News for Faculty: Update on Elsevier and Open Access Publishing

In seeking to transform scholarly publishing, the University of California is guided by two principles: maximizing the reach and impact of UC’s research by making it freely and openly available, and containing dramatic cost increases that jeopardize UC’s ability to ensure access to published research. As former UC President Janet Napolitano articulated in a recent op-ed, these twin goals — forged over many years by the Academic Senate in partnership with the libraries — have never been more important than they are today, amidst the pandemic and other social and fiscal crises.

One of UC’s first — and most highly visible — steps was to pursue a different type of contract with scholarly publishing giant Elsevier when it came up for renewal in 2018. When the two parties were unable to reach an agreement and the contract expired, Elsevier shut off the UC system’s access to new journal issues on its ScienceDirect platform in July 2019 (older articles remain available). In response, UC’s libraries strengthened their offerings for alternative means of accessing articles, providing rapid fulfillment of article requests and helpful tips on how to find them on the Internet, get them from authors, and other sources.

While we are still out of contract, UC has resumed negotiations with the publisher in hopes of finally achieving a deal that provides for more open access publishing of UC research in Elsevier journals and restores UC’s access to the latest Elsevier journal articles on ScienceDirect.

A systemwide poll of UC authors conducted earlier this year showed that a strong majority of UC’s faculty, researchers and students support the University’s position and are managing the inconveniences that ensued. And so, as negotiations resume, UC continues to stand firm in its commitment to open access and affordability for both publishing and online access to journals.

Meanwhile, there has been notable progress on other fronts. UC successfully concluded negotiations with a range of other scholarly publishers that achieved our goals of greater open access and cost containment — proving that such agreements are not only possible but that many publishers welcome the opportunity to partner with the University of California to shape these transformative deals and demonstrate a path forward for other institutions. 

In the past year we have reached major new agreements with Springer Nature, the second largest journal publisher in the world, as well as  Cambridge University Press, Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Public Library of Science (PLOS). Though the details vary, UC’s contracts generally provide for the library to subsidize any open access publishing fee for articles with a UC corresponding author. For authors that cannot pay the balance of a publishing fee, the library will help. For more information, visit the library’s Open Access Publishing page.

These successes with other publishers helped pave the way for the resumption of negotiations with Elsevier last month. 

In summary, as the nation’s top public university, UC remains committed to its leadership and advocacy for open access to research, particularly now, when that research is needed more than ever to address global health, environmental and social crises. We are finding success and will stay on course. 

As the academic year gets underway and progress is made with our publisher partners, we will provide regular updates and ensure that you are informed. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or concerns, need help accessing research articles or data, or have questions about open access publishing of your own work with these publishers, do not hesitate to contact the library. We are here to help.


Read the rest of the Fall 2020 faculty newsletter here.