I ask Elsevier for their list of articles published as “hybrid Open Access”

Scientists can pay up to 5000 USD for an “Open Access” article in Elsevier journals (i.e. published normally in a toll-access journal but free to read). Leaving aside whether this is good value I wish to know what the authors get for their money. In particular since the authors presumably wish me to be able to read them, Elsevier must make it easy for me to find them.


I ask the Director of Universal Access how I can find the articles and how they can be identified by readers:


To: “Wise, Alicia (ELS-OXF) [Director of Universal Access]” <A.Wise@elsevier.com>,

Dear Director of Universal Access,
I am interested in articles published in toll-access Elsevier journals as “authors-pays Open Access” often called “hybrid Gold”.  See, for example,  http://download.thelancet.com/flatcontentassets/authors/article-sponsorship_form.pdf

for the Lancet (for which the price is 400 GBP (ca 600 USD) per page (and 3000-5000 USD for articles in other journals). I am interested in all subjects, not just Biomedical.
I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:
* What , if any, is Elsevier’s precise name for this scheme and where is it described?
* how many articles in total have been published under this scheme?
* what explicit licence, if any, is used on the articles?
* how are the articles labelled in the Elsevier journal (i.e. how is the licence and the Open Access information made apparent)?
* where is the machine-readable list of all articles published under this scheme?  I wish to download and analyze all of them.

Thanks in advance for your answers. I shall be making the results Openly available as I shall be contributing to public discussion on this matter in a few weeks.

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4 Responses to I ask Elsevier for their list of articles published as “hybrid Open Access”

  1. I asked Elsevier, and Alicia Wise in particular about licenses. Some details here by Mike Taylor: http://svpow.com/2012/03/19/understand-elseviers-open-access-licence-part-4-who-owns-copyright/
    Here is some stuff I wrote on Google+ (but I am no longer on there, this is a cut and paste)
    David Roberts
    Feb 22, 2012 Google+ Public
    What actually is Elsevier’s open access license?
    PLoS give you a CC-BY license (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CC-BY), but apparently Elsevier are
    “… experimenting with various licenses for our OA content. There are some bespoke licenses which permit non-commercial reuse, and some CC options including BY and NC-ND. This information also appears in different places on different articles/screens. We’re in a test-and-learn phase.” (according to Elsevier’s Director of Universal Access, Alicia Wise https://twitter.com/#!/wisealic, quoted in the above article)
    I couldn’t find this information on Elsevier’s website, though perhaps 10 minutes of looking isn’t enough. Cell Reports is a new journal that Elsevier publishes ‘oa’, for $5000 dollars an article, and has CC-BY 3.0 and CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 options (http://www.cell.com/cell-reports/faq), but what about the average mathematics journal (for instance)?
    I searched for ‘cc-by’ on elsevier’s site and got nothing. I searched ‘creative commons’, and I found the above material about Cell Reports and this:
    which essentially only links the cc licensing to MIT’s openware:
    ‘bits’ is the operative word.
    “The agreement allows the project to use up to three illustrations per journal article, and up to 100 words of text.” (from the above article)
    And if you are not at MIT?
    “Mark Seeley, vice president and general counsel at Elsevier, says the company has also agreed to a new policy on copyright, set up by the International Association of Scientific, Technical, & Medical Publishers, allowing any college to post small bits of journal material online. The policy doesn’t allow quite as much as the deal with MIT does, however. ”
    The link to the “new policy on copyright” is broken, so I can’t see what it is.
    However, note the following:
    ” When Elsevier changes its journal usage policies, are those changes also retroactive?
    Yes, when Elsevier changes its policies to enable greater academic use of journal materials (such as the changes several years ago in our web-posting policies) or to clarify the rights retained by journal authors, Elsevier is prepared to extend those rights retroactively with respect to articles published in journal issues produced prior to the policy change.” (from http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authorsview.authors/rights)
    this is slightly worrying since the copyright agreement you signed five years ago is essentially not in effect. Can this sort of change happen again? Certainly without an explicitly future-proofed license these things get tricky (and I’m not a lawyer…). And especially if Elsevier is in a “test-and-learn” phase.
    David Roberts
    Mar 6, 2012 Google+ Public
    “Supplemental Terms and Conditions for sponsored documents published in Elsevier journals (1.0)
    Elsevier has, through certain arrangements with funding agencies, agreed to post sponsored final documents (hereafter referred to as “documents”) used to generate the definitive published journal article, to PubMed Central (PMC) or PMC mirror sites for non-commercial purposes.
    Documents posted to PMC are protected by copyright and are posted to PMC by permission of Elsevier. At the time of deposit, posted documents included all changes made during peer review, copyediting, and publishing. PMC and PMC mirror site host organizations are responsible for all links within the document and for incorporating any publisher-supplied amendments or retractions issued subsequently. For a document that has been sponsored, the published journal article, guaranteed to be such by Elsevier, is available for free to non-subscribers on Elsevier’s publishing platforms including ScienceDirect.
    For non-commercial purposes users may access, download, copy, display and redistribute documents as well as adapt, translate, text and data mine content contained in documents, subject to the following conditions: The authors’ moral right to the integrity of their work is not compromised.
    Where content in the document is identified as belonging to a third party, it is the obligation of the user to ensure that any reuse complies with copyright policies of the owner.
    If document content is copied, downloaded or otherwise reused for non-commercial research and education purposes, a link to the appropriate bibliographic citation (authors, journal, article title, volume, issue, page numbers, DOI and the link to the definitive published version on ScienceDirect) should be maintained. Copyright notices and disclaimers should not be deleted.
    Use of documents for commercial purposes is prohibited. Commercial purposes include:
    – Copying or downloading of documents, or linking to such postings, for further redistribution, sale or licensing, for a fee;
    – Copying, downloading or posting by a site or service that incorporates advertising with such content;
    – The inclusion or incorporation of document content in other works or services (other than normal quotations with an appropriate citation) that is then available for sale or licensing, for a fee.
    – Use of documents or document content (other than normal quotations with appropriate citation) by for-profit organisations for promotional purposes, whether for a fee or otherwise.
    – Use for the purposes of monetary reward by means of sale, resale, license, loan, transfer or other form of commercial exploitation.
    Any translations, for which a prior translation agreement with Elsevier has not been established, must prominently display the statement: “This is an unofficial translation of an article that appeared in an Elsevier publication. Elsevier has not endorsed this translation.”
    For permission to use documents beyond permitted here, visit our Support & Contact website. Documents of articles that appeared in Elsevier journals and that are hosted on PMC or PMC mirror sites were developed during the publication process of the definitive published journal article that appears on ScienceDirect and Elsevier’s electronic publishing platforms. Documents posted to PubMed Central are without warranty from Elsevier of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement. In no event shall Elsevier be liable for any loss or damage arising out of, or in connection, with the use or performance of this information.
    © Copyright 2012 Elsevier | http://www.elsevier.com
    from: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authorsview.print/supplementalterms
    this is Elsevier’s page on authors’ rights when those authors choose to pay for their article to be open access (form is here:http://www.elsevier.com/framework_authors/Sponsoredarticles/sponsoredarticleoption.pdf). It isn’t linked from the main site, as far as Mike Taylor can tell:
    [EDIT: the ‘supplemental terms and conditions’ page is now linked to from http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authorsview.authors/sponsoredarticles – this is a positive move]
    I asked Alicia Wise, Elsevier’s Director of universal access about licensing for sponsored articles and she cut and pasted the text at the above Elsevier page

