Chris Shaffer
Chris Shaffer
Chris is an open science advocate and serves as University Librarian and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Information Management. Contact him to discuss the vision, strategic plan, and services of the UCSF Library.

Results of Elsevier Poll on Impact of Loss of Access to Current Articles

In February and March 2020, UC’s Council of University Librarians (CoUL) launched a brief sentiment poll to gauge the impact of loss of immediate access to current journal content via the Elsevier web site on the UC community. The poll was developed and sponsored by the UC Academic Senate Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC) and the UC Libraries. This summary was prepared by CoUL and UCOLASC and has been modified by the UCSF Library to reflect the unique characteristics of UCSF responses to the poll.

The poll was open for five weeks earlier this year and was completed by over 7,300 UC affiliates (37% faculty, 31% graduate students, 9% undergraduate, 8% postdoc, 5% staff, 5% researcher, 5% other). UCSF contributed 1,025 responses, with this breakdown by status: 58% faculty, 12% postdoc, 11% graduate student, 9% resident, 5% researcher, 4% staff, and 2% other. Responses by UCSF school or department break down as 73% Medicine, 7% Nursing, 7% Other, 5% Pharmacy, 4% UCSF Health, and 3% Dentistry.

As its purpose was to support the libraries in improving services for and communication with the UC community, the poll was distributed broadly but informally, without population sampling or IRB review. Because it was not a scientific survey, we are unable to share the raw data.

Impact on research, teaching, learning

Regarding the UC-wide impact of the loss of immediate access to current Elsevier journals on respondents’ research, teaching, or learning: 33% reported significant impact, 44% some impact, and 21% no impact. Unsurprisingly, given Elsevier’s journal portfolio, the proportion reporting significant impact was greater from health sciences-affiliated respondents. UCSF’s responses mirror the overall UC health science breakdown, with 51% reporting significant impact, 43% some impact, and 6% no impact.

Access to articles

Respondents from UCSF reported they are taking multiple approaches to get the articles they need, including finding them online (40%), asking a colleague at another institution (36%), using interlibrary loan (32%), asking the author (20%), and paying for articles via the Elsevier web site. More than half (57%) report not pursuing any method to get articles.

Support for UC’s position

Thirty-nine percent of all UC respondents agreed with the statement “I strongly support UC’s goals of cost containment and enabling open access to UC research.” At UCSF, 21% expressed strong support, with postdocs and graduate students more likely to agree than faculty and residents. Another 26% agreed that, “Despite the inconvenience, I understand what UC is working to accomplish and am managing my work around it,” and 29% agreed with the statement “I’m waiting to see how this will work out, but this is starting to negatively affect my work.” Twenty percent of respondents selected, “This is very frustrating. I need fast access to Elsevier articles for my work and UC should do whatever it takes to finalize an agreement as quickly as possible.”

Impact on relationship with Elsevier

Most at UCSF reported the situation has no impact on their relationship with Elsevier (73%), but 19% reported it is affecting their decision to publish in Elsevier journals, and 17% their reviewing of Elsevier articles. Another 4% indicated that serving in an editorial capacity for an Elsevier journal has been impacted.

UCOLASC and the UC Libraries are encouraged that, despite the inconvenience, faculty, researchers and students across the system remain strongly supportive of UC’s position in these negotiations. In continued partnership between our faculty and UC Libraries, the UC publisher negotiating team reentered formal negotiations with Elsevier in summer 2020 to seek a positive resolution.

Despite the inconvenience, faculty, researchers and students across the system remain strongly supportive of UC’s position in these negotiations.

Closing Message from the University Librarian

I’d like to thank every individual from the UCSF community who provided feedback about the impact of the Elsevier situation on their research, teaching, and learning activities. Your responses have provided invaluable insights into our efforts to reach an agreement with Elsevier that provides for open access publishing of UC-authored articles and restores UC’s access to Elsevier content at a reasonable cost.

The Library remains committed to providing access for the UCSF community to unlicensed Elsevier journal articles, both through our interlibrary loan service and through our reimbursement service for out-of-pocket purchases of articles. See Alternative Access: How to get the PDF? for complete details.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time.

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