Bepress, formerly known as the Berkeley Electronic Press, offers Digital Commons, a commercial publishing platform used to support institutional repositories for universities and related organizations. In a move that explores synergies among the acquisitions of products related to the workflows surrounding scholarly publishing by Elsevier, bepress has announced a pilot project to integrate Digital Commons institutional repositories powered by bepress with its SSRN collaborative platform for sharing research papers.
Over 500 institutions have adopted Digital Commons. Many law schools use the platform to publish law reviews. Digital Commons competes among a field of open source repository platforms, such as DSpace, Fedora, Samvera, and Invenio. Institutional repositories have become an important aspect of the scholarly publishing ecosystem, providing a vehicle for institutions to deposit open access copies of preprints, working papers, or other materials.
Since its acquisition by Elsevier, bepress has continued its operations as an independent, wholly owned subsidiary with its leadership and personnel intact. The transition has not been without controversy. Institutional repositories were established as an open access outlet for scholarly works in addition to, or in some cases, instead of the proprietary publishers. The insertion of bepress into Elsevier's ecosystem produced some cognitive tension between open access ideals and the perceptions of proprietary publishers. Elsevier has also embraced open access publishing, with increasing numbers of articles published based on up-front article processing charges rather than through paywalled subscriptions. The transition has not resulted in a decline in the number of organizations using Digital Commons, though there have been some defections. The Penn Libraries, for example, announced in October 2017 that they would seek an open source solution to power their ScholarlyCommons repository to replace bepress. (See the September 2017 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter for more information on the acquisition of bepress by Elsevier).
SSRN, or the Social Science Research Network, an open access repository for scholars to share preprints of research papers among groups and colleagues with similar interests, was acquired by Elsevier in May 2016. Elsevier has also acquired other platforms related to scholarly communications workflows and analytics, such as the Mendeley reference manager, the Pure research management platform, NewsFlo service for tracking media coverage of research, and Plum Analytics for measuring the impact of institutional research.
Bepress launched a pilot project, announced in March 2018, to integrate content deposited on an institution's Digital Commons repository with SSRN. The pilot will explore multiple avenues for efficiently distributing articles across both platforms. Articles can be automatically transmitted to an institution's instance of Digital Commons from affiliated members of an SSRN community. This process can help a library accelerate the growth of content in its institutional repository. The integration will also aggregate the download statistics of an article when accessed via either platform. The project will also work toward the development of a submission tool that can simultaneously deposit an article on both Digital Commons and SSRN. Institutions participating with bepress in the project include two major academic law libraries—the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library at Columbia University and the Alexander Campbell King Law Library at the University of Georgia.
As these previously independent analytics and workflow platforms coalesce under the ownership of Elsevier, it is not unexpected that they will become increasingly interwoven. This pilot project can be seen as a relatively early example of the deeper integrations to expect among the products and services that have become part of Elsevier's content ecosystem. This move is consistent with the company positioning itself as a “global information analytics business” rather than as a scholarly publisher. Other organizations such as Clarivate Analytics and Digital Science have exhibited aspects of similar strategy and positioning. ProQuest, especially through its Ex Libris business, has increasingly moved into this sphere with its Esploro research management platform.