    • pm286 says:

      Many Thanks David
      This is useful background, but I shall want a self-contained, coherent accurate statement from Elsevier (i.e. not referring back to your very helpful post.

  2. Alicia Wise says:

    Hi Peter, and thanks for your message. Here are the answers to your 5 questions.
    1. What , if any, is Elsevier’s precise name for this scheme and where is it described?
    Our hybrid open access publishing scheme is not currently a branded programme. We refer to these as ‘sponsored articles’. You can read more about these here (http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/intro.cws_home/open_access) and here (http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authorsview.authors/sponsoredarticles).
    2. How many articles in total have been published under this scheme?
    2010 sponsored article numbers are available here (http://www.elsevier.com/framework_authors/Sponsoredarticles/pdfs/sponsoredarticlesNEW.pdf) and the 2011 sponsored article numbers are available here (http://www.elsevier.com/framework_authors/Sponsoredarticles/pdfs/Sponsored_Articles_2011.pdf).
    3. What explicit licence, if any, is used on the articles?
    The majority use a bespoke license which is like a CC-NC license and described here (http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authors.authors/sponsoredarticles_user). Some sponsored articles in physics only come with a CC-BY license and in these cases the CC-BY license is indicated in the body of the article at the end just before the reference, see this example (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168900210008910).
    4. How are the articles labelled in the Elsevier journal (i.e. how is the licence and the Open Access information made apparent)?
    There is an open access symbol and link in the top right of the article. For an example see here (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168900207017020).
    5. Where is the machine-readable list of all articles published under this scheme? I wish to download and analyze all of them.
    Through your affiliation with Cambridge University you are able to text mine all our content, not only the open access articles. At this time we do not publish a separate machine-readable list of all sponsored articles, but I will share this suggestion with appropriate colleagues involved in our various open access infrastructure projects. If you would like to conclude our earlier discussion about a bulk data download to facilitate your text mining, please do let me know.
    With kind wishes,

  3. Pingback: Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics, Cambridge - Elsevier replies about hybrid #openacess; I am appalled about their practices. Breaking licences and having to pay to read “Open Access” « petermr's blog

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