Survey: Do not miss out on the Elsevier Open Access agreement opportunities

During the closing days of 2017 publisher Elsevier is approaching as many as 400 Dutch researchers, who could have published Open Access in 2017 as part of a VSNU deal, but somehow….did not.

At the same time, the university libraries, in close cooperation with Elsevier, conducted a survey among these very same researchers to find out what may the reason of their not making use of this opportunity.

192 authors responded.

  • 131 (68%), a vast majority, answered: ‘I didn’t know about the deal’;
  • 30 (16%) considered the application process on the Elsevier website unclear;
  • 40 respondents (21%)  stated ‘it was unclear to me whether I had to pay the APC or not’;
  • 19 (also) mentioned other reasons, such as unclearness about affiliation or performing the research for another university;
  • 1 researcher mentioned ‘I’m not interested / opposed to Open Access publishing’ because of the high costs;
  • none of the respondents pointed to the absence of funder/university requirements.

Many respondents added extra comments. Besides an additional remark related to the reason not having made use of the open access option, many explicitly stated the importance of open access and sometimes even expressed their gratitude for this reparation action.

The first and most important conclusion of the survey can be that researchers who didn’t make use of the agreement are not at all negative about open access. Many give explicit support for open access in their comments. However, their unawareness about the agreement can be pinpointed clearly as the main factor why uptake is staying behind expectations.

Therefore, I’d like to use the opportunity once more to direct everyone about to submit a paper to the list with journal titles that allows them to publish open access at no costs (or with very high discounts). You can find it at:

The list is regularly updated: please feel free to share this list with all your colleagues; the more people make use of these deals, the better!

Happy Christmas!

Open Access means shared responsibility for research programs.

In the International Open Access week, 23-29 October 2017 we are posting interviews conducted with Leiden researchers.

Today Huub de Groot, LIC.


As professor at the Leiden Institute of Chemistry, Huub de Groot works with Magic Angle Spinning NMR at ultra high magnetic fields on ways to mimic nature’s ability to convert energy from sunlight: artificial photosynthesis. His research topic is one that attracts attention from experts and non-experts alike. He thinks policy makers should make their own judgement of facts versus opinions by open inquiry based on original research output, free from manipulation or coercion, to re-establish a profitable relationship between science and governance.


“My first Open Access article was probably in PNAS, some 8 years ago. It was an article about the determination of the structure of the chlorosome, a very peculiar biological antenna for harvesting solar light. We wanted to spread the results as widely as possible. At the moment everything we publish is Open Access.”


Did the choice for Open Access indeed lead to more publicity?

“In a way yes. Specifically in countries in developing economies, it was easier to access our research and this has led to additional exposure. As for exposure in The Netherlands, I mainly see a missed opportunity. On the one hand people say our research was funded by the public and it should have access to the results. On the other hand, once you do start publishing Open Access the public hardly spends time on reading these results.”

What about companies? Are they interested to read your research?

“The discipline of science is a much stronger discipline than the discipline of the market. Industry does not want to dig as deep as universities, they simply need enough reliable results to work from. Companies complain they can no longer trust the results from scientific research. This has nothing to do with scientific integrity, but it is  mainly a consequence of us respecting the discipline of science by making reservations, asking for duplication and adding context. For the companies it is easy to get lost in this mist and noise surrounding a publication and they do not have the time to find out what the real discovery is.”

So whom do you see as main beneficiaries within The Netherlands?

“Right now, Funders and government often do not have access to our articles, our primary research output. Therefore we have to write reports to show what we do and it is easy to make these reports look better than they are. This distorts the scientific reality, and provides deceptive room for interpretation which in turn leads to different cults within science, as researchers follow the funders and do not have the time to read all publications themselves.”

What do you mean with cults? Isn’t science interdisciplinary?

“For example physicists and chemists have both created a scientific practice of their own. While both are considered exact, physics is hypothesis driven with a predominant theoretical basis while chemistry is heuristic with a predominant empirical basis. The consequence is that they can make beginners mistakes in each other’s fields if they cross the borders. On the one hand, beginners mistakes are easy to correct by their very nature, while on the other hand they can be quite persistent with dogma’s taking precedence over evidence, when the teachings of adjacent disciplines are ignored or even disdained.

