Press Release 17 May 2012 – Pushing the Frontier on Text Mining


May 17, 2012

For more information, contact:
Andrea Higginbotham, andrea [at] arl [dot] org - (202) 296-2296 ext 121
Janna Wellander, janna [at] arl [dot] org +46 (0)763 370 676

Pushing the Frontier on Text Mining: A conversation with Heather Piwowar

Heather Piwowar

Washington, DC and The Hague, The Netherlands– As the academic community struggles to ensure that research articles become more accessible than ever before, a new front in the battle is brewing – a battle to ensure that the information in those articles can also be fully used in the digital research environment. In particular, researchers increasingly expect that once they have legitimate access to an article (either through an Open Access model or a subscription model), they should be able to process – or “text mine” – the contents of that article to help further their research. However, this is not easy to accomplish, as University of British Columbia (UBC) postdoctoral student Heather Piwowar recently discovered when she attempted to do just that.

In a recent interview with SPARC, Heather Piwowar at UBC in the Department of Zoology shared her story. Frustrated with the lack of access to articles from the journal publisher Elsevier, Piwowar tweeted about the situation, looking for possible solutions. What followed that tweet surprised even her; a representative from Elsevier responded, and began conversations about brokering a deal to allow for text mining of back issues of Elsevier journals for use at UBC.

This is the first time we’ve seen this type of very public conversation around the pressing need to develop clear allowances for researchers to conduct text mining,” says Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). “It’s critical that the academic community send a strong message that access to digital articles is only half the battle – enabling full use of the articles through activities like data and text mining is where the real promise lies for scientific discovery and innovation.

Although she recognizes there is still a long way to go to craft community-wide agreements on text mining, Piwowar is grateful for the strides Elsevier has made in opening up some of their research. “It is more useful to keep talking with an organization than to call them an enemy and walk away,” she said.

To read the full interview, which also features commentary from leaders in the research community, visit



SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) is a library membership organization that promotes expanded sharing of scholarship. SPARC believes that faster and wider sharing of outputs of the research process increases the impact of research, fuels the advancement of knowledge, and increases the return on research investments. SPARC is supported by a membership of over 800 academic and research libraries worldwide, including more than 100 of Europe’s leading academic and research institutions. Membership is open to national and academic libraries, library organizations and research institutions in the region. SPARC is on the Web at and

SPARC Global