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, that accomplishes the university’s two goals for all publisher agreements: (1) enabling universal open access to UC research; and (2) containing the excessively high costs associated with licensing journals. This successful outcome was 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, which went into effect on April 1, 2021, enables UC authors who publish with Elsevier to make their research freely available to the world to read. Through the agreement, the UC libraries provide funding to cover open access publishing fees for UC authors who publish in Elsevier journals by redirecting funds previously devoted to subscription fees.

As of September 1, 2022, this financial support will also be available to UC corresponding authors publishing in Cell Press and The Lancet titles.

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Agreement Basics

What are the basic terms of the agreement?

The four-year agreement runs from April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2025, and incorporates both open access publishing and UC’s reading access to Elsevier’s journal titles, while upholding the university’s goal to manage its costs for academic journal subscriptions responsibly.  

This agreement provides: 

  • Reading access for Elsevier journals: The agreement provides UC researchers with access to articles published in Elsevier journals included in UC’s prior subscription model agreement, plus additional journals to which UC previously did not subscribe.
  • Open access publishing in Elsevier journals: Corresponding UC authors can publish open access in more than 2,300 Elsevier journals with significant financial support from the UC libraries: 
    • A reduced article processing charge for all articles (15% for most journals; 10% for journals from Cell Press and The Lancet).
    • The UC libraries will automatically pay the first $1,000 of the open access fee, or article processing charge (APC).
    • Authors who lack grant funds for publication costs have the option to receive full payment of the article processing charge from the UC libraries, ensuring that lack of research funds does not present a barrier for UC authors who wish to publish open access in Elsevier journals. 

Open access is presented as the default option for UC corresponding authors, although authors may opt out if they wish.

What about access to other Elsevier materials, like books?

This agreement only applies to Elsevier’s scholarly journals. However, the UC libraries provide access to many other Elsevier materials. If you have a question about access to a specific item, please check UC Library Search (the UC system’s online library catalog) or contact your campus library for assistance.

Are Cell Press and The Lancet titles included?

Beginning September 1, 2022, UC corresponding authors publishing in both hybrid and fully open access Cell Press and Lancet journals who choose to publish open access will receive a 10 percent discount on the article publishing charge (APC), an automatic $1,000 contribution towards the APC from the UC libraries, and the option to receive full coverage of the APC from the UC libraries if they do not have research funds available to pay the remainder.  

Reading access to Cell Press and Lancet journals, as well as funding support for authors publishing in fully open access Cell Press and The Lancet titles, have been available from the start of the agreement in 2021.

Why did UC enter into this agreement?

The agreement accomplishes the university’s two goals for all publisher agreements: enabling universal open access to UC research; and 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.  

Ultimately, UC’s goal is to make it possible for all authors to publish their work open access in whatever journal they choose — providing broad public access to UC research. 

Why do we think this model will control costs and promote open access?

The agreement includes full open access journals, where cost controls previously did not exist; article processing changes that were being paid by UC authors are now incorporated in and controlled under the financial agreement for UC. This restrains overall growth in open access spending, which had been rapid and unmanaged.  

The agreement also lowers UC costs relative to what they would have been had we continued a subscription agreement with Elsevier. 

Impact for Authors

Am I affected by this agreement?

Yes, if you are (1) a UC affiliate (faculty, lecturer, staff, graduate student), AND 2) you are the article’s corresponding author, AND (3) you choose to publish your article open access in Elsevier’s titles (see below under “Which journals are included in the agreement?”). Authors at all ten campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are included in the agreement.

When you choose to publish your article open access in these Elsevier journals, UC has negotiated a deal that makes it more cost effective for you to do so. If you want to publish in Elsevier journals but do not want your article to be open access, you can still publish your article as paywalled content (and therefore available only to those with a paid subscription to the journal). 

In addition, all UC faculty, lecturers, staff, and students have access to read articles published in Elsevier journals the libraries subscribed to before, plus additional journals to which UC previously did not subscribe.

Who is considered a corresponding author?

Elsevier defines the corresponding author as the individual who takes primary responsibility for communication with the journal during the manuscript submission, peer review, and publication process. Normally, the corresponding author also ensures that all the journal’s administrative requirements, such as providing details of authorship, ethics committee approval, clinical trial registration documentation, and gathering conflict of interest forms and statements, are properly completed, although these duties may be delegated to one or more co-authors.

Why am I being asked to use grant money?

The UC libraries are committed to paying a substantial share of the article processing charge for all UC authors, including a full payment for authors who do not have grant funds available. However, the libraries’ budget alone cannot cover the full cost of open access publishing for every UC author while also continuing to pay for subscription access where needed.

Every author contribution is important and significant, because even with library support, authors’ research funds continue to play a critical role in funding open access publication. The funding model for this agreement depends upon authors who do have funds paying their share of the APC. 

In general, publication costs can be charged to federal grants in the U.S. By contributing grant funds, particularly from federal agencies, UC authors demonstrate their commitment to making their publicly-funded research accessible to the public. Such payment is compliant with federal public access policies (although other routes to compliance, such as open access repository deposit, are also available to authors). Additionally, participating in this way ensures the pool of available funds for UC authors who do not have grant funding will be available to support their open access publishing.

What if I don't have any grant money? Can I still publish open access with Elsevier?

