In this document we set forth guidelines that the University of California (UC) applies when evaluating systemwide transformative agreements with publishers. Transformative agreements are those that substantially shift payments for subscriptions (reading) into payments for open access (publishing). By intention and design, most such agreements are transitional and thus these guidelines are intended to be used during the years of transition to full open access.  

Transformative agreements — and behavior by publishing partners — should exhibit these characteristics for an agreement to be recommended for adoption at UC.  

UC’s goal of overall expenditure reduction for its journals portfolio provides important context for these guidelines. Within that overall goal, our assessment of publication value along with the degree of conformity to the guidelines in this document may warrant some variation in the level of expenditure UC is willing to make for any particular agreement. Given the goal of overall expenditure reduction, total expenditure in a given agreement will be a more important consideration for larger (more expensive) deals.

These guidelines are derived from the principles set forth by key UC stakeholder groups engaged in shaping our open access efforts. Many of those principles were presented in documents listed in Sources, below.

Agreement characteristics

Agreements should include comprehensive open access for UC corresponding authors across a publisher’s full journals portfolio

We seek a fully open system in which all UC authors are able to publish their work open access in all of the journals in which they choose to publish. If no open access option is currently available for some journals within a publisher’s portfolio, the publisher should demonstrate a commitment to extending open access to those journals over the course of the agreement.  

Authors should retain copyright in their articles, with publishers provided an appropriate use license

Publishers may be granted limited publishing rights (including for articles, if any, licensed by subscription rather than published open access), but authors should retain all rights not explicitly ceded to publishers, including, for example, rights over text and data mining and content reuse.

Subscription fees should be redirected into fees for publication, without double payments

Fees for publication should fully offset subscription charges to effect a comprehensive transition from one type of fee structure to the other.

The business model governing the agreement may involve payments at the article level or other mechanisms, as long as the terms are consistent with the other guidelines enunciated here

The UC will consider agreements that are based on article processing charges (APCs) or on other payment structures. There are advantages to per-article payment models that encourage price sensitivity; and to alternatives (such as “subscribe-to-open”) that obviate such payments, such as avoiding barriers to publication for authors in lower income countries. We will consider all business models as long as they are consistent with the guidelines set forth in this document.

Agreements that include individual article charges generally should support a multi-payer workflow 

A multi-payer workflow combines institutional funds and research funds deployed directly by authors at the point of acceptance in an efficient and unified workflow. While there may be convincing exceptions, in general, integrating multiple funding streams: brings together the two primary sources of publishing funding (library budgets and researcher funds); ensures an economic stake in the transaction for both libraries and authors; and enables the library to extend its financial support for authors across a broader portfolio of publisher agreements (including both existing subscription and native OA publishers).  

Prices should be set at reasonable levels, and publishers should be transparent about the services provided

Reasonable prices, including per-article fees where applicable, are those that do not generate excessive levels of profit or surplus. Transparency about the services and the publisher’s costs for providing them supports meaningful comparison and assessment.

Financial terms that are based on publication activity should be responsive to publishing activity levels while limiting financial risk

The financial terms governing transformative OA agreements should adapt to changes in institutional publishing output in concrete ways where applicable, while protecting both libraries and publishers from excessive financial risk.  

Terms should be publicly disclosable 

We believe full transparency promotes a healthy and economically sustainable scholarly ecosystem.  This is particularly important in the current environment of rapidly evolving business and service models. Full transparency is also consistent with our status as a public university, subject to the Public Records Act of California.

Transformative OA agreements should encompass a broad range of strategies for achieving an open and sustainable scholarly communication ecosystem

UC has articulated numerous specific objectives and criteria in the Sources below that are designed to advance a more open environment for scholarship and research, including automatic deposit into UC’s eScholarship repository, broad use rights for subscription content that reflect academic values and norms, and the adoption of open metadata standards. These elements should be included in any agreements we sign. 

Publisher characteristics

Publisher alignment with academic mission and values  

Publishers whose fiduciary mission is to advance academic research and teaching and whose surpluses are re-invested principally in activities led by members of the academy to advance the academic mission will receive more favorable pricing consideration in our evaluations of overall value.

Publisher policies and plans should include a commitment to a full OA transition  

Publishers should demonstrate a commitment to transitioning to full OA within a reasonable, well-defined timeframe.

Willingness to work in partnership 

We seek to work with publishers who are engaging with libraries positively and proactively in achieving open access transition goals, including active partnership in developing new workflows and meaningful collaboration with other institutions to develop models that can achieve broad uptake within the academic community.


UCOLASC’s Declaration of Rights and Principles to Transform Scholarly Communication (April 2018):

UCOLASC Endorsement of Priorities for the CoUL Publisher Negotiation Task Force (May 2018):

SLASIAC’s Negotiating Journal Agreements at UC: A Call to Action (June 2018):