Tag Archives: business model

Surveillance Publisher

Capitalized value? Personalized PDFs? DFG warning? User tracking? Forced marriage? It is incredible how scientific publishers are expanding their business. Here is a new paper

This essay develops the idea of surveillance publishing, with special attention to the example of Elsevier. A scholarly publisher can be defined as a surveillance publisher if it derives a substantial proportion of its revenue from prediction products, fueled by data extracted from researcher behavior. … The products’ purpose, moreover, is to streamline the top-down assessment and evaluation practices that have taken hold in recent decades. A final concern is that scholars will internalize an analytics mindset, one already encouraged by citation counts and impact factors.  

Sure, this already happens as some committees look only at lists of impact factor and grant sums. In the near future, they will switch to Elsevier`s “human ressources” management system Interfolio to compare candidates.

Founded in 1999, Interfolio supports over 400 higher education institutions, research funders and academic organizations in 25 countries, and over 1.7 million academic professionals and scholars. Theo Pillay, General Manager of Research Institutional Products, Elsevier, said: “Interfolio has a proven track record in supporting the academic community, thanks to its deep understanding of faculty needs, institutional workflows, research assessment and academic careers, combined with its agile technology and experienced leadership.

Back to the original article

the publishing giants have long profited off of academics and our university employers—by packaging scholars’ unpaid writing-and-editing labor only to sell it back to us as usuriously priced subscriptions or article processing charges (APCs). That’s a lucrative business that Elsevier and the others won’t give up. But they’re layering another business on top of their legacy publishing operations, in the Clarivate mold. The data trove that publishers are sitting on is, if anything, far richer than the citation graph alone.

Data is the new oil, indeed.

Personalized PDFs

Scientific publishers are creating now more and more dynamic PDFs. Why do we know? There is an unexpected loading delay of a PDF from Routledge / Taylor & Francis group that I observed recently. First I thought about some DDos protection, but is indeed a personalized document.

These websites are all being contacted while creating this PDF:

Scitrus.com seems to be part of a larger reference organizer network and links to scienceconnect.io. Alexametric.com is the soon to be retired Alexa internet / Amazon service. Snap.lidcdn.com forwards to px.ads.linkedin.com, the business social network. Then we have Twitter ads, Cloudflare security and Google Analytics. All major players now know that my IP is interested in COVID-19 research. Did I ever agree to submit my IP and time stamp when looking up a rather crude scientific paper?

This is  exactly what the German DFG already warned us about last October

For some time now, the major academic publishers have been fundamentally changing their business model with significant implications for research: aggregation and the reuse or resale of user traces have become relevant aspects of their business. Some publishers now explicitly regard themselves as information analysis specialists. Their business model is shifting from content provision to data analytics.

Another paper describes the situation as “Forced marriages and bastards”…

My question is : Will Francis & Taylor  even do more? The structure of PDFs allows including objects including Javascript. When examining “document.pdf” using pdf-parser  I could not find any javascript or my current IP in clear text.  I cannot exclude however that the chopped up IP is stamped somewhere in the document. So I will have try again at a later time point and redo a bitwise analysis. of the same PDF delivered on another day.

At least the DFG document says that organisations might argue that such software allows for the prosecution of users of shadow libraries. While I have doubts that this is legal, we already see targeted advertisement as I received this PDF from Wiley that included an Eppendorf ad.

Screenshot 20.1.2022

When I downloaded this document a second time using a different IP it was however identical. Blood/Elsevier only let’s you even download only after watching a small slideshow…

Screenshot 20.1.2022


I have no idea how 23andme got its name but the business model of this company seems to rely on a rather haploid view of the world.
I had the pleasure this weekend to listen to a talk by Joanna Mountain(senior research director at 23andMe, the company that was founded by Googles Sergey Brin‘ s wife Anne Wojcicki). For whatever reasons Brin Continue reading 46andyou