You can still publish your article open access. If you do not have grant money, or your grant funds are insufficient to cover the remainder of the article processing charge beyond the libraries’ standard contribution, the UC libraries will pay your full article processing charge.

What types of publications are covered by this agreement?

All articles included in the journals outlined below are covered by this agreement (see under “Which journals are included in the agreement?”), as long as they have the option for paying a fee for open access (an article processing charge). These include:

  • full length articles
  • short communications
  • short surveys
  • reviews
  • data in brief
  • case reports
  • microarticles
  • original software publications
  • video articles
  • insights
  • protocols

Which journals are included in the agreement?

The agreement will provide for open access publishing of UC research in Elsevier hybrid and fully open access journals, totaling nearly 2,300 Elsevier journals. As of September 1, 2022, this also includes all Cell Press and The Lancet journals.

A limited number of societies that partner with Elsevier for their publishing have chosen to exclude their journals from transformative agreements, so their journals are not eligible for either reading, publishing, or both under the agreement. 

For specific title details, please see the complete list of titles included in (and excluded from) the agreement (please note that this title list does not yet include the Cell Press and The Lancet hybrid titles that became available for OA publishing support in September 2022; Elsevier is preparing an updated list that will reflect the inclusion of these titles.) Also see the title search feature Elsevier offers for the UC agreement.

If I publish open access under this agreement, will I retain rights/copyright to my own work?

Yes. One of the benefits of publishing open access under this agreement is that you, as the author, retain copyright to your work. The Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license will be the default selection; you may also choose the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY NC ND) license. You can learn more about these Creative Commons license options here or see the Resources section for a link to contact your campus library for more information.

What if I don't want to publish open access? Can I still publish with Elsevier?

Yes. Where and how you publish is your decision. The agreement with Elsevier does not mandate open access publishing nor does it dictate your journal selection. Rather, it makes open access publishing a more affordable option for most Elsevier journals, and you can opt out.

If I publish open access under this agreement, do I still need to deposit the article in eScholarship as well?

Open access publication in an Elsevier journal under this agreement fulfills your obligation to make your article publicly available; all you need to do is provide the link. To do so, use the publication management system if you have access to it; otherwise use the deposit process on eScholarship.

Can I deposit in eScholarship instead of publishing open access under this agreement?

Yes, if you choose not to publish your article open access in the journal itself, you can fulfill the requirement to make it publicly available by depositing the pre-publication author’s accepted manuscript in eScholarship instead. However, if you decide to publish open access in the journal itself, you can do so at no cost to you: The UC libraries will pay the entire article publishing fee for you if you do not have research funds available.

How does this agreement support my rights as an author and my ability to share my work?

As part of the UC agreement, Elsevier no longer requires authors to waive UC Open Access policies — an important change that clarifies the broad rights UC authors have to reuse and share their work. This change applies to all UC authors, not only corresponding authors, and to all articles with UC authors, not only those published open access under the UC agreement. In addition, Elsevier has committed to remove this Open Access policy waiver requirement not only for UC authors, but for all authors worldwide.

Payment Workflow

If I choose to publish open access, how do payments work?

If you are a UC corresponding author of an Elsevier article in one of the eligible journals, at the time your article is accepted, you will be presented with the option for open access publication, which will appear as a default choice. Some key aspects of the workflow:

Indicating UC affiliation: In order to be included under the UC agreement, at step one of the rights and access workflow, corresponding authors will need to select their institution name from the predefined list that appears. When authors begin to type their UC institution’s name in the search box provided, the predefined list will appear. While it is possible to provide a full institutional name through free-text typing, authors will not be included under the UC agreement unless they select their institution from the predefined list.

Making choice regarding contribution of research funds: At the “publishing options” step, authors have the opportunity to elect open access, and they will see a contribution of $1,000 from the UC libraries towards the open access fee for the article being made automatically. If there is any remaining balance due on the fee (beyond the $1,000), UC authors are asked to indicate whether they have research funding available to cover the balance. If not, the UC libraries will pay the rest of the open access fee as well, and authors will be asked to specify the reason they are not able to contribute research funds. If authors do elect to contribute research grant funds towards the remaining balance, they will be asked to supply invoicing information for payment. The UC library payments will be handled directly between the UC libraries and Elsevier with no action required by the author.

Providing invoicing information: Authors who elect to contribute research funds to cover the remainder of the open access fee will be asked to specify an institutional billing address where the invoice should be sent for the portion of the APC to be paid with research funds. For details regarding how to complete that information, or about other payment processes, please consult your PI, research group, department head, or sponsored projects/research office for best practices. 

Authors also have the option to decline open access and publish their articles on a subscription (pay-to-read) basis if they so choose.

Can I ask my campus open access fund to cover the balance of the Article Processing Charge?

No, because campus open access publishing funds are set up to provide funding support in cases where there is no other source of funds available to the author. If you do not have sufficient research funds to cover the remaining balance of the article processing charge after the UC libraries’ discount and $1,000 subvention have been applied, you should indicate within the Elsevier workflow process that you are seeking full funding of the APC from the UC libraries. If you request this full funding from the UC libraries, you will not be billed for any portion of the APC.

Resources

Where can I go for more information?

Where can I learn about the background of UC’s negotiations with Elsevier to reach this agreement?

Press materials, faculty statements of support for UC’s position during the negotiations, and other background from 2019 to 2021 can be found here.

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