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Inez van Korlaar | Director of Project Management for STM Journals Marketing, Elsevier

Last year, we offered selected scholars unlimited complimentary access to all our journals and books on ScienceDirect, for up to six months. To qualify they had to have recently received their PhDs and not yet found a research position,  In response to the success of the program– and an increasingly competitive job market – we are bringing back the Postdoc Free Access program with fewer restrictions.

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

"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."

And virologist Ullas P. Thankappan of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in Bangalore, India, wrote:

"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 postdoc 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.

What your postdocs need to do

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 

A version of this article first appeared in Elsevier Connect.