Though this be madness, yet there is method in it. I think that could be said on Elsevier's OA
policy, because of two reasons. Firstly, it quite effectively hinders OA. Secondly, however badly
constructed this OA policy is, one can see that from a publisher's perspective, mandates like the
NIH mandate are threatening. As a side effect, other mandates - which would cover only a tiny
fraction of the articles, and does not designate a single target repository are also affected,
regardless that these hardly affect any publishers' profits.
You are right that the pseudo-legal hedging is a pain.
But in point of fact, Elsevier is still just as Green on paper as Springer is,
once one realizes that one can ignore all their hedging.
It is clear that Elsevier wants to hold onto the good PR it gains them to be
perceived as "Green." That's why they have not, in fact, revoked their
policy since it was adopted in 2004
. They have a terrible image problem,
on all fronts, and this is their only positive face.
But it's not just psychology or strategy: The Elsevier policy really does
mean that all Elsevier authors retain their right to provide Green OA,
Yes, it's a nuisance that Elsevier hedges this with pseudo-legal FUD,
but our job is to make it clear to authors, institutions and funders that
the Elsevier policy does, indeed, formally allow immediate, unembargoed
OA, exactly as Springer policy does, and that the Elsevier hedging is
empty and can be completely ignored.
The real problem here is not Elsevier's double talk: It is the gratuitous
boost that the credibility of Elsevier's hedging has received from the
breath-takingly fatuous and counterproductive Finch/RCUK policy and its
"flow-charts" (which Elsevier has eagerly included in its rights
For Elsevier has now got a new "positive face" that it can use for PR:
Elsevier is fully "RCUK-compliant."
Please add this to the growing list of the perverse effects of Finch/RCUK...
But rest assured that (1) the RCUK's own forced back-pedalling, grudgingly
admitting that Green is just as RCUK-compliant as Gold, together with
(2) HEFCE/RCUK's timely proposal to mandate immediate-deposit as the
precondition for submitting a paper for REF 2020 undoes most of the
damage done by the Finch Report.