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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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March 16, 2012

Elsevier's RSS Feeds: Maybe a Not-So-Minor Complaint

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Posted by Derek

As has been noted here in the comments sections, the RSS feeds of Elsevier's journals have been hosed, in various ways, for some time now. Things don't come through, or they don't come through correctly, or they're duplicated, or you get abstracts from journals that you never heard of. How many people - those of you who read journals via RSS - are experiencing these problems? And has anyone gotten Elsevier to respond to any complaints?

Comments (27) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. Anonymous on March 16, 2012 9:39 AM writes...

I said this in another thread, but even trying to look at abstracts on their site is impossible thanks to their new advertising scheme. You try to scroll to the bottom of the abstract, and as soon as you get there a giant ad pops up and scrolls you back up to the middle of the abstract. When you scroll to the bottom in the now smaller abstract window, the advertisement disappears, enlarges the abstract window, and shuffles you back to the middle of the abstract. Whoever works on implementation there is obviously a failure. Maybe they should apply for a job at Goldman Sachs, they'd probably do a great job there.

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2. PedroS on March 16, 2012 9:44 AM writes...

The Elsevier RSS feed for the journal "Computational and Theoretical Chemistry" has often been broken: either providing abstracts for entirely different journals ("Organic Geochemistry", "Journal of Multivariate Analysis", "Systems and Control Letters") or else depicting the same TOC graphic for many abstracts.

I never thought of contacting them :-( I just assumed it was incompetence, rather than inattention to detail :-)

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3. MQD on March 16, 2012 9:50 AM writes...

I actually unsubscirbed to the Elsevier RSS feeds because I was getting duplicates and the same TOC graphic throughout, as well as being subscribed to journals of which I have never heard. I have not obtained a satisfactory response yet.

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4. james on March 16, 2012 10:03 AM writes...

I had exactly the same problems you've been describing for several weeks, Derek.

Then, around about last week, it all started working again and the problem's not come back. So they may have started to fix whatever was wrong.

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5. endophytik on March 16, 2012 10:04 AM writes...

Same thing here, I unsuscribe ALL elsevier's RSS feed because I was receiving completely different abstract (using Google Reader as RSS reader by the way). I tought it was an isolated bug ... seems that it's way more general.
Elsevier ... if you ear us ?!

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6. David on March 16, 2012 10:05 AM writes...

I contacted them back in November, and had the following reply, but the problem still hasn't gone away!

"Thank you for your email regarding the problems you are facing with your RSS feed. With regard to your query, please be informed that we had a technical release last month where we have migrated the feeds to a new system and we are having some unforeseen delays and technical issues in this matter. At this moment in time I am not able to give you a firm resolution date, please rest assured that our technical engineers are working on a solution with a high priority.

Please accept our sincerest apologies and we would like to thank you for your patience while dealing with this matter. "

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7. David P on March 16, 2012 10:06 AM writes...

I get the table of contents emailed rather than the RSS. No problems with that!

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8. dmc on March 16, 2012 10:14 AM writes...

@ 4 james...I was just about to post the same thing. Just when I was about to cancel my feed subscriptions, bingo, things started working properly a week or so ago!

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9. agsone on March 16, 2012 10:19 AM writes...

I've had the same experience as #4 although I'd put the time span of things not working as several months.

BMC, BMCL, and Adv. Drug. Delivery Rev. all started working near perfectly last week on Google Reader. Maybe a little repetition (which might be them working out the kinks) but only the journals I want and the correct graphic with the correct item.

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10. Giagan on March 16, 2012 10:19 AM writes...

I received a similar reply to #6 after I contacted them.

Like other commenters, I would see the same graphic repeated for many abstracts, or completely irrelevant journals being covered, often in chunks of 50 abstracts per day. As a result, I unsubscribed from the RSS feeds for all Elsevier content.

Today I resubscribed to see if the problem had been addressed - no such luck. The irrelevant journals of the day are (in the feeds for journals in the Tetrahedron and BMC families, mind you):

Optical Materials
Journal of Research in Personality
American Journal of Medicine Supplement
International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
Chemistry and Physics of Lipids

This takes the idea of reading broadly to a whole new level.

In response to #7 - yes, I used to receive TOC e-mail alerts from many journals (including 12+ ACS journals). Once I discovered Google Reader, I unsubscribed from them and never looked back. RSS feed readers can be such an efficient way to keep up with the literature!

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11. groenedraeck on March 16, 2012 10:22 AM writes...

The last 1-2 years or so, Elsevier RSS feeds have been terrible and often broken. I recall that before that period, they were functioning more-or-less properly.

