On May 17, 2021, Clarivate Analytics announced it was acquiring software, data, and analytics company ProQuest for $5.3 billion USD. This acquisition represents the single largest consolidation in recent years and an unprecedented shift towards monopolistic control over the systems, scholarship, and user data in higher education.

In a conference call discussing the acquisition, Andy Snyder, the CEO of Cambridge Innovation Group (CIG) and chairman of ProQuest, a CIG subsidiary, referred to ProQuest as a “Bloomberg for academia”. The acquisition has been framed as establishing a provider of “end to end research intelligence” with data and content covering students from kindergarten to post-graduate.

This consolidation puts surveillance capitalism at the core of research processes. Combined, the data assets of these two companies create an unprecedented pipeline for surveillance and predictive analytics that risks the safety and security of students and researchers. This builds on a concerning trend of information and publishing conglomerates like RELX (Elsevier’s parent company) and Thomson Reuters building and enabling global systems of data tracking, surveillance, and resale. Clarivate and ProQuest’s businesses center on data — behavioral information about what materials a student is accessing, how a patron interacts with library collections, what researchers are reading and publishing. As seen with Thomson Reuters and RELX, this personal information is often packaged and sold to marketing entities, law enforcement, and anyone else willing to pay. Unhindered and unguided by policy and regulation, this consolidation dangerously narrows the control of a large body of research outputs (and information about their usage) into one company’s hands, further privileging access to knowledge.

This is not an efficiency or market issue; this is an equity issue with strong implications for social justice. This acquisition threatens to exert undue influence on higher education and research by those who prioritize profit over knowledge, negatively impacting the authority, integrity and independence of research. Institutions face further lock-in to costly tools and services, creating lasting dependencies to systems that perpetuate the continued surveillance of their communities without their awareness and consent.

The consolidation of power and market share triggered by this acquisition directly contravenes the text of the Open Science Declaration from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural organization. The Declaration, recently approved for ratification by the UN’s 193 member states, says that open science infrastructures “... [S]hould be not-for profit and guarantee permanent and unrestricted access to all public to the largest extent possible.” This Declaration builds on global calls in 2020 by science and political leaders worldwide to “ensure the fundamental right to access scientific research and its applications.”

This consolidation enables and encourages the commoditization and surveillance of knowledge communities. This is unacceptable.

We, IOI, ask the community to join us as we coordinate an effort to:

  • Audit Clarivate and ProQuests’ data resale and surveillance practices and policies.
  • Organize a community consultation on data governance for institutional customers of Clarivate and ProQuest services.
  • Review Clarivate and ProQuest’s pricing, terms of use, lock-in policies, & contract details.
  • Call for institutions to commit to anti-surveillance practices, first by signing below, and then by working together to improve terms of use to support this aim.

We believe additional regulation, oversight, and action are needed.

Sign now to add yourself/your organization as a supporter in calling for more transparency, review, and regulation into the software and systems embedded in higher education and learning.