The cult or dogmatic way of thinking compromises open inquiry and puts a bias on the outcome. For good science you have to be able to go against the flow, to find out what is really going on.”

How can Open Access solve this problem?

“Currently we see all too often that funder’s policy is based on the whims of market and politics. For lack of knowledge charlatans shout things that would breach my scientific integrity if I said them aloud. But these ideas are funded, while good proposals are rejected. I have given lectures to the ministries about it and they say: we know this, but we simply do not have the materials and knowledge to correct it. Another point is that lack of access to older materials leads to forgotten science as well; it happens quite often that research done over half a century ago is repeated.

If everything is Open Access, the responsibilities for following those lines of erratic research are no longer just in the researcher’s hands. They are also with the policy makers and funders, who can hire our PhD’s to help them make sense of the current state of science. They do not have to be experts, but they should be better than the scientist at his worst, to identify weaknesses. Once you have access to the original research output, you have your share of the responsibility when adopting a steering role in science policy and make judgements on how to achieve a profitable relationship between science and governance.”

What about the responsibility of the scientist?

“Don’t forget: scientists are just humans. They create their own international world and if no one asks them to get in line with utilitarian scientific practice, they will have to adhere to high scientific standards of their own club. Many scientists lead a double life: on the one hand they have projects that bring in money, and once the funding is there, they use it to contribute to what is important for the development of their science field in a global perspective. This is then evaluated by non-experts: not on the scientific output, but on reports, impact and H-factors.

I once went to a science dinner of the Rathenau Institute, where members of both houses of parliament were present. One of their chairs told us she had great ideas about what scientists should investigate. I sat there and all I could think was: you should never try to get these granted at NWO, as they do not meet the high standards imposed by the discipline of science and will be shot out of the air by the first referee you meet. This creates tension: people think they spend a lot on science, so their problems should be solved, but they are not. What are we doing with those billions of euros we receive every year if we say we do not have money for their requests? You need to understand what we do in order to guide us.”

Funding agencies already employ PhD’s from the right fields, why do they miss out?

“The number of people that genuinely do want to understand what we are doing is steadily increasing. For instance, I am working with a social scientist who is helping us and sees that many engineers are messing things up.

Biomass is a good example. 5 per cent of our gasoline has to be biobased by EG regulations. When the government wanted to increase this amount, many researchers saw easy money for their research. They made plans for pilot plants that could later ‘simply’ be made to work harder. But according to the first law of thermodynamics you can’t make energy out of  nothing. In the end they had to think of all kinds of solutions behind the facade of the factory to increase production. For example they had to send trains to Russia to import wood for their factory.

Currently we see a similar problem in our discipline where it concerns the second law of thermodynamics. You can only convert energy from one type to another, and while doing so, you will produce entropy so that the energy is less usable. If you convert sun light to fuel, you will have a thermodynamical loss and the amount of this loss is highly underestimated. Fundamental principles are ignored as researchers say: when we get the money, we will make the process better. Maybe you will get it right after trying everything else. But excessive trial-and-error, heuristics, makes research unnecessary expensive and could be prevented in favour of more rapidly converging analytical approaches. The public who has open access to the raw research output will be able to discern between these errors and real research. As a scientist, you should expose such anomalies, but this is where I draw the line. The people you criticize are also your colleagues, and just like everyone else I want to work in a pleasant atmosphere.

What will Open Access change in chemistry?

“If you thoroughly read the literature, you know a climate model such as the one from the IPCC suggests we can forecast and analyse the climate without a structured and general understanding from a scientific perspective. You will discover that extreme computing science models are being developed based upon amongst others a chemical mass balance for system earth. Something that is a hard sell now, but once the literature is open, policy makers can be held responsible to ensure that their policies are based on the best research output that science has to offer.

