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The University of Warwick and Elsevier

Consultation on Elsevier's Seventh Offer

After a number of months of negotiation and work by both the Universities UK's 'Elsevier Negotiation Team' and representatives of Elsevier we have reached a point where we have a proposed deal. If this proposal is acceptable to the UK academic community it will form the basis of our agreement with Elsevier for the next three years.

In January 2022 the University of Warwick Advisory Group invited the Warwick academic community to give their views on the consultation which then formed the basis of the University's response to the consultation.

Since the decisive rejection of the sixth proposal which was bolstered by public statements from sector mission groups the intensive but constructive discussions has resulted in a final iteration of the seventh transitional offer as well as a fully open access proposal. The transitional offer provides unlimited open access publishing to UK authors in Elsevier’s hybrid journals including the Cell Press and Lancet titles and delivers a 15% reduction on contracted and direct subscription expenditure with Elsevier.

Following a full evaluation of both proposals against the sector’s requirements and in discussion with Jisc’s strategic groups and sector bodies, the recommendation of the Elsevier Negotiation Team is to accept the proposal.

The terms achieved by the sector in these negotiations are remarkable and will set a new benchmark for negotiations locally and globally. That said, the sector should be aware of any unintended consequences or consequences, and ensure that these are being addressed with Elsevier, or by the sector itself, if we are to have a strong footing for the next round of negotiations.

These include Elsevier’s market dominance and, against this, how we constrain future costs through rights retention, as well as the issue of co-authors and funder policy.

Background

The contract between academic publisher Elsevier and UK Universities is due for renewal in December 2021. This renewal will have a significant impact on University of Warwick academic communities and authors.

Our agreement with Elsevier is the single biggest deal taken by the Library – both in terms of cost and in terms of journals involved. Every year the University pays around £1 million in both subscription costs to allow members of the University to read the journal content published by Elsevier and in article processing charges to allow our authors to meet their funder’s requirements for open access. Most major research funders mandate that grant-holders provide open access to the outputs of their research: authors are required to make their publications openly available to academic and non-academic audiences.

The University of Warwick supports this aim as our Research Strategy states:

The central pillar of academic research excellence remains publication in high quality journals, or publication of monographs with leading publishers. In a climate where Open Access and Open Research Data are increasingly standard, we will support the academy via the provision of the necessary Library services, funding and support, to ensure our researchers embrace the Open Research agenda.

Likewise, this principle is central to the international Plan S initiative which requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.

Elsevier, like many publishers impose article processing charges to make a publication open access in one of their journals. These charges are currently paid on an article by article basis and can generate a lot of work for both authors and the institution. For Elsevier, these article processing charges can be anywhere between £120 and £7,800, making budgeting hard to predict.

An alternative model

Publishers and research institutions are developing a range of new business models to find sustainable approaches to open access publishing. The University of Warwick has taken advantage of these ‘transitional’ or ‘read and publish’ agreements where it provides good value for money on both the read and publish sides of the deal.

This allows us to support the wide dissemination of research in a more sustainable way, as these agreements often restrain the costs of the individual elements, as well as allowing more researchers to publish open access at no additional charge to them. These agreements also make the process simpler for our authors. Transitional agreements are supported by cOAlition S funders: they help to transform scholarly publishing to meet the Plan S goal of achieving full and immediate open access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications from research funded by public and private grants.

It is this form of agreement we are hoping to reach with Elsevier by the time our current agreement expires in December 2021.

National negotiations

Despite publishing over 20% of UK output, Elsevier is unusual in not having established a transitional and Plan S-compliant open access agreement with UK universities. The UK Universities sector is entering negotiations with Elsevier with two core objectives: to reduce costs to levels that UK universities can sustain, and to provide full and immediate open access to UK research.

The aim is to secure a read and publish agreement with Elsevier, converting subscription expenditure to support immediate open access publishing, and maintaining access to paywalled content for a reduced fee.

Negotiations on behalf of the UK Universities sector began in March 2021, led by a team of representatives from Universities UK and facilitated by Jisc, the UK higher, further education and skills sectors’ not-for-profit organisation for digital services and solutions.

The Sector must be prepared to walk away from any Elsevier deal that does not meet our requirements. This situation would lead to a loss of access to Elsevier content.

University of Warwick Advisory Group

To co-ordinate the University of Warwick's contribution to this process, the Library is working with representatives across all disciplines within the University's academic community via the Open Research Group and a newly formed advisory group that will specifically support our response to negotiations with publishers.

This new Advisory Group will consist of:

  • Prof Jeremy Ahearne (Arts Faculty)
  • Dr Matthias Englert (SEM Faculty)
  • Prof Rudo Roemer (SEM Faculty)
  • Dr Matt Spencer (Social Science Faculty)
  • Julia Walsh (PGR Representative)
  • Michael Ward (SEM Faculty)
  • Robin Green (Librarian, Library)
  • Yvonne Budden (Head of Scholarly Communications, Library)
  • James Fisher (Resource Aquisitions and Digital Access Manager, Library)

Further updates on this situation will be added here and more information on the national negotiations at Jisc.

If you have any questions please contact us at openaccessfund at warwick dot ac dot uk.

Jisc has produced the following video to highlight the key issues in the negotiations:

Open Access Agreements: Jisc and Elsevier negotiations transcript

UK universities are among the academic world's most prolific producers of high-quality research, producing 15 of the world's most highly cited publications and, they're spearheading a global move.

The UK alongside funders and open access initiatives such as Plan S leads in making research open access. Immediate open access to research makes it easier for everyone to find and reuse knowledge.

Open access boosts research impact and speeds up the flow of ideas. Publishing without paywalls unlocks innovation enables researchers and businesses to work together effectively, building on existing research, and improving the research culture. Put simply, open access can help us find ways to address some of the biggest research challenges, faster and in a more transparent and financially sustainable way.

About half of UK research output is now published open access through institutional contracts with publishers and negotiated by Jisc these so-called transitional or transformative agreements move spend previously used to support subscription access to journals to fund open access publishing and ongoing access to paywalled articles.

UK universities have signed up to 35 open access agreements with publishers such as Wiley, Springer Nature, and society publishers like the American Physiological Society. Under these contracts UK researchers can publish their work open access at no cost to them whilst making sure that the costs for their university are kept in check.

This year we will start negotiations with the world's largest publisher Elsevier, around 1 in 5, 22%, of UK research articles are published by Elsevier but we don't yet have an open access agreement with them.

In these negotiations, UK universities are seeking an agreement that enables full and immediate open access to research and delivers maximum value to universities, researchers, and students. This will accelerate access use and reuse of research and help UK universities and their authors give their pioneering research maximum impact on the world stage.

Visit your library or follow the conversation on hashtag open access publishing.