In June 2020, the University of California (UC) and Springer Nature announced that they have entered into a groundbreaking transformative open access agreement, the first such agreement Springer Nature has established in the United States, and the largest transformative open access agreement in North America to date.  The agreement will enable UC authors who publish with Springer Nature to make their research freely available to the world to read, and will also expand UC’s access to Springer Nature’s subscription journals. Through the agreement, the UC libraries are providing funding to support open access publishing fees for UC authors who publish with Springer Nature journals (including fully covering those fees for authors who do not have research funds available for this purpose) by redirecting funds previously devoted to subscription fees. In addition, the agreement adds reading access to more than 1,000 journals in Springer Nature’s portfolio, along with perpetual access rights to all journals for which there is read access. 

Agreement Basics

This four-year agreement runs from 2020 through 2023, and incorporates open access publishing in support of UC’s mission. In addition, it expands UC’s reading access to 1,000 more Springer titles, and upholds the university’s goal to manage its costs for academic journal subscriptions responsibly.  

The publishing aspects of the agreement will be implemented in three phases. 

Phase I: to begin later in 2020 — Open access publishing at no cost to authors  

In phase I, to begin later in 2020, all articles by UC corresponding authors that are accepted for publication in Springer’s subscription-based journals will be published open access at no cost to the author, including Springer, Adis, and Palgrave Macmillan titles, as well as academic journals on Open access publishing will be the default for UC authors, but authors may choose to opt out.  This phase will begin after the formal contract is signed (anticipated in the third quarter of 2020) and Springer Nature, working with UC, has put in place the mechanisms necessary to identify UC authors.    

Phase II: to begin in 2021 —  Open access with UC libraries contribution to open access publishing fees 

In January 2021, a full open access workflow will be in place, through which the UC libraries will pay at least the first $1,000 toward the open access fee (called an Article Processing Charge or APC) ), for all subscription and full open access titles in the Springer portion of the Springer Nature portfolio, as indicated in the table below.  If there is any remaining balance due on the fee, the Springer Nature payment system will ask UC authors if they have research funding available to cover the balance. This cost-sharing model is designed to enable the UC libraries to stretch their available funds and support as many authors as possible. 

If an author does not have research funds available to cover that difference, the UC libraries will pay the entire Article Processing Charge on the author’s behalf, ensuring that lack of research funds does not present a barrier for UC authors who wish to publish open access in these Springer Nature journals. 

Phase III starts in 2022 and involves the integration of Nature branded journals into the open access publishing part of the agreement (see additional details below). 

The agreement includes the following titles and timeline for reading access and open access publishing support:

Springer Nature title category/imprint Reading Access OA Publishing 2020
(Phase I)
OA Publishing 2021
(Phase II)
OA Publishing 2022
(Phase III)
Academic journals on
Palgrave Macmillan
Nature Research and Review journals Selective ✔* ✔*
BioMed Central
Springer Open
Nature full OA journals (Scientific Reports and Nature Communications) (✔)**
Academic journals on (✔)**

* Open science pilot and transformative path to open access publishing to be developed by UC and Springer Nature in 2021, with a more comprehensive OA agreement to be implemented in 2022.
** UC publishing support to be integrated into the agreement as funding allows.

Nature Journals

Open access publishing support for the Nature journals will be implemented in a phased manner during the agreement.   In 2021, UC and Springer Nature will undertake an open science pilot project within the Nature subscription journals. Details of the pilot will be developed in the fall of 2020. The agreement also commits UC and Springer Nature to develop a more comprehensive open access agreement for these prestigious journals, to be available in 2022.  UC’s subscription fees for the Nature journals will be held flat in 2021 while the open access terms are under development.  

Nature’s full open access journals will also be integrated into the agreement as funding allows.  

Article Payment Process

The payment process is still in development, and details will be provided as they are available. The process will vary in Phase I (2020) and Phase II (2021 forward).

Phase I: Once an author identification mechanism is in place later in 2020, if you are a UC corresponding author of a Springer Nature article in one of the eligible journals, at the time your article is accepted, open access publication will be the default option at no cost to you. This is because the UC libraries have already paid Springer Nature a full subscription fee for the 2020 calendar year; in 2021, the library license fees will be transitioned into support for open access article charges. You may still opt out of the open access option and publish your article on a subscription (pay-to-read) basis if you wish to do so.

Phase II: In 2021, open access will continue to be the default for UC corresponding authors. A contribution of $1,000 from the UC libraries towards the open access fee for your article will be made automatically. If there is any remaining balance due on the fee (beyond the $1,000), the Springer Nature system will ask UC authors if they have research funding available to cover the balance and, if not, the UC libraries will pay the rest of the open access fee as well. All UC library payments will be handled directly between the UC libraries and Springer Nature.  Authors will still have the option to decline the open access option and publish their articles on a subscription (pay-to-read) basis if they so choose.


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Last updated October 21, 2020.