Transparency might lead to changes in whole fields. If we take for example catalysis, a research subject that is based upon lots of empirical research. There are very few common principles, and the literature in the field is full of paradoxes as researchers in the field know. But these researchers think: we will notice when it goes wrong once it stops working. You might even call it modern day alchemy, and alchemy thrives on secrecy. If you open up all literature in this field and let well-educated policy makers and journalists have a good look, make connections and take their responsibility, avoiding scandals like diesel gate may become reality.”

What’s your opinion on the big deals made with publishers?

“I am drawn by the enormous collection of journals where we can publish Open Access. We have deals with the publishers where chemistry is ‘made’: the American Chemical Society, Wiley with Angewandte Chemie from the Gesellschaft Deutsche Chemiker, and the Royal Society of Chemistry.”

What if you had to choose between high impact and Open Access?

“High impact journals are increasingly under discussion. Hans Clevers said about publishing in these journals: 10 per cent of it is a result, the remaining 90 per cent is dreamt up. Not that it is wrong, but a small amount of real results is put into context and expanded. This is what people want, apparently.

We are currently working on a whole new idea where we hope to eventually publish around six articles on the same theme. We could send it to Nature Chemistry, but I think it would work better as an Open Access series of articles in a single journal such as Chemistry, a European Journal. Our research is qualitatively strong, it might not make the news, but it will be remembered for a longer period of time.”

Do you think articles are too fragmented nowadays?

“Nicolaas Bloembergen has just passed away. He is best known for his article on the theory of relaxation in NMR. He used to publish around 1 article per year instead of 25 articles per year as many people do nowadays. But this one article had more impact than 25 articles from current scientists. I think we should return partially to this method and take time to think before we publish. Escape conference hypes and think deeply. In the end you will get the credits.

As an expert reviewer for the Swiss science foundation I recently got the same task: do not look at H-factors and impact, but evaluate the real science. What do scientists have to offer and does it really matter? With Open Access anyone who desires to be part of a responsible elite can focus on solid work instead of drawing fast conclusions, usually riddled with mistakes, omissions and unrealistic additions that are the inevitable consequence of manipulation and coercion based on political truth and short term interests of both science experts and the public. For those who graduated from our universities with a PhD license that admits them by law to practice science independently, this is actually a matter of integrity: a PhD degree is to be considered a privilege with responsibilities towards both science and society.”


Without Open Access the immediate road is always barred

In the International Open Access week, 23-29 October 2017 we are posting interviews conducted with Leiden researchers.

Today Eric Eliel, LION.

As director of the Leiden Institute of Physics, Eric Eliel has not been active as a publishing scientist for approximately 6,5 years. However, the Open Access output of ‘his’ physicists is something he values greatly.

“I am a firm believer in Open Access. We are publicly funded, so our output should be public property. An effective way to do that is Open Access. Anyone who wishes to have a look at what we do, should be able to do this. Nothing we do is secret. As scientists we never wanted to sit behind walls of isolation, it was the publication system that put up these walls. I, myself am irritated if I read about a paper somewhere and when looking it up I get to see a message like: pay 35 pounds and you can read it.”

Doesn’t the library provide you with access to these publications?

“Of course we know the roundabout ways, to login through the university library. However, if you just sit and relax on a Sunday afternoon with your laptop, see a news item and want to get some more detail, then the immediate road is always barred by this ‘please pay 30 pound’. Of course as a member of academia I can access it, but then I have to go through the extra minute and irritation. I accept the situation as it is for me, but the roundabout route does not exist for the majority of people in The Netherlands.”

Do you think a lot of people are willing to read research articles?

“Well maybe not in my specific field, condensed matter physics. However, we are constantly invited by the government to think about cooperating with small and medium enterprises. People who are interested, should be able to get access. The current paywall situation affects our ability to connect with society, get funding and fosters ignorance in people who wish to be knowledgeable. This is all due to the publishing companies and not a result of our wishes and beliefs.”

Do you actively tell the people of your institute to publish Open Access?

