UC’s process for developing transformative open access agreements includes two phases: 
(1) prioritizing which publishers to partner with, and 
(2) evaluating the terms of any proposed agreement.

Process for prioritizing publishers 

UC’s prioritizes which publishers to work with in negotiating transformative agreements by assessing the volume of UC publishing output, the opportunities for productive results with a given publisher, and whether a publisher is commercial, not-for-profit, or a scholarly society.


We assess publishing output as a quantitative measure, using commercially available tools to determine the number of UC-authored publications per year. We generally target publishers based on the scale of UC-authored article publishing. By shifting the largest number of articles to open access, we can make a greater impact.  


Because we are committed to partnering with publishers of all types, sizes, and disciplines, we have also incorporated criteria for assessing the opportunity for working with publishers with lower levels of UC publication.

We assess opportunity as a qualitative measure of the potential for the engagement to succeed for UC and to advance open access in the broader publishing environment. Factors include:

  • A publisher’s level of alignment with UC’s academic mission and values, commitment to a transition to full open access, and willingness to work in partnership;
  • Whether a publisher has a compatible business model or is willing to shape one with us;
  • Whether there is faculty advocacy;
  • Whether there is a collaborative opportunity with other institutions; and
  • Whether the agreement would set a positive precedent beyond UC, having impact on the broader scholarly publishing system.

Evaluation and prioritization 

We rank publishers with both high output and high opportunity as having the most strategic potential. Agreements with these publishers are expected to yield high impact by making more articles open, and are more likely to be implemented efficiently and successfully.

We also look to publishers with lower UC research output but a high opportunity for success, particularly if there is strong faculty advocacy, potential to quickly implement our model, or an opportunity to partner with a trusted scholarly society to build a path to open access that could apply to other institutions.

While this ranking process helps us focus strategically, we acknowledge its limitations. Our rankings of “opportunity” are inherently subjective, reflecting only what we know about a given publisher, our time and capacity to analyze relevant information, and our understanding of the scholarly publishing landscape as a whole.

Process for evaluating proposed agreements

Transformative agreements are those that substantially shift payments for subscriptions (reading) into payments for open access (publishing). Most such agreements are intended to be transitional — a step on the path toward full open access. 

UC seeks transformative agreements that adhere to the following guidelines, which derive from the principles set forth by key UC stakeholder groups and outlined in the documents linked at the bottom of this page.

Agreement characteristics

Agreements should include comprehensive open access for UC corresponding authors across a publisher’s full journals portfolio. 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.  Instead of a copyright transfer, a publisher’s license-to-publish agreements with authors should seek only a limited or non-exclusive license. When authors choose to publish an open access article under a Creative Commons license that restricts readers’ ability to make commercial uses or distribute derivative works, those restrictions apply to readers, not authors. Authors retain the right to make, and authorize, commercial use and derivative works.

Subscription fees should be redirected into fees for publication, without double payments, to effect a comprehensive transition from one type of fee structure to the other.

The business model governing the agreement may involve per-article payments or other mechanisms, as long as the terms are consistent with UC’s other guidelines. There are advantages to per-article payment models (e.g., article processing charges or APCs) that encourage price sensitivity, and to alternatives (e.g., “subscribe-to-open”) that obviate such payments and reduce barriers to publication for authors in lower income countries. UC will consider various business models as long as they are consistent with our other guidelines.

Agreements that include individual article charges generally should support a multi-payer workflow. A multi-payer workflow combines institutional funds and research funds deployed by authors in an efficient and unified workflow. Integrating multiple funding streams brings together the two primary sources of publishing funding — library budgets and researcher funds — ensuring an economic stake in the transaction for both libraries and authors and enabling the library to extend its financial support for authors across a broader portfolio of publisher agreements.

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 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 output while limiting financial risk. Financial terms should adapt to changes in institutional publishing output, while protecting both libraries and publishers from excessive financial risk. 

Terms should be publicly disclosable. Full transparency promotes a healthy and economically sustainable scholarly ecosystem, particularly as business models evolve. It is also consistent with our status as a public university, subject to the Public Records Act of California.

Transformative open access agreements should encompass a broad range of strategies for achieving an open and sustainable scholarly communication ecosystem. UC’s principles for advancing open scholarship (articulated in the documents linked at the bottom of this page) include 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 reinvested principally in activities led by members of the academy to advance the academic mission, will receive more favorable pricing consideration in our assessments of overall value.

Publisher policies and business plans should demonstrate a commitment to transitioning to full open access 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 to advance the transition to open access, including active partnership in developing new workflows and meaningful collaboration with other institutions to build models that can achieve broad uptake within the academic community.

Want to know more?

For more context regarding the goals and foundations for UC’s open access agreements, see:

Please email osc@ucop.edu if: 

  • You are a UC author or staff member and have questions or feedback to offer, or
  • You are a publisher interested in pursuing a transformative agreement with UC.