Blackwell also fails to deliver Open Access

[To verify my assertions in this you will have to be on a machine that does not have institutional access to Blackwell publications. I am doing this from home]
I am a crystallographer and proud of it. We work very closely with the International Union of Crystallography who have an enlightened appraoch to access to data – more later. They publish many journals, and now use Blackwell publishing to manage these – at least from the masthead. In this post there is no criticism of the International Union for which I have high praise.
I turn to the contents page of Acta Crystallographica E (reports on crystal structures and the basis of part of our Crystal Eye program). Most are closed access (although the data are open) but some are Open Access denoted by:
[Open access]
which when you click on it asserts (you can skip this at first reading):

open access and Crystallography Journals Online

This document provides a summary of the open-access policy for electronic editions of journals published for the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) by Blackwell Munksgaard. The journals are:

Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations of Crystallography,

1. Introduction

[…]The Executive Committee of the IUCr have decided that starting in January 2004, authors publishing papers in IUCr journals should be given the opportunity to make their papers open access on Crystallography Journals Online. The policy will be reviewed by the Executive Committee on a regular basis.

2. Open access and authors

Authors will be given details of how to make their articles open access at the proof stage. Although a charge is levied for making an article open access, authors unwilling or unable to choose open access are in no way excluded from publishing in IUCr journals as these will contain a mix of both standard and open-access papers.
The charge for making an article open access is USD 900. […] Open-access articles will be clearly marked in contents pages and search results.
A paper may be made open access at any time after the proof stage on receipt of the appropriate payment. […]

3. Open access and subscribers

IUCr journals will include a mix of both standard subscriber-only papers and open-access papers for the foreseeable future. Funds generated from open-access payments will be used to keep our subscription costs as low as possible. Where an open-access fee has been paid, the article will be available free of charge to subscribers and nonsubscribers.
For full details of the subscription policy for Crystallography Journals Online, see subscriptionpolicy.html.

4. Open-access membership

Institutions may take out open-access membership of Crystallography Journals Online. Researchers from member institutions have the right to publish an unlimited number of open-access articles in IUCr Journals without paying open-access charges. All UK Further Education Institutions are currently members. For a full list of open-access members, click here. If your organisation would like to become a member, please contact

5. Open access and copyright

Authors will be asked to sign a copyright form for articles as usual. However, for authors who wish to retain the copyright of their articles, the IUCr provides a licence agreement as an alternative to signing a copyright form.
The existing terms and conditions of use of Crystallography Journals Online remain valid for open-access articles. In particular the IUCr permits ‘fair use’ of the articles but republication or systematic or multiple reproduction of longer passages from Crystallography Journals Online is permitted only under licence.

6. Other information

Since the launch of Crystallography Journals Online in 1999, the IUCr has had a policy of providing free access to the full texts of certain types of article (for example, CIF Applications, Prefaces, Editorials, Letters to the Editor, Book and Software Reviews, Crystallographers, Notes and News, Addenda and Errata, and New Commercial Products); this policy will continue. In addition, a number of services including tables of contents, e-mail alerting, and the provision of supplementary material (e.g. CIFs, structure factors and other structural data) are free of charge to both subscribers and nonsubscribers.
The IUCr has an active policy concerning the long-term preservation and access to publications in its journals. The charge made to authors for open-access publication includes a contribution to the cost of the long-term preservation and access of the publication.

I take a recent issue:
which includes:

[HTML version][PDF version][Article Abstract][CIF][3d view][Structure Factors][Supplementary Material][CIF check Report]  [Open access]
Acta Cryst. (2007). E63, m1864  [ doi:10.1107/S1600536807027626 ]

catena-Poly[[[diididocadmium(II)]-[mu]-3,3′,5,5′-tetramethyl-4,4′-bipyrazolyl-[kappa]2N:N‘] methanol solvate]

D.-Q. Li, L. Hou and S. W. Ng

Online 13 June 2007

and click on the HTML or PDF button and get…
The full text?
A request for
“Enter username and password for “Crystallography Journals Online/Synergy” at jttp://
User Name:
… so the paper isn’t Open Access in any sense of the term. (BTW Synergy is Blackwell’s trademark or similar and indicates that the problem is likely to be at the Blackwell end).
Now presumably somebody has paid for this – the author, JISC, The International Union, I don’t know. But whoever it is hasn’t get very good value for their Open Access, have they?
Some astute readers may have noticed that I have visited 3 major publishers Springer, ACS and Blackwell and in each case found that access to Open Access articles was technically barred in a way that most readers would not be able to circumvent easily. All cases offered the users the chance to pay for the article.
Perhaps I will let readers draw their own conclusions as to whether the publishing industry is really trying to make Hybrid Open Access a success. If so let’s hear your views

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5 Responses to Blackwell also fails to deliver Open Access

  1. pm286 says:

    (1) The article actually costs 47 USD (sic). See

  2. Peter,
    Wow. The situation is worse than I thought. Thank you for taking the time to look at the details of this.

  3. Paul Wicks says:

    I’m slightly confused. When I google the DOI number doi:10.1107/S1600536807027626, I get the link for “”, where it does say that the article is open-access. But when I look at the TOC you’ve linked to, it says “buy”, not “open-access”. Is it possible this is just an error, or do you know that the article was paid for to be OA?

  4. pm286 says:

    I do not know if the article was offered as Open Access so it is possible that the Open Access label is in error. It is further confused by the fact that there are several ways of getting to this article. It is further confused by the fact that articles can be located either from the society site or from Blackwells (the latter is labyrinthine and gives little clear indication of Hybrid OA).

  5. Peter – the problem with the issue you tested was a technical
    one with some articles being labelled “open access” that were
    not intended to be (and that the access control system did handle
    accordingly). Your blog was the first indication we had that this
    problem existed, and we have subsequently fixed it. Note that the
    journal (Section E) will become fully open access in 2008. Note
    also that for the IUCr journals, it is the IUCr alone that sets
    an open-access policy; you should not make any generalisations about
    Blackwell from our journals alone. Thank you for highlighting the incorrect labelling.

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