Chris Shaffer
Chris is an open science advocate and serves as University Librarian and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Information Management. Contact him to discuss the vision, strategic plan, and services of the UCSF Library.

UC Reaches Open Access Agreement with Elsevier

After more than two years of negotiations, this morning the University of California announced a transformative open access 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 key 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 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. Contact the Library if you have a question about access to a particular journal.   
  • 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. 

Find complete details about the agreement and how it works for authors.

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 our 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 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 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. In addition to Elsevier, UC also signed open access agreements with three more not-for-profit and society publishers this month — The Company of Biologists, which includes UCSF, and The Royal Society and Canadian Science Publishing, which do not include UCSF. These agreements are in addition to those secured previously with Springer NatureCambridge 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 don’t hesitate to ask me or contact the Library at any time. 

Chris Shaffer
University Librarian and Assistant Vice Chancellor

Photo by Lenny K Photography, CC BY 2.0, Cape Otway Lighthouse Victoria