Springer Nature open access agreement and Elsevier update

In the midst of what have been difficult times, I am pleased to share some very good news. The University of California has reached a transformative open access agreement with Springer Nature, the world’s second-largest academic publisher.

Under the agreement, all articles with a UC corresponding author published in more than 2,700 of Springer Nature’s journals will be open access by default, with the UC Libraries paying a portion of the open access fee on behalf of all authors. Authors without available research funds for the remainder of the publishing fee can request that the library cover the entire amount. Authors may also choose to opt out of open access publishing if they wish. While broad-based open access publishing in the most well-known Nature journals is not initially included, the deal commits Springer Nature and UC to collaborating on an open science pilot in 2021 and developing plans for a transformative agreement for all of the Nature journals to be implemented in the third year of the agreement.

The deal also includes reading access and perpetual rights to more than 1,000 journals in Springer Nature’s portfolio to which UC did not previously subscribe.

The open access publishing provisions will go into effect once the formal agreement has been signed and will run through 2023. More details are available on the UC’s Office of Scholarly Communication website.

Elsevier update

UC’s negotiating team continues to communicate with Elsevier. While progress remains slow, there are a number of recent developments that we hope may give fresh impetus to these discussions:

  • COVID–19: As a recent Los Angeles Times column laid out, the need for access to research has never been clearer. In fact, many publishers, including Elsevier, have temporarily made coronavirus-related articles freely available. Pandemic-related budget crunches may also pressure publishers to moderate financial demands.
  • Federal policy: The Office of Science and Technology Policy is considering a zero-embargo policy for the author’s final manuscript for all federally funded research — a change strongly supported by UC’s faculty Senate and that, if adopted, would further incentivize publishers to accelerate their shift towards open access.
  • Actions by other institutions: UNC-Chapel Hill, Iowa State University and the SUNY (State University of New York) system all recently ended their “big deal” subscription packages with Elsevier. As the head of UNC’s university library wrote: “UC helped to expose the runaway journal costs that are breaking university and library budgets everywhere [and] the need to increase open access to research, rather than locking it behind steep and rising paywalls.” And just last week MIT ended its negotiations with Elsevier after the publisher failed to present a proposal that aligned with MIT’s open access principles.

Meanwhile, the feedback we received from faculty, students and researchers earlier this year confirmed that, while researchers are feeling the impact of UC’s lack of an Elsevier contract — particularly in the health and life sciences — the majority both systemwide and here at UC Santa Cruz remain supportive of UC’s position.

While we don’t yet know what form the final resolution with Elsevier will take, UC remains committed to getting closure and finding a path forward in the coming months.

Moving forward

The new Springer Nature agreement — the largest open access agreement in North America to date — is an exciting note on which to end the year. Over the course of the year, UC has also implemented four other transformative open access agreements, with a diverse range of publishers — Cambridge University Press, society publisher ACM, and native open access publishers JMIR and PLoS) — and conversations with other publishers are still underway.

Together, these deals demonstrate the broad potential of UC’s approach to transform scholarly publishing in the United States to a sustainable, open access model, and to provide broad public access to the fruits of UC’s research.

We will continue to keep you apprised of any new agreements or other notable developments. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact research@library.ucsc.edu at any time.