Elsevier charges to read #openaccess articles

I got the following advertising tweet today:

Elsevier Energy @EnergyJournals Read recent papers published Open Access in Elsevier Energy journals ow.ly/nMNAe


I follow the hashtag #openaccess and now many publishers are using this to promote their open access. So I thought I would follow this and see what sort of open access this is. The landing page (http://www.elsevier.com/physical-sciences/energy/open-access-articles) says:


Elsevier offers the option for authors to sponsor access to individual articles through hundreds of individual journals and via arrangements with funding bodies. These options enable authors to decide how their articles are published and to comply with the requirements of institutions, governments and funding bodies.

Sponsored articles are freely available to all readers. Click here for more information.

We are delighted to bring you a selection of the sponsored articles published in Elsevier’s Energy Journals to date:


The first 2 articles I chose were indeed visible. There was no licence – the rubric was © Elsevier All rights Reserved. (So even if they are “open access” they aren’t re-usable. But then I chose – at random – International Journal of Hydrogen Energy


and started on the table of contents listed on the “open access page” and found these are behind a paywall.

A new control strategy for hybrid fuel cell-battery power systems with improved efficiency
International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 37, Issue 17, September 2012, Pages 13141–13146
Chung-Hsing Chao, Jenn-Jong Shieh

PMR: costs 31.50 USD
Enhanced photo-hydrogen production of Rhodopseudomonas faecalis RLD-53 by EDTA addition
International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 37, Issue 10, May 2012, Pages 8277–8281
Hong-Yu Ren, Bing-Feng Liu, Jie Ding, Jun Nan, Guo-Jun Xie, Lei Zhao, Ming-Guang Chen, Nan-Qi Ren

PMR: costs 31.50 USD

Carbon–ceramic supported bimetallic Pt–Ni nanoparticles as an electrocatalyst for oxidation of formic acid
International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 36, Issue 16, August 2011, Pages 9581–9590
Biuck Habibi, Nasrin Delnavaz

PMR: costs 31.50 USD

… and I stopped there (and no, I haven’t been through every link and picked

Now I expect it’s an error. But part of Elsevier’s and other publishers arguments is that they claim to add professional quality to publishing and that academics and the world should pay for this. And this was a promotion. Elsevier are saying “look we are doing Open Access”. And they can’t even get a list of ca. 50 titles correct.

My guess is that they don’t have a proper system internally for deciding what is “open access”. Last time I asked them for a list of open access articles they said they couldn’t find it. My guess also is that they use “open access” in several different ways so they can’t create consistent metadata. If they labelled articles as CC-BY – as they should – then this is an easy thing to label. But I have no idea what the actual status of these articles is.

So Elsevier please do Open Access competently. Use CC-BY only, and put it in your metadata. And use it.

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12 Responses to Elsevier charges to read #openaccess articles

  1. A. Magron says:

    A way to find open access articles on the Elsevier’s Sciencedirect platform (thanks to http://svpow.com/2013/06/14/some-problems-with-hybrid-open-access/) : : click on Advanced Search (up at top right), choose the Expert Search alternative, and enter SPONSOREDACCESSTYPE(unlimited OR delay)
    Very intuitive …

    • pm286 says:

      Thanks, I assume your comment “Very intuitive” is sardonic, i.e. it’s very unintuitive (not all readers of the blog will pick this up).

  2. A. Magron says:

    It is sardonic. There is no mention about it on the Sciencedirect platform.

  3. Jean-Claude Guédon says:

    Thank you for doing this, Peter. I am sure Alicia Wise will have some nifty answer to your sleuthing about – why should you do such a thing? Don’t you trust Elsevier? -, and she will also complain about your negativity… 🙂 But if she had ever read Hegel, she would know how negativity can work!

    • pm286 says:

      I do this because I need a significant amount of the literature to be CC-BY so it can be mined. I am used to AW replies.

  4. Gabe says:

    I assume you are encountering Elsevier’s “green” open access efforts. They have something like 1,500 journals where authors (or their employers) can pay a ransom to have their articles made open access. This is, of course, an absurd way to go about it.
    Furthermore, given Elsevier’s history there is no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt on this.

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