Alternative Access: How to Get the PDF?

The University of California system ended its contract with the publisher Elsevier in 2019, which resulted in Elsevier cutting off access to journal articles published in 2019 and later, as well as to some journals altogether. For details on affected titles and years, see the UC Office of Scholarly Communication website. For more information on the UC negotiation with Elsevier, see this overview.

Take our 3-minute poll (see browser caveat) to let us know how the loss of direct access to current Elsevier articles on the ScienceDirect platform has affected you.

If you are unable to get an article published by Elsevier in your usual way, use one of the following methods to get a copy of the article.

Get it from the library

UCSF Library logo
UCSF Library
Request the article from the UC-eLinks menu within databases like PubMed@UCSF or by using the using the UC Citation Linker form, and the library will get it for you at no cost. Articles will be emailed as soon as possible. Most requests are filled within two business days though may take up to four.

Search for it

Unpaywall logo
Find legal, open and free versions of publications from over 50,000 publishers and repositories. Use the browser extension to auto-search article DOIs. See a video on How to use Unpaywall.
Open Access Button logo
Open Access Button
Find open articles, through either the extension or by inputting a PMID, DOI, or title. Have OA Button request a free version from the author if none is found. See a video on How to use Open Access Button.
Google Scholar logo
Google Scholar
Search by article title to find free, legal preprint and open versions of an article from open repositories and preprint servers such as bioRxiv and OSF Preprints. Look for “all versions.” See a video on How to use Google Scholar.
Not recommended. Use is currently illegal in many countries due to copyright laws.

Use your network

Buy It

If you cannot access your article through the methods above, you may qualify for a reimbursement from the library, if you need the article for patient care, imminent grant application or report, or other urgent deadline. You will be required to:

  1. Confirm that you’ve searched for an open access version
  2. Confirm that you’ve checked sharing networks for a copy
  3. Attach your receipt when requesting reimbursement

Stay in the know

See all library news about the Elsevier negotiation, and the latest news in publisher negotiations and scholarly communication. 

Have more questions? Contact us