“It is the policy of our institute and university. However if you want to go to Open Access in a journal, the gold route is expensive and that keeps people away from going that route. Of course, there are ways to get your money back, such as the library deals. However there are so many things to keep track of, that some stay out of it and prefer the green route: they put their manuscript on Arxiv. It is not just a matter of money, but open access publishing should be a very simple procedure. The big deals between universities and publishers are good, but for researchers they are not on the top of their mind. It will take years before it is ingrained in them that there are deals. Arxiv is simple and simplicity trumps everything.”

Arxiv already exists since 1991 and your first Arxiv publication dates back to 2003. What has Arxiv brought to the physics community over time?

“Arxiv is immensely valuable to physics. As a manager, I also like to look up what someone has done over the last few years in Arxiv. If they are diligent about Arxiv it is the best overview, even better than the Web of Science.  You will find more results as some things are not published in a traditional way.

For example if you work in a major consortium on an enormous project, such as the LIGO gravitational-wave inferometer or the KM3NeT neutrino observatory, there are many progress reports that really reflect personal output which are not published. They appear on Inspire and Arxiv. The traditional publications only start when the big bang comes, the gravitational waves are observed. In Web of Science you will see that the citation scores for these researchers suddenly jump from near zero to infinity because they were one of the thousand researchers on this seminal article. This makes their contribution very difficult to assess.

Arxiv also has whitepapers. One of our researchers for example is working on a possible new research project at CERN, ‘the search for hidden particles’. There is an incredible amount of work that goes into proceedings and proposals that are not published, but can be found on Arxiv. The funny thing is that these publications are easier to access than a publication in Nature or Science.”

Is there a difference in disciplines when it comes to Arxiv-uptake?

“It is mainly tradition. Condensed matter, high energy physics and astrophysics have a large tradition with Arxiv, but the biophysics community was not connected. For this, BioRxviv has been set up years later. I hope these repositories will merge eventually. But a repository such as Arxiv is a huge undertaking, it needs lots of support from the disciplines and universities. Currently, Leiden University pays for Arxiv.  We first started paying as an institute because we believed in it. The amount of money needed is negligible on the library budget (2000-2500 dollar) and we are free to contribute or not. It is like charity.”

Do we still need traditional journals?

“If you give me the permission to dream: commercial publishers do not appear in my dream. They run and own the journals that create the most visibility. As a researcher you occasionally have to – because of funding – and want to score in the Nature family or Science. But these publishers want to make money; they have to. They can’t do this on advertisements only; running a journal with all the editorial and business sides is an expensive process, especially if you reformat the paper like Nature does.

The reformatting makes the articles glossy and gets people to leaf through Nature, something they won’t do with, for example, Optics Express. The chance of your paper being read by someone that is not directly connected to your research is therefore much higher when it is published in Nature or Science, and this yields the larger impact ratio. Even funders and members of parliament may read it there.”

Can we create a similar high impact experience in Open Access?

“I do believe that things will change. This afternoon, for example, I have to go to a PhD defense. In the thesis I saw all these QR-codes in the margin. I did not know what they were for, but after checking my iPhone, I found out they referred to Youtube movies. As an examiner I may question if these were part of the thesis or not, but I like these new possibilities opening up in publishing. Online publication and Open Access make it possible.

The new generation operates in completely different ways. Every year I see in theses that they spend more time on new methods to present their work. Science becomes more alive: you do not see a simple plot with five spheres, but get a movie that shows how the different spheres evolve. However, we have to think about integration. How can we keep the material usable? Open Access helps.

In the end I envision publishers will try to get into new ways of publishing as well. My deepest hope is that there will be so much happening, that the publishers will come running to us to form a joint community of researchers and publishers to get the scientific results to the people: Open Access brings science to the world.”

Seminar Publish for Influence, November 1st

November 1st, 13.30-16.30
Door opens at 13.00

Erasmus University Rotterdam
Van der Goot Building, M1-19
Burgemeester Oudlaan 40
3062 PA Rotterdam

Speakers include:

Chair: Marco de Niet, Leiden University Libraries

The seminar is free of charge. Please register by filling out this form.