However, just this last week, I noticed that the graphical TOC image started showing up correctly again (i.e. coupled to the right abstract) and also that the contents of complete issues started arriving in my feed reader (Akregator) again. Also, since the graphical TOC started working, I have not yet received the contents of wrong journals in the feeds I'm subscribed to.

Even-though their feed was often broken, I kept subscriptions to Biioorg. Med. Chem., BCML, EurJMC, Tetrahedron, Tet. Lett. and Drug Discov. Today RSS feeds, because it's still the most convenient way to keep an eye on the recent literature.

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12. Chemystery on March 16, 2012 10:22 AM writes...

I've alse seen this problem regularly - Google Reader often 'spammed' with tens if not hundreds of duplicate posts or posts for totally irrelevant never-before-heard of journals... And the new ScienceDirect site is a pain to use too with the various scrolling bits on each page, taking a long time to load, if it loads properly at all....

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13. fabrizio on March 16, 2012 10:46 AM writes...

I had these problems since November last year and all I keep on receiving when I report them (biweekly) are the same messages as #6. Amazing customer support!

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14. Emily on March 16, 2012 11:04 AM writes...

Yes, since last fall. I ended up unsubscribing from all Elsivier's feeds because my reader was clogged up with 200+ results every day from random physics and astrology journals, with just the occasional correct abstract sprinkled throughout. Beyond irritating.

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15. ScienceySophie on March 16, 2012 11:19 AM writes...

I've given up on the Elsevier RSS feeds (which I read with Google Reader) which have been spamming me with duplicate articles and unsubscribed journals for ages now.

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16. Nate Gains on March 16, 2012 11:57 AM writes...

All my Elsevier RSS feeds have been out of whack for months - totally random articles appearing and burying the things that are actually coming out from that journal. It sometimes appears to sort itself out for a few days, then you get 500 abstracts for the Lithuanian Journal of Backwards Dynamic Meta-Textual Physics dumped in.

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17. LeeB on March 16, 2012 12:28 PM writes...

Thank god I thought it was me !!!!!

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18. Anonymous on March 16, 2012 3:02 PM writes...

The serendipity provided by the Elsevier RSS feed service has led me to propose conducting Furstner iron chemistry on Mars. I am awaiting feedback from my boss, although I am worried about the intial expense.

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19. Rock on March 16, 2012 4:32 PM writes...

The problem has been fixed, and in a way, you can thank me. After notifying them on more than one occasion and getting the same response as the other posts, I complained to someone in our IT group about it. As it happens, one of our computational chemists has a contact there. Two weeks after he sent them an email, it was fixed. I guess you just have to know the right people.

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20. Anonymous on March 16, 2012 7:09 PM writes...

I subscribe to the Lancet and AJKD, i get those, but also get many other journals instead. I am also considering unsubscribing.

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21. Anonymous on March 16, 2012 8:13 PM writes...

Under Occam's Razor, don't assume a conspiracy when simple incompetence will do.

Editors of Elsevier journals complain that their review system is terrible and no one is able to fix it. So that would be consistent with a lousy website.

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22. Doubja on March 16, 2012 9:31 PM writes...

Nothing's fixed: From BMCL via Google Reader:
Solvothermal synthesis and luminescence properties of NaYF4:Ln3+ (Eu3+, Tb3+, Yb3+/Er3+) nano- and microstructures

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23. fng on March 16, 2012 9:55 PM writes...

I've experienced the same problems that everyone has mentioned above with great frustration for many, many months. I'm glad they repaired the problem but wonder why it took so long for a feature (RSS) that is so commonly used nowadays. I imagine they had scores of complaints about it.

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24. Ricardo Ros on March 17, 2012 5:47 AM writes...

Elsevier, ACS, yours(!) and many other have broken over the last year ...

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25. Alastair Parkes on March 17, 2012 3:49 PM writes...

Like others above I contacted Elsevier more than once last year and got the same 'we know and we're fixing it next week' kind of responses. When nothing changed I also unsubscribed. I've just got round to giving them another chance, but feel sorry for anyone who published with them over the last six months or so. The readership obviously went down because of their IT failures.

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26. Giagan on March 19, 2012 12:15 PM writes...

@#18: You are right - I should be looking at the bright side of all this!

I am not finding that the Elsevier feeds have been fixed. This is an abstract that I received today from Tetrahedron Asymmetry:

Analysis of plant galactolipids by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry with accurate mass measurement

Source:Chemistry and Physics of Lipids

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27. Toby Broom on March 20, 2012 3:05 PM writes...

I've emailed Elsevier more than once about the issue and they have responed each time that there working on it but never seem to fix it.

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