Clearly articulated and broadly supported goals should be established prior to entering publisher negotiations. These serve as a touchstone throughout the negotiation process.


1. Develop a university-wide coalition.

Establishing shared negotiation goals for transformative open access requires a strong alliance between your administration, faculty, and library. Identify existing or establish new committees to appropriately support active participation and provide ongoing input.

2. Prioritize a partnership between the library and faculty.

The work of the faculty and library must be mutually reinforcing; from developing goals and a comprehensive strategy to signing (or not signing) an agreement, the faculty and library need to be working in partnership. At UC, the faculty representatives on UC’s negotiation task force are key faculty leaders who are dedicated to both the negotiation and assisting with internal stakeholder engagement.

3. Leverage the growing body of evidence to bolster confidence within your stakeholders.

Successful transformative agreements, as well as the North American and international experience with walkaways, can be utilized to bolster confidence with your stakeholders. For many UC administrators and faculty, knowing that UC was not acting in isolation, but adapting and advancing a new model that better reflected the funding structures of research-intensive institutions in North America, empowered us to take action.

4. Broadly communicate and contextualize your goals well in advance.

In consultation with the appropriate faculty/administration committees or representatives, identify and communicate in advance what underlying principle(s) you are trying to address (e.g., open access, cost), both broadly and in upcoming publisher negotiations. Build on any existing policies or public statements that articulate those principles. For example, UC had faculty senate and presidential policies on open access dating from 2013 and 2015, respectively, which provided an early foundation as we developed our negotiating stance.

5. Socialize and secure support for potential outcomes.

In setting publisher negotiation goals, it is important to acknowledge and discuss potential outcomes. If publisher negotiations do not accomplish the desired goals, knowing stakeholder willingness to consider alternatives, including revised goals or foregoing subscription access, will provide clear guidelines for your negotiation team.

Key UC documents and resources

Key community resources

UC’s experience

The development of UC’s overarching negotiation goals involved a partnership between UC faculty, libraries, and administrators. The favorable conditions for these conversations were:

  • UC’s strong and well-respected Academic Senate and attendant committee structure, as well as the corollary administrative committees;
  • a deep history of open access advocacy and action by UC faculty and libraries;
  • the Mellon-funded Pay It Forward study of the financial sustainability of open access through an APC-based model; and
  • ongoing engagement with European countries and consortia who were taking a principled stand in publisher negotiations, and provided encouragement and lessons learned from their own experience.

Three library-focused systemwide committees informed the development of UC’s negotiation goals:

Starting in early 2017, based on deliberations and votes in the systemwide Academic Senate library committee and local campus faculty senate committees, several individual UC campuses became signatories to the OA2020 Expression of Interest. These discussions increased faculty awareness of and support for the strategy of redirecting subscription expenditures to support open access, while affirming the many flexible ways in which such redirection might occur.

At the beginning of 2018, a draft of the Declaration of Rights and Principles to Transform Scholarly Communication was developed and discussed by faculty in the systemwide Academic Senate library committee. This document sought to “align our institutional policies and practices toward the goal of replacing subscription-based publishing with open access […] when negotiating with publishers during journal license renewals,” and was finalized after consultation with the other systemwide library and faculty committees, as well as colleagues from like-minded institutions.

At the same time, the library leadership committee initiated the creation of a comprehensive overview of open access strategies and options for UC, published in February 2018 as the Pathways to OA. This report exemplifies UC’s deliberate big-tent approach towards open access that embraces many pathways and allows different approaches to flourish.[1] The library leadership committee also spent a significant amount of time discussing the financial strain on UC’s licensing coalition through ever-increasing costs, and presented an analysis to the systemwide Council of Vice Chancellors in April 2018.

In the context of these discussions around journal affordability, open access, and a faculty-driven desire for transformative action, the systemwide provostial scholarly communication committee tasked a subgroup of librarians and faculty to produce a practical framing document to contextualize the Principles and Pathways in preparation for upcoming publisher negotiations. This effort resulted in the publication of Negotiating Journal Agreements at UC: A Call to Action (more context here), which articulates the stance that has guided UC in negotiations ever since:

“We believe the time has come to address these issues [cost reduction and open access] head-on through a combined strategy that places the need to reduce the University’s expenditures for academic journal subscriptions in the service of the larger goal of transforming journal publishing to open access.”

This call to action exemplifies one of UC’s pathways to open access (to leverage publisher negotiations to effect a transition to open access), and adds UC’s voice to the global coalition already taking a strong stand for transformative open access agreements with publishers.

[1] UC convened 125 representatives of libraries, consortia, and author communities throughout North America in the Choosing Pathways to OA workshop in October 2018, supporting an even broader deliberation of a plethora of open access approaches, culminating in individual and institutional commitments to take action.