The seminar will focus on different aspects of publishing, visibility and influence– be it academic, societal, or economic. It will highlight the importance of being open and discuss complementary indicators and methods for measuring influence.

The seminar will take place in the context of international Open Access week 2017.

The seminar is organised by LDE strategic alliance: University Leiden, Delft University of Technology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and is sponsored by OpenAire

Gert Goris: Programme Manager Research Intelligence, Erasmus University Library
Just de Leeuwe: Publishing Advisor Research Support, TU Delft Library,
Michelle van den Berk: Center for Digital Scholarship, Leiden University Libraries

ChemRxiv: Preprints for Chemistry

ChemRxiv: Preprints for Chemistry

By Rutger de Jong,

On August 14, the American Chemical Society, Royal Society of Chemistry and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chemie launched a beta version of their preprint server ChemRxiv. The project, already announced in 2016, was put out shortly after the announcement of a section for chemistry on Elsevier’s SSRN preprint server ChemRN a week earlier. 

With ChemRxiv chemists may dissemeninate their findings much faster, which becomes a necessity in times where publishing might take up to 2 years because of overworked peer reviewers and the so-called publication cascade. This means a PhD can show his promise before he is searching for a postdoc position. It also helps in furthering science, as the results may be discussed early on and others can build upon the work. Top journals such as Science even prefer the articles with preprint as they might have already gained some traction before publishing. And, last but not least, the work is already protected as a finding, so no other research group might steal the spotlight by scooping it.




The publication process itself is fairly simple. The article has to be submitted before it is accepted at a journal. Within 1 or 2 days after posting, the preprint will get its own doi after it has gone through a quick test for plagiarism, bogus and offensive content, probably carried out by PhD-students. It is explicitly not a peer review, just a test. Afterwards the preprint cannot be removed, but it may be updated with later versions.


Chemists are known to be a skeptic lot, this is probably why it has taken so long before a preprint server for chemistry was established. Currently the main preprint servers, Arxiv and BioRxiv, only accept articles in specific disicplines: physics, mathematics, computer sciences and life sciences. However, the three chemical societies expect the demand for their preprint server to be high. After the first announcement last year, a fake version of ChemRxiv immediately popped up and chemists were eager to add to it: within a week several articles had been uploaded. For the real beta version we see a similar story: within a month after launch, 45 articles have been posted, attracting over 3,000 downloaders and 22,000 viewers (as seen on September 14).

The oldest preprint server,, started out exactly 26 years earlier on August 14, 1991. It is a well established source for physics information, even though not every physics discipline attributes equally. Authors from theoretical fields use it more often than those from experimental fields. Its postings seem to be quite successful at getting published as well: a 2014 paper states roughly 64 per cent of the content was published in a Web of Science indexed journal.(Larivière et al., 2014) Other articles are probably still in the submission process.

Biorxiv, the biology and life sciences preprint server, took some time to gain popularity. In biology, just as in chemistry, there was a fear of letting out articles before peer review. However, a growing number of biologists now find their current work posted on Biorxiv to be a great topic starter at conferences and see it as addition to their Curriculum Vitae as nowadays the time to publish your first author paper might be longer than the time needed to graduate.(Vale, 2015)(Bhalla, 2016) The number of submissions has grown exponentially since Biorxiv launched.

Check your journals

Even though the societies are very positive about the future of their preprint server, one hurdle still remains: not all journals accept publications that have been dissemeninated as preprint. One of the highest impact examples is Angewandte Chemie. But not even all journals of one of the founders, the American Chemical Society, allow the preprint to be posted before publication. For example, the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), The Journal of Natural Products, The Journal of Organic Chemistry and Macromolecules all state ‘new’ information already published elsewhere is not eligible to be published in the journal. To facilitate the process ACS has published a list with policies online. Policies from other publishers can be found here.

