being set. They argue that publishers wrongly characterize text-mining as an activity that requires extra rights to be granted by licence from a copyright holder, and they feel that computational reading should require no more permission than human reading. “The right to read is the right to mine,” says Ross Mounce of the University of Bath, UK, who is using content-mining to construct maps of species’ evolutionary relationships.


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