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Tips for How to Access Elsevier Articles

Last week, Elsevier discontinued the University of California’s access to 2019 articles, and older articles in some of its journals. Articles published before 2019 in the vast majority of journals used by UC scholars continue to be available via its online platform, ScienceDirect.

This represents a significant change for UC researchers. To provide support through that transition, we are offering a range of tips and help sessions to help UC Davis scholars access articles that are no longer directly available from the publisher’s website.

Search tools

Many articles are freely available online. Search tools and browser plug-ins like Unpaywall, Google Scholar and Open Access Button can help locate these open-access copies, which researchers can download immediately. For example, here’s a one-minute how-to for Unpaywall, a free browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that will provide you with a direct link to the full-text article you’re searching for, when a free version is available. Video tutorials for the search tools Open Access Button and Kopernio are also available (see below).

Help sessions at the library

In the past, the library’s vast subscription package meant that many UC researchers never needed to use such tools to search for open access versions. For those who would like help getting started, we will offer drop-in sessions on Tuesdays at 10:30am and Thursdays at 3pm in Shields Library Room 205 for the next three weeks (through Thursday, August 1). You may also ask for help by emailing Deans and department chairs are also invited to request training for their college or department via the same contact email address.

Request a copy from the author

Many authors are happy to provide copies of articles when requested by email. Library databases like Web of Science include the corresponding author’s email address. Modern professional networks like ResearchGate (free, one-time registration required) also offer one-click article request functionality.

Interlibrary loan

If a free version isn’t available (or you don’t have time to look), the library can get a copy for you. We recently implemented new systems to support interlibrary loan on evenings and weekends, and to deliver requested articles within one business day, or even within a few hours. (For urgent requests, use the Note field to ask for an expedited copy.) Interlibrary loan staff can also be contacted 7 days a week at or 530-752-1978 if you have questions.

How we got here

The discontinuation of UC’s access to 2019 Elsevier articles (and certain older publications) is the latest development since the university’s negotiations with the scholarly journal publisher stalled earlier this year. 

In the negotiations, UC was seeking an agreement that would not only continue UC’s access to Elsevier’s online journals, but also achieve the faculty-supported goals of containing rapidly escalating journal subscription costs and providing for open access publication of UC research. UC is hoping to reenter formal negotiations with Elsevier if the publisher indicates that they are willing to address those goals. 

Meanwhile, the UC libraries will work hard to ensure that researchers have access to the articles they need, and will be carefully evaluating the impact of losing access to new articles on ScienceDirect over the coming months. 

Learn more

  • Read the statement of the systemwide Academic Senate leadership on why it is important to “hold the line” so that “the UC can help change the system of scholarly communication for the betterment of all.”
  • Read the backgrounder by UC Davis University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship MacKenzie Smith in The Conversation.
  • For the latest on the UC/Elsevier situation, visit our webpage or subscribe here to receive timely updates.

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