When research is free for everyone, as it’s been during the pandemic, scientific experts of all kinds can shine light on the many facets of a health crisis, writes Britt Glaunsinger.
“To the argument that shunning such journals will compromise science, I can only point out to many journals of repute published by scientific societies and academies worldwide (such as the Indian Academy of Sciences) that make all their published papers free (diamond/platinum open access) and are able to run their journals with modest subscriptions and advertisements. There have also been initiatives like Amelica and Coalition-S. The alternatives are there for us to adopt as scientists and scholars if we wish.
I realise that, for early-career scientists, publishing in some of these journals is still important because of the undue importance still given to them by academic institutions in their scientific recruitment and recognition policies. I, too, have published in these journals and realise I am implicated in the perpetuation of this system. I will respect the views and needs of students and others I collaborate with on where they seek to publish in or review for. But as a token of protest, I declare that where it concerns my own work I will not submit a paper to these journals or review a paper for them, until such corporate predatory practices end. I do realise that my action is a mere token and not enough. There is more I myself need to do to make science universal, free, and accessible….”
“Equity, affordability, and accessibility were at the center of the recent decision by the Virginia Research Libraries (VRL) consortium to cut their spend with Elsevier nearly in half while maintaining access to their most frequently used materials.
The decision by six members of VRL (William & Mary, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, and James Madison University) was grounded in a values-driven negotiation process that relied on data to make the case to move away from Elsevier’s “Big Deal” Freedom Collection. The new one-year agreement with Elsevier for 2021 significantly reduced the overall spend for each campus and allowed for a collection tailored to include each institution’s most used materials….”
“Members of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) set bold negotiation objectives for the 2020 renewal with Elsevier: significantly reduce costs, increase open access, and ensure transparency of the agreement. After eleven months of negotiating, CRKN’s Content Strategy Committee (CSC) is announcing a renewal of the Elsevier ScienceDirect license, which includes:
A 12.5% reduction for 2021, followed by a 0% change for 2022, and a 2% increase for 2023. The renewed agreement maintains access to all journals in the Freedom Collection, including former Academic Press journals, and members’ subscribed titles, with no loss of perpetual access rights. This results in cost savings of US$17.4 million over three years (when compared with a three-year contract with anticipated 2% annual increases).
A 20% discount on Article Processing Charges (APCs) for both hybrid and gold open access journals. Cell Press, Lancet, and some other society-owned journals are excluded.
No confidentiality or non-disclosure clause which ensures transparency and allows the terms to be shared….”
[This is an FAQ version of the UC-Elsevier deal.]
“After more than two years of negotiations, in March 2021 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 the goals of making UC research freely available to all and transforming scholarly communication for the better.
The four-year agreement goes 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:
(1) Enabling universal open access to all UC research; and
(2) 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 Texas Library Coalition for United Action (TLCUA) negotiations with academic publisher Elsevier that cover UH Libraries journal subscriptions and access to journal content are ongoing. We’ve seen progress on some issues and believe we are getting close to a final offer.
At the heart of the negotiations are three key issues:
Sustainable pricing models while maintaining title access
Journal pricing has been unsustainable for some time. The Coalition is trying to maintain as much access to currently subscribed titles as possible while significantly reducing overall expenditures.
Copyright retention/reversion for authors
Authors are often expected to sign over their copyright as part of the agreement with the publisher, which can impede how authors are able to re-use or re-publish their work in the future. The Coalition believes that ownership matters and that this must change; Elsevier has indicated a willingness to engage creatively on this topic.
Post-termination access to subscribed content
Post-termination access is the ability to access prior years’ content from subscribed journals in the future, regardless of the current status of the subscription. Much like with a print journal, where we can keep copies available to library users even after ending a subscription, we want to be able to retain access to journal articles that we subscribed to electronically after the subscription ends. We believe PTA is important to the preservation of knowledge and the creation of new scholarship….”
“As is so often the case with transformative deals, this one is complex; it’s also somewhat controversial, and the scholarly communication discussion space has been buzzing with questions. The good news is that the UC-Elsevier MOU is publicly available and it answers quite a few of them — while also fully illustrating the complexity of the deal.
Here I’d like to focus on six questions that I’ve had about the new UC-Elsevier deal, and share the answers I was able to find….”
“Moving to Open: the University of California’s strategy and experience with transforming journal publishing
MacKenzie Smith, University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship, University of California, Davis.”
“This month, 157 UK universities started negotiations with Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher. In these negotiations, universities, on behalf of their researchers and students, have two core objectives: to reduce costs to levels they can sustain, and to provide full and immediate open access to UK research….
Jisc is supporting the negotiations and has spent the past nine months consulting with each of the 157 institutions involved. My fellow library directors and I have made it clear that the sector wants an agreement with Elsevier that supports full and immediate open access to research, and that reduces expenditure with Elsevier to levels universities can sustain, with a competitive cost per article.
