Today at Elseviergate: Are Elsevier are dishonouring their contract with Wellcome Trust? "Open Access" behind paywall

The Wellcome Trust is one of the most valuable organisations in Open Access. It’s blazed a trail of clarity through the Open Access jungle. Very simply:

  • WT require their grantees to publish Gold CC-BY Open Access
  • They provide money to make sure it happens.
  • They have a clear transparent record of they spend.

It’s a model that all funders should emulate.
So, yesterday, Robert Kiley announced a spreadsheet of Open Access spending. A heroic effort. Every paper is listed with the publisher, the title and the details. Here’s an excellent review: . Cameron Neylon has tidied up the spreadsheet
Neylon, Cameron (2014): Wellcome Trust Article Processing Charges by Article 2012/13. figshare.
and some of the OKFN have also contributed volunteer labour.
What follows is not contrived. I really did pick the first article in the spread sheet.
So I go to the first record (PMC ID, Publisher, Journal, Title, APC paid by Wellcome)
“PMC3378987,  Elsevier,  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Parent support and parent mediated behaviours are associated with children’s sugary beverage consumption”, £2,379.54
I put the title into Google (most people do this rather than using publisher searches) and get:
Let’s zoom in:
How strange … I thought this was a list of Open Access papers. That you didn’t have to pay for.
Since I haven’t got the contract between WT and Elsevier I shan’t cast any aspersions. Maybe Wellcome got the details wrong? Maybe they are happy for Elsevier to charge for Open Access?
Or, just possibly, Elsevier have got some explaining to do.
UPDATE: Jan Velterop has tweeted that it’s available at as “Open Access funded by Wellcome Trust”. Of course it’s claimed by Elsevier as :”Copyright © 2012 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.”.
So Robert Kiley thought he was paying for everyone to be able to read the article in the journal. He wasn’t. He was paying for the article to be put behind an Elsevier paywall.
So I invite the “Director of Access and Policy” at Elsevier to explain. And it’s NOT satisfactory to say “Oh you can get it for free at Science Direct”. Most people will look in the journal. And many haven’t a clue about ScienceDirect.

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8 Responses to Today at Elseviergate: Are Elsevier are dishonouring their contract with Wellcome Trust? "Open Access" behind paywall

  1. Charles Oppenheim says:

    I have long argued that, as it is an offence to infringe copyright in the UK Copyright Act, it also should be illegal to claim ownership of copyright in something that one does not own, or to claim rights in something that one does not have, or to prevent lawful access to a work. This saga only strengthens my argument. Furthermore, just as one can infringe copyright without realising it (ignorance of the law is no excuse), equally, there should not be any defence that the person did not realise they were doing it, or that “their systems” were at fault in making the mistake.

  2. derwn says:

    ? I did same Google search, it took to me to PubMed, which took me to Science Direct, where article was open… seems OK

    • pm286 says:

      Agreed. But the point is that the primary Journal – which is what the reference will point to – is closed. And there should be no closed versions under publisher control.

    • pm286 says:

      The concern of course is not that it can be found in open places, but that it should be closed anywhere.

  3. Alicia Wise says:

    Hi all,
    Elsevier and other established publishers are making a wide array of systems changes to support the growth in open access publishing in the international research community we serve. Read more about this journey here:
    With kind wishes,
    Dr Alicia Wise
    Director of Access & Policy

    • pm286 says:

      I shall answer this in a blog post. The use of the “journey” metaphor hides the severity of Elsevier’s failure to comply.

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