UC/Elsevier Negotiations

Update as of October 2020

Following a series of informal meetings with Elsevier this spring and summer that suggest there may be new potential for progress, UC’s publisher negotiations team has restarted formal negotiations with Elsevier. UC remains committed to its goal of reaching an agreement that provides for open access publishing of UC-authored articles and restores UC’s access to Elsevier journal content, at a reasonable cost.

As each of its multiyear contracts with large scholarly journal publishers comes to an end, the University of California — in close consultation with all 10 campus libraries and the Academic Senate — is working to hold down the rapidly escalating costs associated with for-profit journals and to facilitate open access publishing of UC research.

UC’s last contract with Elsevier expired as of January 1, 2019, and Elsevier has discontinued UC’s access via its online platform, ScienceDirect, to articles published since that date (and some older articles). Articles published before 2019 in the vast majority of journals used by UC scholars should continue to be available via ScienceDirect.


Contact us at elsevierquestions [at] ucdavis.edu.

To receive updates on the status of the negotiations and the UC’s access to Elsevier journals, please provide your email address.

What is not affected

You can still access the following content in the same way you always have:

  • Most Elsevier articles published in 2018 or earlier: You will still be able to access the full text of many articles via ScienceDirect because UC’s prior contracts included permanent access to previously published content in most Elsevier journals.
  • Open access articles: The article you’re seeking may be available with open access from the journal’s website or elsewhere online (click here for tips on how to search for open access versions).
  • Elsevier e-books and other products licensed by the UC (e.g., Compendex, Reaxys, INSPEC) or by UC Davis (e.g., Scopus, Embase, ClinicalKey for Nursing/Clinical Skills) are covered under separate contracts and remain available as before.

What is affected

Elsevier has discontinued UC’s direct access to:

  • Articles with a 2019 or 2020 publish date
  • Backfiles of certain journals for which the UC’s prior contract did not include permanent access

See below for other ways to access the articles you need.

Get it from the library

Request an article via interlibrary loan: Articles are emailed as soon as possible.

The library has implemented new, faster systems to support interlibrary loan on evenings and weekends, and to deliver requested articles faster, often within a day.

  • If you have an urgent request, please submit your request (use the Note the field to request an expedited copy) and contact us at 530-752-1978 or hslborrow@ucdavis.edu so we can best meet your needs. UC Davis Library staff are available and happy to assist you 7 days a week.
  • Questions about how to place an interlibrary loan request? See our Quick Guides to learn how to place requests from library databases like PubMed or right from ScienceDirect.
  • Other questions or comments related to UC’s negotiations with Elsevier: Contact us at elsevierquestions [at] ucdavis.edu.

Plugins and search tools

Unpaywall: Install the browser plugin and a green tab with a padlock icon will appear in your browser with a direct link to the full-text article if a free version is available. Watch our one-minute video to learn how.



Google ScholarFind open versions of articles via Google Scholar or, to make searching more convenient, add the Google Scholar Button to your browser; then select the title of a paper, from any webpage, and click the Scholar button to find it.


Open Access Button:
 Use their website or browser plugin to get free, legal research articles and data delivered immediately or automatically requested from the author. Watch our one-minute video to learn how.


KopernioInstall this browser plugin to download free, full-text PDFs when available. Watch our one-minute video to learn how.


PubMed CentralSearch this free archive of over 5 million full-text biomedical and life science journal articles.



Contact the author

Many authors are happy to provide copies of articles when requested by email. Library databases like Web of Science include the corresponding author’s email address. Modern professional networks like ResearchGate (free, one-time registration required) also offer one-click article request functionality. Most publishers allow responsible sharing of one’s own publications.

As a reminder, UC continues to have access on ScienceDirect to articles with a publication date of 2018 or earlier in many Elsevier journals, for which our prior subscription included perpetual access rights. This constitutes the vast majority of content used by UC scholars.

Can I continue to edit, review for, or publish in Elsevier journals?
Yes. It is up to you to decide which journals you edit or review for, and where you choose to publish your research.