Supporting Individuals

  1. Evviva Weinraub Lajoie, Vice Provost University Libraries, University at Buffalo
  2. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director, Humanities Commons
  3. Jean-Sébastien Caux, Professor, University of Amsterdam
  4. Esther Jackson, Scholarly Communication Technologies Librarian, Columbia University
  5. Rebecca Chapman, Librarian, University at Buffalo
  6. Mel DeSart, Head, Engineering Library and Head, Mathematics Research Library, University of Washington
  7. Jacob Hill, Project & Data Manager, Stanford University
  8. Ellen Dubinsky, Scholarly Communication Librarian, University of Arizona
  9. Timothy Vollmer, Scholarly Communication & Copyright Librarian, University of California Berkeley
  10. Wladimir Labeikovsky, Bioinformaticist, University of Colorado
  11. Daniel Nüst, Researcher, University of Münster
  12. Leslie Street, Clinical Professor of Legal Research and Director of the Law Library, Wolf Law Library, William & Mary School of Law
  13. Bruce Caron, Executive Director, New Media Research Institute
  14. Anita Coleman, Library Director & Prof of Bibliography and Research, E.M. White Library, Louisville Seminary
  15. Kevin Hawkins, Assistant Dean for Scholarly Communication, University of North Texas Libraries
  16. Luqman Hayes, Scholarly Communications Team Leader, Auckland University of Technology
  17. Rowena Cullen, Professor Emeritus, Victoria University of Wellington
  18. Nicholas Carman, Senior Information Officer, Defence Technology Agency
  19. Omo Oaiya, Chief Strategy Officer, West and Central African Research & Education Network (WACREN)
  20. Jeroen Bosman, Scholarly Communication Specialist, Utrecht University
  21. Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries and Senior Academic Technology Officer, James Madison University
  22. Didac Martínez Trujillo, Director del Servei de Biblioteques, Publicacions i Arxius SBPA, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya UPC
  23. Miquel Codina, Head of Library, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech
  24. Adrian Ho, Director of Digital Scholarship, University of Kentucky Libraries
  25. Antoni Béjar Farré, Head of Library, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya. Barcelona TECH (UPC)
  26. Daniel Mietchen, Senior Researcher, School of Data Science, University of Virginia
  27. Will Cross, Director, Open Knowledge Center & Head of Information Policy, NC State University Libraries
  28. Micah Vandergrift, Open Knowledge Librarian, NC State University Libraries
  29. Amanda McCormick, Science Librarian, University at Buffalo
  30. Paige Mann, STEM Librarian | Scholarly Communications Librarian, University of Redlands
  31. Kristen Ratan, Principal, Stratos
  32. Marta Brunner, College Librarian, Lucy Scribner Library, Skidmore College
  33. Shea Swauger, Researcher Support Services, Department Head, CU Denver
  34. Selorm Ankudey, Senior IT Assistant, University Of Energy And Natural Resources
  35. Luke Drury, Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics
  36. Cameron Neylon, Professor of Research Communication, Curtin University
  37. David Lewis
  38. Amanda Lawrence, Research Fellow, Open Knowledge Systems, RMIT
  39. Shana Higgins, Director of Armacost Library and Learning Commons, University of Redlands
  40. Samir Hachani, Professor, Algiers University
  41. Melissa Levine, Director, Copyright Office, University of Michigan Library
  42. Brandon Butler, Director of Information Policy, University of Virginia Library
  43. Alyssa Loera, Digital Services & Technology Librarian, Cal Poly Pomona
  44. Sanjeet Mann, Art & Systems Librarian, University of Redlands
  45. Nick Scullin, Subject Librarian - Research, University of Canterbury
  46. Amy Buckland, Head, Research & Scholarship, University of Guelph
  47. Esther Plomp, Data Steward, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Applied Sciences
  48. Lee Rowe, Knowledge & Information Services Manager, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology
  49. Karina Georgi, Collection Development Manager
  50. Andreas Hellgren, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Stockholm School of Economics
  51. Tom Nixon, Senior Library Assistant, Auckland Libraries
  52. Jen Waller, Director of Open Initiatives and Scholarly Communication, University of Oklahoma Libraries
  53. Pamela Jacobs, Research & Scholarship Librarian, University of Guelph
  54. James Sobczak, STEM Librarian, University of Miami
  55. Émilie Paquin, Director of Research & Strategic Development, Érudit

Supporting Organizations

  1. Knowledge Futures Group, by Gabriel Stein, Head of Operations and Product
  2. SPARC, by Heather Joseph, Executive Director
  3. Access 2 Perspectives, by Jo Havemann, Owner
  4. Punctum Books, by Eileen Joy, Director
  5. Biteca SAS, by Arley Soto, Co-founder
  6. WikiBlueprint, by Jake Orlowitz, Director
  7. West and Central African Research & Education Network (WACREN), by Omo Oaiya, Chief Strategy Officer
  8. OpenCitations, by David Shotton, Director
  9. OA.Works, by Joe McArthur, Director
  10. Educopia Institute, by Katherine Skinner, Executive Director
  11. Open Knowledge Maps, by Peter Kraker, Chairman
  12. SPARC Europe, by Vanessa Proudman, Director
  13. Library Futures, by Jennie Rose Halperin, Executive Director
  14. Code for Science & Society, by Dr. Danielle Robinson, Executive Director
  15. Stanford Libraries, by Tom Cramer, Associate University Librarian, Stanford University
  16. FORRT, by Flavio Azevedo, Senior Researcher, FORRT
  17. University Information Policy Officers, by Ana Enriquez, Chair, University Information Policy Officers
Posted by Kaitlin Thaney