The Wiley Interscience Blues

Hello, everyone!  Since this is my first post on Chemistry Blog, I should introduce myself.  My name is Nick, and I’m a Ph.D. student in organic chemistry at McGill University, in Montreal.  Mitch contacted me via the chemistry subreddit, and I’ll be writing a few articles with what I hope is a unique perspective.  In advance, I would ask that you excuse my Canadian spellings; the letter “u” will pop up a lot more often than you’re used to.

As anyone who regularly reads scientific journals may have noticed, Wiley redesigned some of their website earlier this year.  Mid-way through the summer, they slicked up their Interscience pages to look more “Web 2.0”, and in the process, broke integration with one of my favourite things, which is Zotero.  Zotero was previously mentioned on the site quite some time ago, as one of several reference management programs available to modern researchers.  Given that it’s free, absurdly easy to use, efficient, fast, allows proxies, and acts as a bridge between OpenOffice and Firefox (with downloadable reference formats), I unabashedly support the abandonement of every other reference management system in favour of it.  Zotero makes collecting references and writing papers a breeze, and a whole lot more enjoyable than any other option I’ve tried.

What Wiley did to break Zotero’s flow was very simple.  Instead of having direct links to actual PDF files as part of their abstract pages (as nearly every other online publishing website does), they now direct you to a PDF file within an “iframe”, meaning that Zotero is not able to “see” the PDF as an actual PDF.  This allows them to place a highly annoying “Wiley Interscience” bar at the top, including your institutional logo, and links to citing articles, abstract, and supplementary info, as seen blow.

This would be okay, except that with Zotero absolutely none of those links are necessary.  When you do the one-click save on an abstract it automatically generates a snapshot of the abstract page, including links to all that information.  Normally, it also saves a copy of the PDF, but Wiley has now made this significantly more complicated.  You must now either save the iframe page as a snapshot (including the annoying header and useless links), or download the PDF separately, import into Zotero, then delete the original download to avoid having duplicate copies on your hard drive.  So basically, instead of a one-click save, you now have an option of a four-step non-PDF download (via the “add item” button, seen above at the bottom left), or a five-step (take snapshot, navigate to “pdf”, download, import, delete) rigmarole.

Compare this to ACS Publications, or ScienceDirect, where you click once on the address bar icon, and get all the above done in about 5 seconds (see below), or even ThiemeConnect, where you simply have to add the PDF as a separate item, and Wiley’s “site improvements” actually begin to look like a big step backwards.

I’ve e-mailed Wiley about this twice, and it seems that their support staff have no idea what Zotero is, or why this is important, and don’t seem to care.    Ultimately this isn’t a huge issue, but I would really love to see a return to the old functionality; as it stands right now I cringe every time I see a paper I want hosted by Wiley Interscience.




  1. An other recently annoying thing Wiley did is they changed their feed structure on or around October 29th. They changed the structure of their Content:Encoded tags, which holds their graphical abstract data, and I only just realized this today. It means ChemFeeds wasn’t gathering Wiley feeds correctly for the past several weeks. :sigh:

    Wiley and the other publishers really need a place where they announce these kinds of changes.

  2. I agree with you in that I HATE HATE HATE the Wiley site redesign, but there’s a pretty easy way to get it into your library. Just copy the DOI of the paper and paste into Zotero’s “Add Item by Identifier.”

  3. another vote for Wiley to fix it.

  4. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one horribly annoyed by this. The “Papers” users in my office (which is like an expensive version of Zotero for Mac users) have the same problem with this.

  5. @psi*psi

    I’m familiar with the add-by-identifier button, but unfortunately that does not download the attached PDFs when it is used. It only generates the parent item with the metadata, which is what the auto-add button in the address bar already does. You would still have to separately save and import the PDF.

  6. You would think that with all the money Wiley must make for charging bajillions for color figures that they could afford a website that wasnt an utter piece of shit – the search function for year/vol/page has also disappeared, the pricks.

  7. Hi Nick! Welcome to Chem-blog. Who do you work for at McGill? I look forward to hearing a Canadian opinion on chemistry. I’m a graduate student (bioorganic chemistry) at UBC.

  8. @Abid

    I currently work for Professor C.J. Li. I just started in January.

  9. You should file a bug with Zotero too.

  10. Our campus has a site license for Endnote, so I use it instead of Zotero.
    Endnote has a Find Full text feature which goes on to the internet and downloads pdf files of journal articles. Periodically this feature stops working for particular publishers. recently Science Direct and Wiley. The feature is working again for these publishers. It must be that Endnote reacted to changes at these publishers. Problems could also be due to changes at your library.

  11. i agree that the iframe is annoying: it make the PDF so cluttered. PNAS has been doing this for years, and it’s really ugly.

    Chemista, “Papers” works fine for me with Angew and other sites with this type iframe.

    i love Papers. never got into Zotero. folks could try Mendeley (free), too.

  12. Alex O'Loughlin says:

    Sorry to hear your frustrations with our Wiley websites.

    Whilst not positive comments – its always good to hear your opinions, so we can share them with our development team.

    We hope to be able to set up a Chemistry blog where we can post content, articles and announcements regarding changes to our websites and products. At the moment we use our facebook site/forchemists as a way of releasing the latest news and information.

    Look us up – I hope that it will go some way to bridging the information gap.

  13. Publishers are continually changing/”upgrading” their websites. The reasons? Partly it is as they say, to try and make it easier to provide content to readers. But there are other reasons too.
    For example, they want to direct you to use the higher value or other content on the site – just like a visit to the supermarket when you find they’ve moved stock round again, and for exactly the same reason. Libraries make decisions about whether to renew based on electronic usage, and the effect of you blundering round in their site looking for things is higher usage. Until you get the hang of it and get your shortcuts etc. set up. Then a redesign is needed….so you’re going to have to resign yourself to any shortcuts or easy reference manager having periodic blips like this. Sorry,and good luck.

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