Publishing giant Elsevier has shut off the University of California’s direct access to new articles. Here’s how that affects you.

Today, Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific publisher, shut off the University California’s direct access to new articles in the publishing giant’s large portfolio of journals.

What does this mean, and how does it affect you? Let’s take a closer look at why this is happening and how you can find articles other ways.

Why is this happening? Why now?

The move comes as no surprise to those who have been following the saga. 

But for the uninitiated, here’s a quick summary.

The University of California began negotiating with Elsevier in July of last year (2018) over UC’s subscription contract with the publisher. The goal for UC? To tamp down costs and to provide default open access publishing of UC research. That would mean unless the author requests otherwise, the results of publicly funded UC research would be made, well, public — free and accessible to everyone.

On Dec. 31, when the contract expired, the deadline was extended as talks continued.

But in February, UC announced it had ended talks with Elsevier, with the publisher and UC far apart on key issues. (Read more details about the decision.)

In the months after negotiations ended, direct access to Elsevier journals on its website was left intact, but a shutoff was imminent. 

Today marks the first day of that shutoff. 

How does this affect your access to articles?

Elsevier has suspended direct access to new articles in the publisher’s 2,500 academic journals (specifically, articles with a 2019 publish date and the backfiles of some journals — see our lists of journals affected). Elsevier’s portfolio includes some highly regarded publications such as medical journal The Lancet and life sciences journal Cell

Please note that the process for discontinuing access is complex, so access to specific journals or articles may fluctuate until Elsevier’s rollout of these changes is complete.

Who is affected? 

UC’s (defunct) subscription contract with Elsevier gave faculty, staff, and students at UC Berkeley (and throughout UC) direct access to Elsevier’s titles. These groups will effectively lose that direct access to new articles in Elsevier journals.

What can researchers do in the meantime to access these articles?

Researchers can still access articles in other ways. The Library is dedicated to helping you get the articles you need, using everything from Google Scholar to interlibrary borrowing. 

Learn about alternative ways to access Elsevier articles here.

Still need help? The Library is here for you. Just send an email to

What does the future hold? Will access be restored?

It’s uncertain exactly what lies ahead. UC has stated it is prepared to return to the negotiating table if and when Elsevier appears ready to address UC’s terms, which have remained consistent throughout the negotiation. Those terms include integrating open access publishing fees and subscription costs into a single contract while containing costs.