UC reaches open access agreement with Elsevier

Journal cover images courtesy of Elsevier

Journal cover images courtesy of Elsevier

After more than two years of negotiations, this morning (March 16) the University of California announced a transformative open access agreement with Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher. This success resulted from all of UC coming together, including the faculty, librarians and university leadership, to stand firm on our goals of making UC research freely available to all and improving scholarly communication.

The new four-year agreement will go into effect on April 1, 2021, restoring UC’s direct online access to Elsevier journals while accomplishing the Senate’s essential goals for all publisher agreements:

  • Enabling universal open access to all UC research; and
  • Containing the excessively high costs associated with licensing journals.

These goals directly support both UC’s responsibility as a steward of public funds and its mission as a land-grant university to make its research publicly available. The agreement with Elsevier doubles the number of articles covered by UC’s open access agreements.

What the agreement means for the UC community

  • Reading access: By April 1, 2021, UC will have regained access to all articles published in Elsevier journals the libraries subscribed to before, plus additional journals to which UC previously did not subscribe. Access to those journals in ScienceDirect will start to be restored now and will continue to be added until they are all available on April 1. If you cannot access a particular journal yet, you can access articles in other ways in the interim.
  • Open access publishing in Elsevier journals: The agreement also provides for open access publishing of UC research in nearly 2,300 Elsevier journals from day one. The Cell Press and Lancet families of journals will be integrated midway through the four-year agreement; UC’s agreement is the first in the world to provide for open access publishing in the entire suite of these prestigious journals.
  • Library support for open access publishing: All articles with a UC corresponding author will be open access by default, with the library automatically paying the first $1,000 of the open access fee (also known as an article publishing charge or APC). Authors will be asked to pay the remainder of the APC if they have research funds available to do so.
  • Discounts on publishing: To lower those costs even further for authors, UC has negotiated a 15 percent discount on the APCs for most Elsevier journals; the discount is 10 percent for the Cell Press and Lancet families of journals.
  • Full funding support for those who need it: To ensure that all authors have the opportunity to publish their work open access, the library will cover the full amount of the APC for those who do not have sufficient research funds for the author share. Authors may also opt out of open access publishing if they wish.

The economics of the deal

As with UC’s other recent open access agreements, the Elsevier agreement integrates library and author payments into a single, cost-controlled contract. This shared funding model enables the campus libraries to reallocate a portion of the journals budget to help subsidize authors’ APCs — assistance that makes it easier and more affordable for authors to choose to publish open access.

Even with library support, authors’ research funds must continue to play a critical role. This funding model only works if authors who do have funds pay their share of the APC.

In the other open access agreements UC has implemented, we are already seeing a significant proportion of authors paying their share of the APC. If this promising trend continues, UC can blaze a path to full open access that is sustainable across growing numbers of publishers and even through challenging budgetary times.

Partnering with publishers of all sizes

Meanwhile, the university continues to forge partnerships with publishers of all types and sizes, including Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press, and others such as The Royal Society announced just last week. For a complete list, see the library’s webpage on Open Access Publishing.

Ultimately, UC aims to make it possible for its authors to publish their work with open access in whatever journal they choose — making the fruits of UC’s research broadly available to the public. This agreement constitutes a tremendous stride in that direction. We know that this process has been long and difficult for many of you and we thank you for your patience and support as we worked to reach this outcome.

The library will host an open meeting for the UC Davis community to hear more about the agreement and answer questions in early April. To find the latest information about that meeting and more, please visit the library’s webpage about the UC/Elsevier agreement.

MacKenzie Smith
University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship

Eric Rauchway
Distinguished Professor of History and Chair, UC Davis Academic Senate Library Committee