At my school, we used to subscribe to the Science Direct engineering package for our online engineering students. It worked well, but got very little use since most of the engineering classes do not require research. Last year, we were informed that Science Direct was getting rid of the package we were subscribed to and were told that we needed to subscribe to the fancy new College Edition for the physical sciences to keep the journals we currently subscribe to online. Of course this cost more than 1.5 times what we were paying, but it included a whole lot more in the way of content in Chemistry, Physics and Math. Honestly, I wanted to dump Science Direct altogether, since I think it’s not very easy to use and is expensive given our low usage rates, but we decided to go with the College Edition (and probably a good idea because we do need to offer more in the physical sciences, whether they get used or not). Once we were subscribed, I honestly didn’t notice any difference in the interface. It looked exactly the same only said “Science Direct College Edition” instead of just “Science Direct”. The interface was just as unusable.

Part of my job is to create persistent links (with our proxy prefix) to articles that are going to be used in online classes. Two of the articles from an online nursing class were from Nursing Outlook. We have a subscription to Nursing Outlook via Science Direct, so I thought I’d just go and create an article-level link to it. I created a link using the Direct Object Identifier (DOI). Here is an example link: Unfortunately it did not work. It took us to an Article Locator page which gave me the option of accessing the article from Science Direct or Elsevier Health Science Journals (which we do not have access to). When I click on Science Direct, it takes me to the article abstract, but tells me that I have guest access and will need to pay to access the article. I tried this with and without a proxy prefix (while on-campus) and had the same results. When I called Elsevier tech support 10 days ago, I spent 45 minutes explaining myself and was told that it must be that there is something wrong with our proxy server or that we gave them the wrong IP address (which sounded strange because why would we be able to access these articles by going into Science Direct College Edition directly if our IP address was wrong?). I wouldn’t accept those answers and was then told that they would work on it and get back to me. I ended up sending two e-mails over the next week which I never received responses to. Finally the head of tech services here called our rep who got us an answer… sort of. The person she got to answer us also said it was a proxy server issue. Sigh…

So I called the guy this afternoon who sent the e-mail and again explained the situation. No, it can’t be the proxy server because the link does not have a proxy prefix on it. He finally looked at the DOI and realized that it was not offering Science Direct College Edition as an option in Article Locator — it was taking me to “Science Direct” which we no longer have access to. So what I thought I was linking to that said Science Direct was actually the package we used to have, not what we have now. So I asked, “how can I create an article-level link that will take students to our holdings of the article?” The answer was “you can’t.” He said that there would very soon be better integration between College Edition and Science Direct, but at the moment, there was nothing anyone could do.

Does anyone else think this is insane? Yes, our students can manually go into Science Direct College Edition and find the articles themselves, but they shouldn’t have to, especially when we had the ability to do article-level links when we were paying less. What’s really amazing is how long College Edition has been around and that this seems to be the first time they’ve heard about this problem. Can anyone else with access to Nursing Outlook through Science Direct College Edition try this link and let me know if they can access the article PDF? Just curious.

It’s amazing to me how much we pay for these resources and how little support we get. I even would have been ok with a “I’ll contact _____ department about it and make sure they make this a priority.” “There’s nothing we can do for you” should never be an acceptable response.