To be fair, a similar problem existed for the physics and biology preprint servers. Nowadays practically all publishers in physics allow preprints. For biology 1 year after the launch of BioRxiv journal policies started to change.(Kaiser, 2014)

The ACS itself expects the problem to die out slowly. Policies of individual journals are made by the editors and changes in the boards will probably be reflected in the policy. Though there may be some acceptions as they told last year while visiting the Netherlands for an Open Access meeting: journals with quick turnarounds, so called communications, do not benefit from preprints and would see their market destroyed if they would allow them. Perhaps, these journals might really be replaced by overlays on top of the preprint server as we see evolving in physics at the moment.


Bhalla, N. (2016). Has the time come for preprints in biology? Molecular Biology of the Cell, 27(8), 1185–7.

Kaiser, J. (2014). BioRxiv at 1 year: A promising start. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from

Larivière, V., Sugimoto, C. R., Macaluso, B., Milojević, S., Cronin, B., & Thelwall, M. (2014). arXiv E-prints and the journal of record: An analysis of roles and relationships. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 65(6), 1157–1169.

Vale, R. D. (2015). Accelerating scientific publication in biology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(44), 13439–46.



Unpaywall helps you find your way through the Open Access landscape


Unpaywall is a neat browser extension that will help you find a free version of scientific articles that are otherwise placed behind a paywall. You can add it to Chrome or Firefox, where it searches for Open Access versions of articles for which you would normally need a subscription (or payment). A small icon on the right hand side of your browser indicates the availability of an Open Access file.unpaywall

As Open Access publications are increasing in number, so are the sources in which the can be found. It is hardly feasible to search every possible database for an Open Access version of a publication you want to read. Unpaywall offers a solution by displaying bundled information from among other sources: PubMed Central, DOAJ, Crossref, DataCite, Google Scholar, and many,  many open access repositories.

From a reader’s point of view: an excellent way for easy off campus reading.

From an author’s point of view: an extra encouragement for publishing Open Access as it increases the findability of your work.

Give it a try and download the extension from:

Tools for Scholarly communication: how important is Open Access?

Which tools are actually being used by researchers?101 innovations

Recent years have seen an enormous increase in digital tools for scholarly communication: EndNote, Dropbox, Mendeley, Word, Google Scholar; you may well have heard of them, and it is quite likely that you use one or more of these services or products. However, the tools mentioned above are just a handful from a tremendous supply, as is shown by the 400+ Tools and innovations in scholarly communication list 

Our Utrecht University Library  colleagues Bianca Kramer en Jeroen Bosman are just about to complete their research project 101 innovations in scholarly communication,  which investigates recent changes in scholarly communication and research workflows. This should lead to a better understanding of which tools are used by researchers from different disciplines, positions, and countries for their scholarly work. They also aim to get a clear picture of the importance of Open Access and Open Science on daily work routines. A short list of questions is posed by means of an international survey.


You can contribute tot his research project by filling out an online survey , if you follow this link>> By doing so, you do not only take part in the research project 101 innovations in scholarly communication,  but you also  provide a great opportunity for Leiden University Libraries to obtain information on the research tools that our own Leiden researchers use. After the closure of the survey, the Library will receive a report containing anonymised data on the Leiden input.

You may also benefit

Participation in the survey is not only useful to the project and the library, but you may also obtain some interesting information yourself. If you choose so, you may receive an email with a graphic display in which your workflow is compared to your peer group, which could give you some interesting new ideas for your own routine.

More information

For more information on the research project 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication, you may contact Bianca Kramer ( or Jeroen Bosman (, Utrecht University Library.

For more information on the use of the anonymised data set by Leiden University Libraries, you may contact Michelle van den Berk, Subject Specialist Open Access and datamanagement (

Open Access Services at University Libraries Leiden

Open Access is featuring highly, at times as a somewhat contested topic, on the agenda of government, policy makers, publishers, and research funders; in several areas of research, and even in the national written media.

Those in favour stress advantages such an increased visibility and access for society to publicly funded research; those against will argue that Open Access leads to a decline in quality and an increase of costs.

Whether or not you are a strong supporter, neutral, wishing to enhance your presence on the web, an antagonist even, or simply required by your research funder to publish Open Access, University Libraries Leiden provides the following services: