Note: After more than two years of negotiations, in March 2021 the University of California announced a transformative open access agreement with Elsevier. This is a copy of the old “UC and Elsevier: FAQs” page maintained as an archive. For current information about UC and Elsevier, see the actively maintained page.

How to Access Elsevier Articles
Negotiations with Elsevier
Moving Towards Open Access
Managing Costs
Impact on Faculty and Researchers

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How to Access Elsevier Articles

What Elsevier articles, if any, can I still access via ScienceDirect?

UC has been out of contract with Elsevier since January 2019 and no longer has access to 2019 articles (in all Elsevier journals) and the backfiles of certain journals. Everything else will still be accessible on ScienceDirect.

Researchers will need to use other methods to access 2019 articles from these journals (most articles published before January 1, 2019 remain available) and all articles in these journals. (Please note: links will download Excel lists.)

Over the coming months, the UC Libraries will be carefully evaluating the impact of losing access to these articles on ScienceDirect, and will do our best to ensure that members of the UC community have access to the articles they need.

How can I access Elsevier articles in other ways?

The UC Libraries are prepared to help you get the articles you need. Our guide to alternative access provides step-by-step instructions for how to access articles in other ways. For example, UC researchers can use tools like Google Scholar, Unpaywall, and Open Access Button to quickly find open access copies, which are free to read online, when available; email the corresponding author listed in the abstract to request a copy; or use the interlibrary loan request form to get it from the library. (Any request for content no longer licensed through Elsevier will automatically be placed into a special queue. For urgent requests, use the Note field to ask for an expedited copy.)

I need help accessing an article. Who should I contact?

If you can’t find an article, your campus library can get it for you. Find the contact information for your library.

Is it okay for me to subscribe to a journal that I use regularly?

The systemwide faculty Senate has encouraged stakeholders across UC to use alternative access methods or contact their campus library for assistance in obtaining articles. They also encourage departments and centers not to resubscribe to Elsevier journals at this time.

Negotiations with Elsevier

Will UC consider reentering formal negotiations with Elsevier?

UC is hoping to reenter formal negotiations with Elsevier if the publisher indicates that they are willing to discuss a contract that addresses our goals. The Academic Council signaled its collective and resolute commitment to support UC’s negotiating position with Elsevier, which includes integrating open access publishing fees and subscription costs into a single contract without a significant increase in costs.

What is UC seeking in its negotiations with Elsevier and other scholarly journal publishers?

As each of our multiyear contracts with large scholarly journal publishers comes to an end, UC is working to hold down the rapidly escalating costs associated with for-profit journals and to align our journal contracts with UC’s stance in support of open access.

UC is seeking a single, integrated contract that would cover both the university’s subscriptions and open access publishing fees, making open access the default for any article with a UC corresponding author.

UC is also seeking a fairer and more stable price structure. We seek a contract that prevents publishers from charging twice for the same content and enables the university to consolidate and manage costs in a transparent way.

Given that Elsevier is both the largest scholarly publisher in the world and was UC’s most expensive journals contract, and that UC accounts for nearly 10 percent of all U.S. publishing output — the most of any public educational institution in the country — a successful open access agreement would have a significant impact.

Why did UC terminate its subscriptions with Elsevier?

Under Elsevier’s proposed terms for renewing its contract with UC, the publisher would capture significant new revenue on top of the university’s current multimillion-dollar subscription, while diminishing UC’s rights to Elsevier content. Elsevier’s latest proposal, dated January 31, 2019, did consider some of UC’s conditions, including providing UC authors with open access publishing options across much of the publisher’s portfolio of journals. However, there were several conditions that UC was unwilling to accept, including higher overall costs to the university, reduced access rights to a significant number of Elsevier journals, limits on how much financial support UC could offer its authors to help pay open access fees, and an inability for UC authors to publish open access in certain high-profile Elsevier journals. Learn more.

What did UC’s proposal look like?

In our November 18, 2018 proposal to Elsevier, UC stated that open access would be the default publication option for all UC corresponding authors and that the total payment to the publisher — consisting of a reading fee and article processing charge (APC) payments) — would be lower than UC’s current total payment. While we informed Elsevier, in response to their January 31, 2019, proposal, that we were willing to revise our offer to be cost-neutral, the university, including UC’s faculty Senate and the negotiating team, could not accept the significant new cost increase implicit in Elsevier’s proposal. Learn more.

How are faculty involved in the Elsevier negotiations?

The Chair and Vice-Chair of UCOLASC are members of the negotiating team, and the Principles developed by UCOLASC have informed UC’s negotiation strategy. There are ongoing discussions about these negotiations by the Academic Council and other Senate committees.

The Academic Senate issued a statement in support of UC’s negotiating position with Elsevier “in order to advance UC’s mission as a public institution, make the products of our research and scholarship as freely and widely available as possible, and ensure that UC spends taxpayer money in the most ethically, morally, and socially-responsible way when entering into agreements with commercial publishers.”

Why are the negotiations with Elsevier noteworthy?

Elsevier is the largest scholarly publisher in the world, accounting for 17 percent of peer-reviewed journal articles worldwide. These negotiations are also noteworthy for UC because Elsevier is UC’s most expensive journals contract. UC was spending 25 percent of its annual systemwide journals budget on Elsevier.

I've heard the current system described as double dipping. What does this mean?

Many traditional subscription journals now permit authors to opt to pay an article processing charge (APC) to publish their article open access, a practice that has come to be called “hybrid” publishing. Under this system, authors who publish open access are treated as an added revenue source, while subscription fees are rarely reduced. Elsevier targets authors as an added revenue source and has strategically prioritized the expansion of its “author-pays” hybrid model. Yet Elsevier does not reduce its subscription fees when an open access fee is paid by an author, and thus they are effectively charging twice for access to this content.

Moving Towards Open Access

Why does UC encourage its researchers to publish their work open access?

The mission of the University of California is to “provide long-term benefits to society through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge.” Open access publishing, which makes more of the research generated by UC scholars freely available, fulfills our mission by transmitting knowledge more broadly and facilitating new discoveries that build on our scholars’ work.

As stated in its Open Access Policy, UC’s systemwide faculty Senate recognizes “the benefits that accrue to themselves as individual scholars and to the scholarly enterprise from such wide dissemination, including greater recognition, more thorough review, consideration and critique, and a general increase in scientific, scholarly and critical knowledge.”

How have faculty informed the UC’s stance on open access?

The university’s Academic Senate has articulated its support for open access in its Open Access Policy. The Academic Senate also issued a statement in support of UC’s negotiating position with Elsevier. Academic Senate Chair Robert May briefed the UC Regents on the negotiations in his remarks to the Regents in January and March.

Members of the faculty are also directly involved in developing UC’s current position and participating in the negotiations with Elsevier. The faculty-led University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC) unanimously endorsed UC’s strategy, which is consistent with the committee’s Declaration of Rights and Principles to Transform Scholarly Communication. They also endorsed a Call to Action written by the Provost’s Systemwide Library and Scholarly Information Committee (SLASIAC).

How does open access publishing benefit UC researchers?

By ensuring that the work of UC scholars is not hidden behind a paywall, open access publishing helps increase the number of people who read, share, and cite UC authors’ research.

How prevalent is open access at universities and institutions in other parts of the country and around the world, and how does the UC fit into this larger context?

There is a growing global movement to address the unsustainable costs and restrictive nature of subscription-based journal publication. The countries of Germany, Sweden, and Hungary cancelled their subscriptions with Elsevier due to the publisher’s high costs and resistance to adopting an open access model. (In April 2019, just weeks after walking away from negotiations, Norway became the first to strike a deal with Elsevier that included open-access publishing — but, it appears, at a much higher cost.)

Thanks to the efforts of open access pioneers around the world, UC has built upon existing knowledge and expertise to leverage publisher negotiations to effect a transition away from the standard subscription model and towards open access.  Following UC’s break with Elsevier, messages of support came pouring in from around the world. Many libraries also issued statements of support.

UC President Janet Napolitano delivered an open access call to action, stating: “I urge my colleagues at universities nationwide and worldwide to join the University of California in advocating for open access to the groundbreaking research taking place on our campuses and in our laboratories every day. Now is the time to take a stand — together — and launch the next information revolution by ensuring that publicly funded research can benefit all humankind.

North American institutions represent nearly half of Elsevier’s revenue, and it is important that they get involved. In response to numerous questions from peer institutions, and to provide a North American framework for creating transformative change in the scholarly publishing industry, the university issued Negotiating with Scholarly Journal Publishers: A Toolkit from the University of California in May 2019.

What does UC’s transformative model look like?

The university hopes to make open access publishing the default option for UC authors (authors would be able to opt-out). The libraries would assume a portion of the open access fees; authors with grant or other research funding would be asked to use that funding to cover the remainder of the  lower, subsidized article processing charges (APCs). For authors who don’t have funding, the university would cover the entire fee. Author workflows would be similar to what they are now, without any added burden.

How can I support the university’s efforts to advance open access research?

Members of the academic community have many tools at their disposal to influence publisher policies and encourage more transformative developments, including decisions about where to submit their work, whether to serve on editorial boards, and whether to participate in peer review.

Regarding the Elsevier negotiation, the systemwide faculty Senate has encouraged stakeholders across UC to use alternative access methods or contact their campus library for assistance in obtaining articles. They also encourage departments and centers not to resubscribe to Elsevier journals at this time.

We welcome the thoughtful engagement of the UC community in these issues.

Managing Costs

How would integrating open access publishing fees with the libraries’ subscription contract save UC money?

Currently, UC authors wishing to publish open access in traditional journals pay open access publishing fees on top of the university’s subscription fees. These duplicate payments have been increasing over time. A combined subscription and open access agreement is designed to eliminate duplicate payments by “offsetting” publication fees against subscriptions costs.

Why are scholarly journal subscriptions so expensive?

Because the publishing of so many academic journals is consolidated under the control of so few publishers, there is a lack of competition and market forces at play. As a result, subscription costs rise faster than many consumers — in this case, scholars and academic institutions — can sustain. Meanwhile, these rapidly escalating subscription prices generate large profit margins for commercial publishers.

Impact on Faculty and Researchers

Can I continue to edit, review for, or publish in Elsevier journals?

Yes. It is up to you to decide which journals you edit or review for, and where you choose to publish your research.

Will funding be available to researchers for publishing costs?

By providing article processing charge (APC) support through the UC libraries as well as the option to opt-out of open access, UC is working hard to ensure that authors have maximum flexibility in determining where and how they want to publish. The design of the contract we’re seeking to negotiate with Elsevier and other publishers, and which we signed with Cambridge University Press in April 2019, would make journal articles published by UC authors open access, with financial support from the university, unless the author opts out.

Authors who can draw on grants or other research funds would be asked to cover a portion of the article processing charge, but authors lacking such funds would receive full support from the university. While it is possible that eligibility for this funding support may be somewhat more limited during an implementation phase-in period, in general any article in an Elsevier journal with a UC corresponding author would qualify.

How will UC’s proposed model provide flexibility to accommodate all UC authors, whether they want to publish open access or not?

Authors may continue to publish in any journal of their choice. Authors who do not want to publish open access can continue to publish their research behind the journal’s paywall, as they do now. For those who do wish to publish open access, the financial support provided by the university to help cover the article processing charge (APC) will offer an additional incentive to do so.


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