Field of Science

Open Access and other sliminess at Elsevier

Our latest paper on CRP sites has been accepted by the Journal of Molecular Biology. This is great, but now I'm dealing with the messy post-acceptance issues.

First, our page proofs have gone astray. The Elsevier manuscript-tracking page (yes, JMB is part of the evil empire of scientific publishing) says that page proofs were sent out on Aug. 27. They should have been sent by email, but I've seen no sign of them so far. Usually page proofs are supposed to be corrected and returned within 48 hrs; I've just emailed a person at JMB about them.

While looking for the proof email I discovered that I'd ignored other bureaucratic requirements. I needed to complete an on-line document assigning all copyright to Elsevier. This document made no mention of an open-access option, but I accepted it anyway. It did say that I am allowed to post the Elsevier-created pdf of the manuscript version on my own web page or on a public server, and that I can use the final Journal-quality pdf for teaching (but I can't post to any publicly available sites).

Then I dug around looking for the "authors-pay" open access option. I had been assuming that this would give me a creative-commons-type license to do anything I want with the final pdf and data it contains, but no. All that I get for paying Elsevier $3000 US is access to the paper on the JMB web site by people who don't have subscription access (who don't pay the ~$1000 for a personal JMB subscription or belong to institutions paying ~$8000 for a subscription).

So, should I give Elsevier the $3000? That way nobody will need to search around to find out if I've posted a free (unformatted) copy on my home page (or linked to this blog). But Elsevier will still hold the copyright.


  1. Hell no!
    If the paper is displayed on your web site a simple Google will find it if you refer to the pdf with the full reference.

  2. The Science Commons Scholar's Copyright Project might be of use to you:

    That page will help you generate an addendum to your copyright agreement with the publishers; if they accept it, the addendum will grant you whichever re-use rights you built into it.

    If they won't accept it, you may have to either publish elsewhere or live with their sliminess. I agree with acleron that you should not pay $3000 extra for something you can provide yourself. In addition to making sure that Google Scholar knows about your local copy, there are a number of OAI-PMH compatible, OAIster-searchable, Google Scholar-friendly repositories in which you could deposit your final ms version. (If you have trouble finding one, I'd be happy to try to help.)

    May I ask what prompted you to submit to JMB rather than an OA journal in the first place?

  3. I am trying to find the link to your paper from the blog..can you post a hyperlink please?

    While the work I am doing is more focused on CHemistry, and making chemistry articles searchable by structure, for free, for the public, one of the disruptive shifts I am encouraging is that for both open AND Closed access publications that articles can be indexed for searching on our system , pre or post-publication. We won't request any copyright transfer and "shouldn't" distress any publishers in that way. I've outlined this a little more here...

    I agree with acleron that a Google search will find the PDF but Google Scholar does not speak the "other" language of chemistry. For chemistry articles I think they need to be made BOTH text and structure searchable at a minimum.

  4. The question of what "rights of reuse" apply to articles paid for through what Elsevier calls its 'sponsored articles' program turns out to be an interesting issue...

    Here's what I heard from someone close to the matter:

    "At the present time the Elsevier sponsorship option - whereby Elsevier deposits final version articles are in PMC and attaches a "re-use" licence - is only available to researchers funded by one of the UKPMC Funders Group.
    A number of other journals do have a sponsorship option where the article is free on ScienceDirect (see: although these journals do not deposit to PMC and copyright is maintained by Elsevier. We continue to expand this list of journals over time.

    I guess the bottom line of this is that researchers who are funded by organisations outside of the UKPMC Funders Group need to get their funders to make representation to Elsevier so that this "deal" is extended more broadly."

    I think there's a strong argument you can make that to Elsevier that if they are willing to offer reuse rights in return for the $3000 dollar payment for UKPMC-funded articles, it is only fair that they should do the same for other articles such as your own, too....

    See also Wellcome's announcement last year of the reuse agreement it had reached with Publishers including Elsevier about rights of re-use.

    That announcement said:
    "A number of publishers already provide an open access option in accord with the principles agreed here including Springer, OUP and Elsevier."
    which suggested that this was a general policy rather than a UKPMC specific thing.

    Springer and OUP certainly grant reuse rights for all articles published under paid-OA, but despite the announcement, it appears that Elsevier is not yet doing so.


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