Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, September 15, 2008

Elsevier offers to provide no-fee OA for early LHC results

Elsevier will provide no-fee OA for initial results from CERN's Large Hadron Collider published in Physics Letters B or Nuclear Physics B.  From the announcement (undated but apparently within the last week):

Elsevier has agreed to sponsor any articles accepted for publication that report the initial experimental results from CERNís LHC project.

Initial experimental results submitted to Physics Letters B and Nuclear Physics B by the LHC experiments will be made available through Elsevierís sponsored access option at no cost to the experiments. This will ensure that these papers are open to all potential readers with no subscription or other payments required....

On the occasion of these ground-breaking first results, Elsevier has chosen to meet the costs of sponsored access itself because of the scale of the effort and to reflect our long-standing involvement in the field by sharing the experimental results through accredited, peer-reviewed journals....


  • I commend Elsevier for this step, even while I recognize its self-interest.  The early papers from LHC will be very widely read and cited.  The self-interest does not detract from the service to research.
  • Is Elsevier willing to make the same kind of exception for other work of great scientific importance?  Is it committing itself to the principle that all work of great scientific importance should be OA from birth, and that it is willing to sponsor it (through any combination of service to research and self-interest)? 
  • For a similar case, see Nature's decision in December 2007 to provide no-fee OA for papers reporting full genome sequences.  Also see my blog comments on the Nature decision (which are very similar to these comments on the Elsevier decision).
  • Is this also an early sign that Elsevier will join SCOAP3 --the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics organized by CERN?

Update.  A reader wondered whether "no-fee OA" here refers to gratis OA or libre OA.  I'm happy to clarify in case others had the same question.  It refers to neither.  It refers to the absence of author-side publication fees.  Elsevier normally charges a publication fee when an author selects the OA option at one of its hybrid OA journals.  But in this case it's waiving the fees.  No-fee OA in this sense can be gratis or libre.

When an OA journal charges publication fees, I call it a fee-based OA journal.  When it doesn't charge publication fees, I call it a no-fee OA journal.  The same terms can apply to hybrid OA journals, though most OA journals are no-fee and most hybrid journals are fee-based.

Update (9/17/08).  Also see SymmetryBreaking.

Update (9/24/08). Also see Kent Anderson's comments.

Update (9/24/08).  Also see Chris Leonard's comments.  Excerpt:

...I would suggest that any author, or group of authors, willing to take up this offer should answer these questions to their own satisfaction first.

Is your copyright being signed over to the publisher, or are you encouraged to retain it?

Will the free access be permanent? Is this article to be archived in a third-party repository in case the publisher one day decides that the free period is over?

Is the full-text available not only as pdf, but also in machine-readable format for data-mining (e.g. XML & MathML)?

Can you and others reuse, host and modify the data and article, in whole or in part, freely?

Some others are questioning what sponsored article status means - certainly Elsevier make a point of not referring to it as open access, maybe we all should too?