Practical Idealism: UC’s Approach to Open Access

MacKenzie Smith, University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship at the University of California, Davis, provides the following commentary on UC’s recent transformative agreements with Elsevier and other publishers.

UC should implement open-source textbook program

“Many students often opt not to purchase a textbook due to its financial burden or to avoid the situation of buying a textbook only to barely use it throughout the semester. Students’ access to textbooks can have a tremendous impact on their success in their classes, yet many students have to choose between purchasing textbooks and other necessities. Overall, success should not be determined by one’s financial status or access to textbooks.

CalPIRG’s push to implement an open-source textbook program in the UC system is grounded in alleviating a major financial hurdle in higher education by making textbooks free and readily accessible. Such efforts would thus aid California’s advancement toward a more equitable education system.

The university can lead this movement and live up to its standards of accessibility and diversity by implementing an open textbook program. The program could incentivize faculty to use open education resources in the classroom that make textbooks free and accessible to all UC students. We ultimately call on the regents to join us in helping to make academic success a reality for more students instead of a dream crushed by the weight of financial burdens.”

15th BERLIN OPEN ACCESS CONFERENCE ADAPT AND ADVANCE

“The 15th Berlin Open Access Conference (B15): Adapt and Advance, will be co-hosted by the University of California (UC) and Open Access 2020 Initiative (OA2020), and held virtually from September 28 to October 01, 2021. To facilitate global participation, the event will be offered twice: track 1 for the Americas, Australia and Oceania; and track 2 for Europe, Africa and Asia. To ensure B15 offers attendees ample opportunity to discuss, share and collaborate, participation will be limited to 200 people per track.

Similar to prior Berlin Conferences, B15 will assemble members of the global research community interested in furthering transformative open access frameworks, where publisher subscription agreements are transitioned into open access publishing models. B15 workshops and sessions will support both those who have already begun signing transformative agreements and those looking to build capacity in planning for negotiations. The conference will address key topics, including: …”

‘A long journey’: Richly detailed, fully searchable Chinese treasures will be made available for free online | UC Berkeley Library News

“Today, the UC Berkeley Library announces a monumental collaboration with Sichuan University, with funding from the Alibaba Foundation. The project aims to digitize most of the pre-1912 Chinese language materials from EAL’s [East Asian Library’s] collections, bringing them to life in vivid detail for researchers today and for generations to come.

While chunks of EAL’s collections have been digitized and made available online over the years, the project with Sichuan University is the first of its kind because of its grand scope. Berkeley’s collection of Chinese volumes is one of the largest among research libraries in North America. Nearly 10,000 titles are from before 1912, and are in line to be digitized….”

May 2021 update on open access and academic journal contracts: a presentation to the UC Board of Regents’ Academic and Student Affairs Committee – Office of Scholarly Communication

“On May 12, 2021, Provost and Executive Vice President Michael T. Brown, University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director Günter Waibel, and Associate Executive Director & Director of Collection Development Ivy Anderson briefed the UC Board of Regents’ Academic and Student Affairs Committee on transformative open access and academic journal contracts.

The video archive of the presentation is available on YouTube and below. A copy of the presentation script is also available for download….”

Welcome Ellen Finnie, CDL’s new Director of Shared Collections – California Digital Library

“It is our great pleasure to announce that Ellen Finnie has been appointed as CDL’s new Director of Shared Collections, with responsibility for a significant strategic portfolio encompassing systemwide licensing, open access publisher agreements, and shared print initiatives. Ellen will begin transitioning to her new role in June, and fully assume her responsibilities on July 1st, following the retirement of Ivy Anderson. 

For the past year, Ellen has been the Open Access Publisher Agreements Manager at CDL. In this role, she has been responsible for initiating, developing, and coordinating the implementation and assessment of open access publisher agreements across a broad spectrum of publishing partners in support of UC’s transformative open access initiatives.  …”

ATG! The Podcast- Episode 109: Conversation on the University of California/Elsevier Open Access Agreement – Charleston Hub

“We’re pleased to feature a conversation and interview with Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, University Librarian and economics professor at UC Berkeley, and co-chair of UC’s publisher negotiation team, and Ivy Anderson, Associate Executive Director of the California Digital Library and co-chair of UC’s publisher negotiation team about the University of California’s recent pioneering open access agreement with Elsevier. The interview is conducted by Leah Hinds, Executive Director of the Charleston Hub, and Tom Gilson, Associate Editor of Against the Grain….”

Springer Nature and the University of California join together to better understand author attitudes to open research | Corporate Affairs Homepage | Springer Nature

“Springer Nature and the University of California (UC) today launched a new initiative to gain greater understanding of researcher attitudes to and motivations towards open research practices (including open access articles, data, and code; transparent peer review; and preprints). As part of the partnership, participating UC authors will also have the option to trial Guided Open Access (GOA) for some flagship Nature titles….”

Elsevier Transformative Open Access Agreement – Office of Scholarly Communication

[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….”

Six Questions (with Answers!) about UC’s and Elsevier’s New Transformative Deal – The Scholarly Kitchen

“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….”

ARL Statement on New Transformative Publishing Agreement between the University of California and Elsevier – Association of Research Libraries

“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….”

Four Concerns About the new UC-Elsevier Deal

“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