Access to Research

We extend the free access period to ScienceDirect for postdocs between jobs

As the deadline for the current application window approaches, we announce the program’s expansion and hear from previous participants how they have benefited

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Elsevier launched its Postdoc Free Access Program in 2012 to lend a helping hand to unemployed postdocs who had lost access to the journals and books they would previously have read through their institution’s subscription. We realised that in the fast-paced world of scientific development, it would be easy for them to lose touch with the latest developments in their field.

Understanding the benefits to researchers

Twitter logoIf you have any questions or feedback on the program, please join our Postdoc Free Access Twitter Chat on Monday, March 23 (15:00 GMT | 16:00 CET | 11:00 EDT) via @Inezvkorlaar and @ElsevierConnect #ECRchat.

The program has now run for 3 years and with the deadline for the current application window drawing closer, we were curious to learn how previous applicants have been getting on. Did they find the program useful? Did they find new positions? Did they think their access to our content was instrumental in the development of their career?

With this in mind, we sent them a survey and were delighted to receive answers from more than a quarter of them.

Dr. Gilles RichnerWe discovered that more than 75 percent of participants had found a new position or had started a new postdoc research project. But, on a less positive note, less than 1 in 2 had found this new position during their 6 months in the program, highlighting the time that it can take to find a new job once a researcher is out of the academic sector.  For example, Dr. Gilles Richner, now a Research Scientist at the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland, found the program helped him to:

a) finish/revised papers submitted at the end of my post doc.  b) look for a research position (even if I didn't find one during this 6 months). I kept reading papers from my field to stay at the state-of the-art in my field. In short, really useful, but in my case, 6 months was too short (it took me more than a year to find a research position).

That led to our recent decision to extend the free-access period to 12 months for those still seeking a position when the initial 6-month window ends.

The Postdoc Free Access Program – what you need to know

Applications are welcomed from postdocs who:

  • became unemployed after July 1, 2014, or have a project ending before June 30, 2015 
    AND
  • have received their PhD in the last 5 years.

If your application is approved, you will automatically receive a personal code providing 6 months’ free access to ScienceDirect, an Elsevier platform containing almost one-quarter of the world's peer-reviewed full-text scientific, technical and medical content.  Participants who don’t find a job during that 6-month period will be eligible to have their free access extended for a further 6 months (bringing the total access period to 1 year).

Completed application forms should be submitted by June 30, 2015 and should include a scanned image of a letter from your last academic mentor or advisor that states the position held and the date on which the position ended or will end. 

For more on the program and an application form, visit elsevier.com/postdocfreeaccess.

Prakash KaripothInterestingly, most of our respondents did not lose their position due to funding cuts; rather they were unable to secure a position right after finishing their PhD or research project. This seems to indicate that the difficult job market has a big impact on researchers at the very beginning of their career.

The experience of Prakash Karipoth, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Physics at the National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli, India, is fairly typical: 

When I completed my PhD and had to move out of the institution, I had some of my research works still to be published. However, staying at my home, I was not able to access any journals for references in writing my papers. And since I was not having any financial source of income, I was not in a position to purchase each of the articles.

In such a really tough situation, I was happy to know about the Elsevier Postdoc Free Access Program which really helped me to access most of the journals I needed and write my papers with ease without depending on any other sources. I am really thankful for this useful service.

Another very satisfying result from our survey was to learn how often our participants had used their free access during the 6-month period, with 30 percent accessing content on ScienceDirect most days and more than 65 percent accessing content several times a week.

Dr. Christopher Volker SynatschkeDr. Christopher Volker Synatschke, now Feodor-Lynen Postdoctoral Fellow at the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology, Northwestern University, USA, found the access a useful source of information when applying for his post. He explains: 

I used the access for writing a postdoctoral fellowship proposal, which successfully came through after the free-access period ended. Some of the Elsevier journals I could access during that time were very helpful for finding relevant literature…The free access has contributed to the success of the proposal.

Others have used the program to write and submit papers. One participant, who lives in the UK and is still an independent researcher, wrote:

(The program) helped me with the research of two papers. Without this online access to numerous documents, it would have been impossible for me to complete my work.

Overall, the response we received was overwhelmingly positive. More than 90 percent of respondents found the program helpful in developing their career, with 40 percent finding it “very helpful” and 3 out of 4 went on to tell their peers about the program.

In conclusion, and as we had expected, the Postdoc Free Access Program is not a magic wand that will neutralize the effect of an inauspicious economic situation, but it does provide valued support. As one Australian researcher summarizes: 

This program removed some of the uncertainty associated with the void between PhD and employment.

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Author biography

Gaelle HullGaëlle Hull has been a Marketing Communications Manager at Elsevier since 2006. Gaëlle oversaw the launch of Authors’ Update in 2012 and has been involved with the newsletter ever since. She has also been responsible for promoting the Postdoc Free Access Program since 2013. She is based in Elsevier's Oxford office in the UK.

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