University of California Reaches Open Access Agreement with Elsevier

After more than two years of negotiations, the University of California (UC) has reached a transformative open access (OA) agreement with Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher. This successful outcome is the result of UC’s faculty, librarians and university leadership coming together to stand firm on our goals of making UC research freely available to all and transforming scholarly communication for the better.

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 university’s two 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 UC’s responsibility as a steward of public funds and its mission as a public university to make its research freely available. The agreement with Elsevier will double the number of articles covered by UC’s OA 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 will also provide for OA publishing of UC research in more than 2,300 Elsevier journals. 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 OA publishing in the entire suite of these prestigious journals.
  • Library support for open access publishing: All articles with a UC corresponding author will be OA by default, with the Library automatically paying the first $1,000 of the OA 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 as OA, 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 OA publishing if they wish.

The economics of the deal

As with UC’s other recent OA 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 our journals budget to help subsidize authors’ APCs — assistance that makes it easier and more affordable for authors to choose to publish OA.

Even with Library support, authors’ research funds 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 OA 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 OA that is sustainable across ever more publishers.

Partnering with publishers of all types and sizes

Meanwhile, the university continues to forge partnerships with publishers of all types and sizes. Last week, UC announced new OA agreements with three not-for-profit and society publishers — The Company of Biologists, The Royal Society and Canadian Science Publishing. These agreements are in addition to those secured previously with Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press, society publisher ACM, and native open access publishers PLOS and JMIR.

Ultimately, UC’s goal is to make it possible for all authors to publish their work open access in whatever journal they choose — providing broad public access to the fruits of UC’s research. This month, we have made a tremendous stride in that direction. We know that this has been a lengthy process and we thank you for your patience and support as we worked to reach this outcome.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Library.