Confusing Green Open Access policies

Elsevier’s Green Open Access policy on self-archiving is so confusing even the Elsevier Customer Service department don’t know what it is.

A few weeks ago one of my colleagues was trying to find out whether they could self-archive a paper published in an Elsevier journal in our institutional repository. The normal procedure is to check the SHERPA RoMEO database, followed by looking at the journal’s webpages. In this particular case there was no information from either sources:

Screenshot - 25_04_2014 , 11_49_48

Given the lack of information my colleague took the reasonable step of contacting Elsevier via their ‘Help & Contact’ web form on 7th April 2014 to ask what is the self-archiving policy for the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The following response was received (names have been pixelated to preserve anonymity):


The same response was sent again on 16th and 22nd April. Finally my colleague received the following email asking why they wanted to know:ElsevierEmail4

So far it has taken 12 working days to not answer a simple question.

If Elsevier’s customer support staff don’t know what the Green Open Access policy of one of their own journals is then how is an academic author supposed to find out?

As it turns out the journal in question has a 12 month embargo period. After digging round the Elsevier webpages we found the information is buried in a link to a PDF.

The length of embargo periods is a contentious area. Most reasonable people would agree that a period of exclusivity is required for publishers to reap some financial benefit from their subscription-based business model. The majority of UK based funders of research (Research Councils and Charities) recognise this and typically implement a 6 month time period in their open access policies to accommodate any journal embargo periods. It is telling to note that many hybrid publishers have increased journal embargos to periods longer than those recommended by research funders. This in effect forces many researchers to choose paid for open access services offered by publishers.


After more than 3 weeks the enquiry was finally passed to the correct Customer Support Team who provided a full satisfactory response on 30 April 2014:

Please accept my apologies that your original enquiry dated 7th April has just been brought to the attention of the Open Access Customer Support Team. I believe that your enquiry was regarding an explanation as to ‘s self-archiving policy for The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and the relevant embargo period, but to date you have yet to receive a full response. I would like to provide you with the following information.Elsevier

The process in which an Author can share their research by self-archiving a draft copy to a repository or website, is referred to as Green Open Access. The following link will provide you with full information and clear instructions as this approach to Open Access The website also provides clear details of ’s journal specific posting policy Elsevier and confirms that the embargo period for this journal title is 12 months.


International Earth Day

Tuesday 22nd April has been designated by the UN as International Mother Earth Day. It is a day of action where people from all over the planet do something on behalf of the environment – through local campaigns to pick up litter, plant trees and clean up their communities, to online activism to contact their elected officials and influence policy changes. The University of Edinburgh contributes in part by carrying out original research and freely sharing this knowledge with the world adding to the growing global body of knowledge.

We wanted to highlight some of the materials in our Open Access collections that looks at research themes closely related to #MotherEarthDay – including sustainable development, renewable energy and global climate change:

1. Reducing uncertainty in predictions of the response of Amazonian forests to climate change (Lucy Rowland, PhD 2013)

Our understanding of global climate change is mainly based on computer modelling. To date there are few studies which have comprehensively tested vegetation models using ecological data from Amazon forests. Using data this thesis presents an investigation of how tropical forests respond to changes in climate and with what certainty scientists can model these changes in order to predict the response of Amazon forests to predicted future climate change.

2. Climate change uncertainty evaluation, impacts modelling and resilience of farm scale dynamics in Scotland (Michael Rivington, PhD 2011)

Climate change is a global phenomena that will have a wide range of local impacts on land use. The work undertaken in this PhD thesis indicates that agriculture in Scotland has the potential to cope with the impacts but that substantial changes are required in farming practices

3. Making sustainable development a reality: A study of the social processes of community-led sustainable development and the buy-out of the Isle of Gigha, Scotland (Robert Didham, PhD 2007)

This PhD thesis examines the concept of sustainable development with a primary focus on its advancement and implementation at a local level. This work is based on original ethnographic research that was conducted on the Isle of Gigha, Scotland following the community buy-out of the island that occurred in 2002.

4. Climate change and renewable energy portfolios (Dougal Burnett, PhD 2012)

The UK has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This will see the proportion of energy generated in the UK from renewable resources such as wind, solar, marine and bio-fuels is increasing and likely to dominate the future energy market over the next few decades. This PhD thesis explores the influence of climate change on renewable electricity generation portfolios and energy security in the UK, with the aim of determining if climate change will affect renewable energy resource in such a way that may leave future low carbon generation portfolios sub-optimal.

5. An Assessment of the Impact of Climate Change on Hydroelectric Power (Gareth Harrison, PhD 2001)

This PhD thesis describes a methodology to assess the potential impact of climatic change on hydropower investment, and details the implementation of a technique for quantifying changes in profitability and risk. A case study is presented as an illustration, the results of which are analysed with respect to the implications for future provision of hydropower, as well as our ability to limit the extent of climatic change.

University of Edinburgh Open Access update: March 2014

As of 31st March there are approximately 76,800 records in our Current Research Information System (PURE), of which 16,795 have open access documents available to the general public (22% open access). In addition there are 170 records with documents waiting for validation.

Looking specifically at just journal articles and conference proceedings:

All time OA docs Open access % 2008 onwards OA docs Open access %
Medicine & Veterinary Medicine 6513 33 4476 41
Humanities & Social Science 3002 22 2509 36
Science & Engineering 5687 22 3826 30

Monthly application figures to the Gold Open Access funds:

Month Applications to RCUK Applications to Wellcome
January 2014 32 13
February 2014 24 13
March 2014 23 14

Status of the RCUK fund – currently there is £367,400 left in the fund*, with an additional £74,400 committed on articles submitted for publication. Altogether the fund has 35% left in the account.

(*this figure was slightly wrong last month – apologies!)

Status of the Wellcome fund – since the start of the new reporting period (November 2013) the cumulative open access spend has been £137,078