Good-Bye, SSRN

By James Kwak

You may know that SSRN, the shared web server for social science and law papers, was recently bought by Elsevier, a publishing company that charges what many people think are outrageous amounts for subscriptions to its journals or access to individual papers. Recently, Elsevier appears to have started taking down papers from SSRN without notifying the authors, even when the authors in some cases had valid permission to publish those papers on SSRN.

Elsevier’s defense is that this was a simple employee mistake (maybe like forgetting to rewrite direct quotes from someone else’s speeches?): “A couple of processing emails were sent incorrectly and in the wrong order.” I’m not buying it, though. Even if the wrong email was sent, they were still taking down papers unilaterally without bothering to ask if the author had the appropriate rights. If they’re not doing it in response to a DMCA notice, and they have people doing it manually, they could at least send the email first before deleting the paper.

If you’re interested in the issue, there is some detailed analysis in the comment section of PrawfsBlawg. In any case, it was enough for me to stop using SSRN. In my view, SSRN is really just ugly, clunky PDF hosting anyway. The main way I use it is as follows:

  1. Find out about paper through some better filtering mechanism (email, blog, Twitter, or, most often, Google).
  2. Google the title of the paper.
  3. See link to paper on SSRN.
  4. Follow link and download paper.

As you can see, nothing about that process relies on SSRN; if the paper were hosted anywhere else within reach of Google’s robots, it would work just as well. In theory, SSRN could be a place for people to actually discover relevant work, but for the most part it fails miserably at that because (a) it’s not as comprehensive as Google, so you can’t rely on a search there and (b) its usability is stuck in the mid-1990s.

So anyway, I uploaded my papers to a new page on my personal website, which allows you to download PDFs just as well as SSRN does. It’s hosted by WordPress.com, which means that you could do the same with about ten minutes of setup effort and another minute or so per paper, all for free. Or I imagine you could use bepress or SocArKiv. It really doesn’t matter. As long as your paper is somewhere on the Internet that is visible to Google, it will work just as well.

Now: How can I completely eliminate my papers from SSRN (not just take down the PDFs) so they don’t appear at all? It’s not at all apparent from their horrible user interface.

Update: Thanks to anon for pointing out the MODIFY button. SSRN’s support page discusses a REMOVE button that doesn’t actually exist. Now my papers are all inactive on SSRN.

6 responses to “Good-Bye, SSRN

  1. Just don’t check in for awhile, if they’re important enough, they’ll be taken down.
    Just like my google papers on cars and cancers, poof, gone in a heartbeat, and never to return those dates or facts of importance. Well not for awhile at least.

  2. to remove papers from SSRN: from My Papers page, click on Modify then select Make It Inactive and click Continue

  3. Put your papers on MPRA. Then they be disseminated through RePEc to several websites and mailing lists. Very efficient!

  4. rené böheim

    Why not use RePEc? If your institution does not participate (or for any other reason, really), you may use MPRA: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de

    “In light of today’s announcement that Elsevier has bought SSRN, we take the opportunity to clarify whether this could happen to RePEc. The short answer is: no, this is impossible. The long answer is below.” https://blog.repec.org/2016/05/17/repec-is-independent-and-cannot-be-bought/

  5. You have to contact them directly to delete your account. There is no web form for account deletion.

  6. Good I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your website. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs and related info ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task
    Utpattiecom