[open-science] Will Elsevier give full refunds to customers who bought access to "open access" articles

Ross Mounce ross.mounce at gmail.com
Thu Mar 9 17:26:59 UTC 2017

On 9 March 2017 at 16:49, Wise, Alicia (ELS-OXF) <A.Wise at elsevier.com>

> Dear Ross,
> As you are already aware from my comments  on your blog, we have
> reimbursed your payment for the first article described below.

I checked my bank account - far better proof than just a blog comment. I
thank Elsevier once again for reimbursing this one article purchase.

> We have not reimbursed your payment for the second article, and it’s not
> yet clear to us that it should be Open Access.

If it is "not yet clear to us" [Elsevier] that the 'Invasive non-typhoidal
salmonella disease: an emerging and neglected tropical disease in Africa'
Lancet article should be Open Access, why then, subsequent to my purchasing
of the article from where it was paywalled at Elsevier's ScienceDirect
website, was the paywall removed?

Why has Elsevier un-paywalled this article and retrospectively ADDED the
below statements on the article landing page?:

"Open Access funded by Wellcome Trust
Under a Creative Commons license"

Interested readers can see this for themselves right now here:

That very same article landing page on February 18th 2017 (and for years
before this) had no such "open access" statements and made it clear that it
was for sale for $35.95 + tax to those without an institutional

One can see a screenshot of this very same article landing page, taken on
February 18th 2017 here:
as a well as a receipt for a PayPerView purchase for access to this article.

I don't doubt that Elsevier is "not yet clear" about open access - they
seem deeply confused about what open access is, how to do it, and when
(only after someone complains it seems?).

> I appreciate you have discovered a crowd-sourced spreadsheet that states
> an APC has been paid for this article, and would be open to receiving
> evidence that this is in fact the case.

The source data I used in this instance was not "crowd-sourced", it came
from Robert Kiley of the Wellcome Trust. Here is the source data:

> You, and other readers, may be interested to learn that there are false
> positives when using these sort of data, as illustrated here on 23
> February: https://www.intact-project.org/blog/

I agree. In this effort (independent of my investigations) some false
positives were identified BUT one true positive was also identified. Well
done to Christoph for identifying another wrongly paywalled open access
article at an Elsevier journal (Chest), that makes THREE this year alone so

> There is a broader issue, I suppose, and that is the most constructive and
> efficient way to check that the data are correct so that the occasional
> genuine error can be resolved swiftly.

Here again I agree. This IS a broader issue. This year I have discovered
open access articles being sold by LWW, Cambridge University Press and
Oxford University Press. It is not just Elsevier that are engaged in this

As I have suggested in previous emails, one way in which Elsevier could
ameliorate this problem is through greater transparency. Publish a FULL
list of all articles (including authors, titles, journals, and DOIs) for
which Elsevier knows it has been paid to make open access. Institutions and
funders can then cross-check their data against this list and report any
that are 'missing' and hence possibly mistakenly behind a paywall at

Until we know the full extent and identity of hybridOA articles at journals
we may never know the full extent of this problem.

Finally, I return to perhaps the most pressing question, which remains

What about other readers around the world who may have also paid for
'mistakenly' paywalled open access articles at Elsevier?

Last time in 2014, Elsevier reimbursed or credited customers a total of
"about $70,000" (source:
https://www.elsevier.com/connect/open-access-the-systems-journey )

How much will Elsevier pay-out this year to defrauded readers? Has Elsevier
even started an audit yet?


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