Postdoc Free Access program returns, helping researchers stay competitive between jobs

Response to initial offer – and an increasing competitive job market – convince Elsevier to offer postdocs access to ScienceDirect with fewer restrictions

For various reasons, 2013 is proving to be a challenging time for young researchers around the globe. Under the recently introduced immigration bill in the United States, the number of visas that can be distributed to high-skilled foreigners will increase dramatically.

Although that is good news for those non-US citizens wanting to broaden their horizons, an article in Bloomberg Businessweek points out that it will intensify the competition for US based high-skilled workers: "If you're a recent college graduate, a doctoral candidate, or a highly-skilled professional who has been in the job market the past few years, you know it's rough out there. But if the immigration overhaul proposed in the Senate … becomes law, it's likely to get a lot rougher."

In the UK, a recent report by the UK-based organization Vitae suggests that those with a doctoral qualification are more “recession proof” than those with other qualifications. However, the report also finds that more graduates were employed on fixed-term, shorter contracts than in 2008. In Australia, researchers are facing similar problems. A new report by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) states that young Australian scientists are finding it very difficult to find jobs in the fields they've trained for after graduation.

The report also notes that many PhD graduates struggle to make it out of short-term positions into permanent careers. One respondent wrote:

The lack of continuing positions makes it very hard to enter and stay in a research career; so much time has to be expended on grant applications etc that it compromises the ability to publish and therefore your likelihood of getting grants!

When projects end for any reason, usually so do the benefits that come with them — such as having access to published research. For post-doctoral researchers, this access can be a lifeline for staying competitive and connected to the research community. [note color="#f1f9fc" position="center" width=800 margin=10]Post-doc Free Access Passport

How to get the Free Access Passport

To qualify, candidates must complete a form verifying their credentials by August 31, 2013. Once approved, they will receive a personal code allowing access to ScienceDirect. Qualifying criteria are:

  • Postdoctoral researchers who have received their PhD within in the past five years.
  • Candidates must have completed the last research position (either PhD research or a postdoc or equivalent) on or after December 31, 2012, or have a position that will end before August 31, 2013.

Applicants should submit a scanned image of a letter from their 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, visit[/note]

A program suggested by the research community

Daniele Vergara, PhD In 2012, the editors and publisher of the Tetrahedron chemistry journals conceived the idea for a programto help postdocs stay competitive in between research positions. Last December, we ran a pilot programgranting free access to our books and journals on ScienceDirectto 64 unemployed researchers. Of the 176 applicants, 40 percent came from Asia and 34 percent from Europe. One of the recipients, Daniele Vergaraof the University of Salento in Italy, wrote:

As a postdoc fellow in biological sciences, this program gives me the chance to maintain a vital scientific network, to read papers and write grants. In the absence of help from government and local institutions, the Elsevier program was a great experience, an innovative way to support postdocs during their research career.

Some recipients have used the free access to prepare grant proposals. Miguel Pedroza, who has a PhD in enology from the

University of Castilla-La Mancha

in Spain, wrote:

Miguel Pedroza, PhD During the last six months I have been using the free access to prepare a research project for pursuing a Post-doctoral stay in Europe. This Elsevier program has provided me with an efficient resource to conduct a consistent literature review for my research proposal, while keeping me updated of the most recent publications in my field. I am certainly grateful with the people involved in the Free Access project. I hope that this kind of initiative continues, as preparing a competitive research proposal nowadays would be hardly possible without the state of the art.

And virologist

Ullas P. Thankappan

of the

National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences

in Bangalore, India, wrote:

Ullas P. Thankappan, PhD I accessed a lot of articles on neglected tropical diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, and several reviews related to cancer biology. Unfortunately, the geographic location I live in has a high burden of infectious diseases and cancers, but the facilities for their early identification remain rather limited here. With the help of the information gained from the articles, I have been working to develop research proposals on the development of cost-effective and rapid diagnostic technologies which would help the local laboratories to detect these diseases at an early stage.

Although we were able to help out these researchers, many others have missed out because they did not qualify for our criteria or learned about the offer too late. Based on the feedback we have received, we are pleased to announce that this summer, we will repeat the offer. Even better, we have extended the application period and relaxed our criteria to allow more researchers to apply.

In 2012, the main reason for non-qualification was that applicants did not yet have a post-doc position after completing their PhD (27 percent of applicants). This told us that a program like this is just as needed for recent PhD graduates as for people with postdoc experience. We therefore now allow everyone with a recent PhD (< 5 years since graduation) to apply. In addition, we have extended the application period to three months, with the application period open until August 31.


Inez van Korlaar, PhD The Author

As Director of Project Management for STM Journals Marketing at Elsevier, Dr. Inez van Korlaar(@InezvKorlaar) is responsible for the global marketing communication projects for the STM journals department. Inez holds a PhD in Health Psychology and is based in Amsterdam.

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4 Archived Comments

Inez van Korlaar June 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Thanks for your support, Grace!

Inez van Korlaar June 21, 2013 at 6:31 am

Dear John

I'm afraid we don't know that yet. We're at the moment investigating possibilities for extension and once I have a definite answer to this one, I'll be sure to announce it widely!


Grace June 11, 2013 at 4:01 am

A wonderful initiative!!!Elsevier is the Best!!!

John June 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm

What are the chances of this excellent initiative being made a permanent feature, post-2013?


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