Who at UC is involved in negotiations with Elsevier?
UC’s negotiating team includes faculty representation (the Chair and Vice Chair of the systemwide Academic Senate’s library committee), campus library directors, and staff from the California Digital Library, the systemwide office charged with licensing electronic resources, such as academic journals, on behalf of all 10 UC campuses. Throughout the many months leading up to and through these negotiations, the negotiating team consulted closely with the leadership of the Academic Senate, the University Office of the President, and the 10 campus libraries, all of whom are united behind UC’s goals of constraining costs at a sustainable level and facilitating open access to all UC research.

Who decided that UC’s access to Elsevier content should be discontinued?
UC’s access to new Elsevier journal articles (and older issues of journals in the Freedom Collection) on ScienceDirect was discontinued because UC and Elsevier have, so far, been unable to reach an agreement on terms for a new contract. While Elsevier ultimately determined the timing for this change in access, UC had no expectation that access would be extended indefinitely without a contract in place.

Who has been involved in the conversation here on the Davis campus?
UC Davis Library leaders, along with a UC Davis professor who was part of the UC team negotiating with Elsevier, have met with the Academic Senate leadership and several Senate committees, every college and department that requested such a meeting, and hosted open town halls on both the Davis and Sacramento campuses. Library administrators were committed to keeping the entire campus community informed about the status of the negotiations and its consequences, via direct email and various campus outlets, such as Dateline and The Insider (UC Davis Health).   

To request a meeting about the negotiations or access to Elsevier journal articles, please contact the library at elsevierquestions [at] ucdavis.edu. We recognize that the situation has a significant impact on many of our faculty, researchers and students, and value the opportunity to have open discussions about how we got here and how we can best support you, your colleagues and students through this transition. 

What happens next in UC’s negotiations with Elsevier?
As of fall 2020, UC has resumed formal negotiations with Elsevier in hopes of achieving a deal that provides for more open access publishing of UC research in Elsevier journals, contains costs, and restores UC’s access to the latest Elsevier journal articles on ScienceDirect.

Find more information about the negotiations and frequently asked questions on the UC Office of Scholarly Communication website.

Open letters to the UC Davis academic community

Springer Nature open access agreement and Elsevier update
(June 16, 2020)

Update and poll on UC’s negotiations with Elsevier and other publishers
(January 23, 2020)

Elsevier journals status update
(October 22, 2019)

Discontinuation of Elsevier journal access for 2019 articles
(July 10, 2019)

Update on access to Elsevier journals
(June 26, 2019)

Important Update on UC Negotiations with Elsevier
(Feb 28, 2019)

Update on UC Negotiations with Elsevier
(Feb 1, 2019)

Update on UC Negotiations with Elsevier
(Dec 28, 2018)

Open Letter to the UC Davis Academic Community
(Nov 28, 2018)

In the News

University of California’s showdown with the biggest academic publisher aims to change scholarly publishing for good
(The Conversation, July 15, 2019 — by UC Davis University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship MacKenzie Smith — update to piece initially published March 7, 2019)

In act of brinkmanship, a big publisher cuts off UC’s access to its academic journals
(Los Angeles Times, July 11, 2019)

University of California defiant as Elsevier cuts journal access
(Times Higher Education, July 11, 2019 — free registration required)

University of California’s break with the biggest academic publisher could shake up scholarly publishing for good
(The Conversation, Mar 7, 2019 — by UC Davis University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship MacKenzie Smith)

The real cost of knowledge
(The Atlantic, Mar 4, 2019)

UC drops Elsevier
(Inside Higher Ed, Mar 1, 2019)

UC takes on publishing giant, fights for open access to publicly-funded research
(KQED Forum, Jan 3, 2019)

Opinion: UC is leading fight for open access to research
(San Jose Mercury News, Dec 30, 2018)

Heavyweight showdown over research access
(Inside Higher Ed, Dec 13, 2018)

In UC’s battle with the world’s largest scientific publisher, the future of information is at stake
(Los Angeles Times, Dec 7, 2018)