Elsevier acquires online community SSRN

Elsevier acquires online community SSRN

STM publisher Elsevier has acquired the largest repository and community for social science and humanities researchers in the world, SSRN, to accelerate its social strategy and scale the network up for the benefit of "the entire scientific ecosystem".

Elsevier has not disclosed how much it paid for American research preprint repository and online community SSRN, but revealed it will be integrated with Elsevier’s reference management programme Mendeley, broadening its offering and helping researchers to better manage the publication journey from start to finish.

SSRN, founded in 1994, focuses on what happens before a paper is published, providing an online community where researchers can share working drafts and preprint papers to help them evolve their research. According to its c.e.o. Gregg Gordon, the platform enables "cross pollination" between the 30 different disciplines it caters for across the sciences and humanities so that "cool new innnovation" can happen "faster".

Researcher workflow tool Mendeley,  meanwhile, focuses on what happens after a paper is published, including using metrics to measure impact and performance. This expanded to include media monitoring after acquiring and incorporating London-based company NewsFlo in January 2015. It also uses metadata from articles and usage to direct researchers to potential collaborators and recommended reading.

By integrating these “very separate sides of the same coin”, Elsevier aims to make the publication journey “quicker” and “more efficient”, as well as to increase engagement and enhance relationships with authors.

SSRN c.e.o. Gregg Gordon (centre) with Mendeley co-founders Jan Reichelt (right) and Paul Foeckler (left) at Mendeley headquarters in London.

Gordon said: “Our goal is to further enhance engagement within and around a SSRN member’s academic work, while still providing the same core services that our members value and expect. Mendeley has thrived since obtaining the support of the world’s largest science publisher, and now we will be able to offer broader services that more deeply integrate into the workflows of all parties in the social network of science. Most importantly, we will continue our core mission of providing researchers with free submissions and free downloads.”

Concerned with "global dissemination" of research, SSRN has published over 600,000 papers, has 300,0000 authors and publishes over 1m full text pdfs each month. By combining development with Elsevier, SSRN also hopes to double in size over the next five years, according to Gordon, following in the footsteps of Mendeley which increased from 2m to 5m users after it was acquired in April 2013 .

Jan Reichelt, co-founder and m.d. for Mendeley, said: “SSRN has established a solid network in Social Science domains, sharing working papers and showcasing researchers and institutions. Together we can provide greater access to a growing user-generated content base on which we can build new tools and increase engagement between researchers and their papers. We intend to scale and maximize SSRN in ways that benefit authors, institutions and the entire scientific ecosystem.”

SSRN’s chairman, c.e.o. and other employees will remain with the company, Elsevier said, and SSRN will retain its freemium model, enabling users to “submit for free, and download for free” to make as much content as possible freely available to the community. It will also retain the SSRN brand, operating as a separate community on the Mendeley platform.

Elsevier acquired start-up Mendeley three years ago in April 2013 for a reported £65m. At the time its c.e.o. Victor Henningvision said his vision was "to make science more collaborative and open".

Elsevier has been forced to defend itself in recent times following criticism of its Open Access model over which it has been accused of "double dipping" - a practice whereby publishers charge for journal content twice. Policy director Gemma Hersh put such criticism down to a lack of understanding Elsevier can run two separate business models working within the same journal and "divorce the two". Elsevier said this year it lowered the subscription prices of 21 journal titles to reflect falls in subscription article volume.