Elsevier's Vanishing Act

Andrea L. Foster, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Jan 06, 2003
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Who made Elsevier the arbiter of history and law? That's what appears to be happening as the publisher is quietly removing articles from its database: no notice, no explanation, no appeal. It used to be, if Elsevier found an article plagiarized a previous source, say, a noticewould be published and, if you didn't believe them, you could check for yourself. No more. The policy of removing articles also conviently allows Elsevier to remove any evidence that its review policy is flawed. That's what allows their representative, Eric Merkel-Sobotta, to assert that the company "has not removed any article from ScienceDirect due to plagiarism." Copyright, the blunt instrument of choice, is the most common ground for removal. But articles have been removed from Elsevier and elsewhere because they criticized corporations or adopted pro-Palestinian terminology. This sort of heavy-handed revisionism is inappropriate and clearly shows the dangers of depending on large, central, commercial (and therefore financially vulnerable) databases of academic research.
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