This past week the University of California didn’t renew its contract with one of the biggest publishers of research articles in the world

McGill Library’s Scholarly Communications Librarian, Jessica Lange, explains…

 

Why?

University of California was negotiating for two things:

  1. Access to Elsevier content
  2. The right for University of California researchers who publish with Elsevier, to make their work open access immediately.

What happened?

According to U C, Elsevier wanted to charge UC authors “large publishing fees on top of the university’s multi-million dollar subscription, resulting in much greater cost to the university and much higher profits for Elsevier. Additional terms that broke off negotiations can be found here.

But don’t big publishing companies always charge fees for authors to make their work open access?

Yes they do – via APCs (or article processing charges) either for fully open access journals or via hybrid journals (i.e. content in the journal is closed unless an author elects to pay an APC).

However these fees are typically paid by authors individually rather than through a bundled deal at an institutional level.

The APCs at Elsevier vary but generally, the range is $1100- 4000 USD per article

What was UC trying to do?

It wanted to follow the model of “big deals” or “publish and read” deals that are occurring in Europe. In such deals you try to bundle the costs of such APCs charges alongside your regular subscription price – ideally, because you’re negotiating the two separate costs together, it should result in savings across the university as a whole.

This also takes a more holistic approach to the publishing life cycle rather than separating author costs from reader costs.

Why didn’t Elsevier go for it?

Well they *did* except the price they wanted UC to pay was too high. I can only speculate as to what price they wanted UC to pay but from reading UC commentary, it looked like Elsevier expected UC to pay an APC (in full) each time a UC author published with them. As you can imagine, this pricing approach wouldn’t have resulted in any savings for the university and may in fact have resulted in more costs.

What happens now?

UC has perpetual access rights to Elsevier journals prior to January 2019. For newly published articles, UC will locate the materials through interlibrary loan or locating through another means of scholarly sharing (e.g. checking to see if the article was made openly available via a repository).

Is anyone in Canada negotiating a big deal? 

Not that I’m aware of but to some extent CRKN negotiations have strived for something similar. Many of McGill’s current APC discounts are the results of CRKN negotiations which bundle the two (i.e. discounts on author fees plus subscription prices).