This isn’t going to be easy to achieve. We are a very diverse consortium, and large-scale, multi-institution transformative agreements are notoriously complex. However, we want to make things easier for our academics and make the transition to open access as smooth as possible. …
“Khoo argues that boycotting Elsevier is also not really a useful tactic, other than perhaps for consciousness raising. What’s needed is investment in alternatives, and more importantly, culture change that makes it attractive for authors to choose those alternatives….”
“Distinct and intersecting institutional goals are driving libraries to the negotiating table under new frameworks. These goals include (1) reducing the burden of publishing fees (article-processing charges, or APCs) for authors and instead making an institutional commitment to pay those fees; (2) expanding access to research produced at the institution; (3) making the scholarly communication ecosystem more equitable; (4) supporting scholars’ research needs, such as rights retention and machine access to scholarship; and (5) containing or driving down costs….”
“I can only speak for myself, but here, in a nutshell, are some key things that make me hesitate to cheer this new deal:
Elsevier does what’s best for Elsevier. The serials crisis—the slow-motion catastrophe that has seen a few journal oligopolies commandeer library budgets, crowding out other investments—is not an accident or a natural disaster. It is the result of a deliberate business strategy, implemented by commercial firms whose sole duty is not to science but to their shareholders. By far the largest and most-boycotted (to little effect) of these firms is Elsevier. That Elsevier loves this deal is enough to make me worry. That concern only deepens when we see sharp independent observers like Roger Schonfeld argue persuasively that these deals will ensure Elsevier’s continuing dominance of scholarly publishing in the open access future.
It transforms access, but caters to IF mania. Open access activism has long been focused on how commercial academic publishers use copyright to lock up and monetize research. Open access aims to remove copyright as a barrier to access to knowledge, and on those terms, the UC-Elsevier deal is a success. But copyright is only half (maybe less) of the dysfunction in academic publishing. The deeper, more insidious problem is the journal prestige economy (aka impact factor mania)—the academy’s reliance on journal reputation and metrics like journal impact factor in evaluating the quality of scholarship and of scholars. A publisher who controls a high-prestige title has a captive workforce of authors who must struggle to publish in their outlet in order to advance professionally. Transforming the copyright aspect of this system without also upsetting the prestige economy (e.g., by reforming promotion and tenure) only shifts the unsustainable cost of IF mania from readers to authors (and author-supporting institutions, like the UC).
Far from unsettling the prestige economy, the UC deal seems to cater to it, offering authors reassurance that publishing fees will not be a barrier to their participation in this system. When libraries urge faculty to embrace open access, a common rejoinder is “Then the library should pay my APCs.” When I hear that suggestion, the ensuing conversation is typically about why that’s an unsustainable model, and why more radical change is needed to address the many harms of the old system. The UC’s response, at least in this deal, is, “Sure, here you go!” That may put the rest of us in a difficult position.
It undermines the only potential upside of charging authors to publish. Shifting costs to authors is generally a disaster for them, especially authors in less-wealthy countries and those without access to grant funds to offset publication costs. But advocates for this cost-shift have long argued that this pain is good because it will give authors a reason to publish in more efficient (read: cheaper) journals. Once they have “skin in the game,” the invisible hand will lead authors to choose cheaper journals, forcing publishing charges down as journals compete on price to attract authors. But that hasn’t happened so far, and there’s little reason to believe it will. In any event, deals like the UC-Elsevier deal undermine this potential upside of charging authors by subsidizing and, if necessary, completely covering the cost on their behalf. Insulating academics from the exploding costs of their choices is exactly the
“Elsevier’s prices are still too high, and it makes outrageous profits. But we did get an expenditure reduction, and that will save money for the system and for the authors. Overall, the UC (libraries plus authors) will pay 7% less in total than if we had continued with the previous model. Another way of saying that is the UC will be paying about the same $13 million in 2021 as we paid in total in 2018, saving us over 7% by avoiding annual price escalation (inflation). Part of the way we got expenditure savings is by negotiating a 15% discount on the publishing price for articles in most journals (10% for a limited number of prestige titles)….
Elsevier is our ninth open access publishing agreement, all in the past two years. We want to do this with every publisher, and there are dozens and dozens. But the top 20 of them will cover more than 80% of our articles. At this point, we have more than 30% of UC-authored articles covered by open access agreements. We’ve got about five more underway. If we succeed over the next two to three years, we’ll be at 75% of articles covered. Ultimately, we’re trying to make this a standard way of doing business, so that all agreements are open access, and all scholarly publishers will stop selling subscriptions. That’s why we publish our agreements, so all can see the details, and why we have offered training workshops and prepared a toolkit to help other institutions pursue the same path….”
“The University of California system secured a landmark open-access deal with publisher Elsevier, it announced yesterday. Some university librarians hail the agreement as a breakthrough, but others question the possible long-term impacts….”
Two years after a high-profile falling out, the University of California (UC) system and the academic publishing giant Elsevier have patched up differences and agreed on what will be the largest deal for open-access publishing in scholarly journals in North America. The deal is also the world’s first such contract that includes Elsevier’s highly selective flagship journals Cell and The Lancet.