Tag Archives: article-level-linking

Linking to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect: advanced troubleshooting

Last week a user reported that he was asked for a login while trying to access a specific full text via a link provided by the MPG/SFX server. "A typical IP access problem", I hear you say, but the issue became more complicated soon. Further debugging indicated that

  1. the full text was available on Elsevier’s ScienceDirect platform and the user was able to access it by browsing to the article directly.
  2. the local librarian was correctly guided to the full text as she entered the same OpenURL and followed the steps taken by the user.
  3. the doi link created by the MPG/SFX link resolver was redirected to Elsevier’s Article Locator, but the intermediate page was displayed to the librarian only.
  4. the website selection screen enables users to "learn" which websites they use by setting a browser cookie:

Elsevier's Article Locator

… and that was exactly what happened to our user. Arriving to Elsevier’s Article Locator for the first time, he accidentally selected the "wrong" website and by doing so he removed the ScienceDirect platform from his preferences. Afterwards, he was not able to return to the intermediate page because he was automatically redirected to the article in his "preferred" Elsevier website.

Allowing users to set preferences is a commendable idea in general, but this implementation falls a bit short. While trying to access a full text, scientists do not read instructions very carefully, but attempt to click through as fast as possible. With setting cookies by default, they may unintentionally been pushed into a dead end.

After clarifying the problem, it was easy to provide a solution: The user could either open Elsevier’s preference page to update his website selections or delete the cookies stored by his browser.

But this issue was an important lesson for us SFX administrators as well. We need to avoid intermediate screens whenever possible, e.g. by configuring institutional preferences. Elsevier offers a cookie pusher for this task. The MPG/SFX link resolver already use it under certain conditions, but the implementation needs to be extended.

SFX and DOI: sometimes just a pain in the neck

One of the major goals of the MPG/SFX link resolver is to provide links to content licensed for the staff of the Max Planck Society. These links should lead you – the user – as close as possible to the relevant full text, e.g. by addressing the article’s abstract page. Unfortunately, not all information providers support a useful deep linking syntax and a hand full of publishers only enabled article level linking through CrossRef/DOI (see ExLibris’ target documentation). Therefore, the MPG/SFX resolver uses DOI redirects for several important information providers like Elsevier’s ScienceDirect and Nature Publishing Group.

The drawback of this solution is that DOIs sometimes resolve to another copy of the article than the requester has actually access to. The so called appropriate copy problem occurs for all kind of databases aggregating full texts from various publishers (e.g. EBSCOHost Academic Search Premier). In addition, it also happens quite often that journals move from one publisher’s platform to another and it takes some time until the CrossRef index is updated.

So what to do? While DOI links very often provide a better service, they may be misleading in rare cases. After receiving an error report from one of our users, it looks like we found a feasible solution which might be worth further exploring. The trick uses the fact that each DOI carries the information about the particular publisher responsible for resolving the target URL in its prefix (see list of doi site keys). The MPG/SFX link resolver now checks the site key to ensure that the DOI link is forwarded to the appropriate publisher for a specific target.

Anyway, some twists are possible with content moved between platforms and we are very interested in hearing about any weird experience you may have done with full text linking via MPG/SFX. So please submit a comment via the MPG/SFX feedback form whenever you are stranded far away from the full text of your interest.

Detailed background information on how MPG/SFX uses DOIs is available in the vLib project documentation.