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Elsevier negotiations

Elsevier (Science Direct) negotiations

Negotiations for a new agreement between UK Universities and the publisher Elsevier started in March 2021, led by the sector and facilitated by Jisc. Universities, on behalf of their researchers and students, have two main objectives:

  • to reduce costs to sustainable levels
  • to provide full and immediate open access to UK research.

The aim of the negotiations is to secure a read-and-publish agreement that supports immediate open access publishing whilst maintaining access to read paywalled content, for a sustainable fee. These “transitional” or “transformative” agreements are supported by research funders who are signed up to Plan S, with the end goal of achieving full and immediate open access.

Our current Elsevier contract for access to Science Direct will end on 31 December 2021.

Why are these negotiations important?

At present, UK universities are paying a subscription fee to read Elsevier content, whilst also paying article processing charges (APCs) to make research outputs openly available, putting increased pressure on institutional funds and making costs unsustainable. A read-and-publish deal means that the publisher is paid so that we can both read their articles and publish open access articles in their journals under one contract.

Open access makes research available as widely as possible, with as few restrictions as possible, so that knowledge is easily accessible for all. It allows for greater impact, expanding access worldwide and increases the potential for collaborative work to benefit the common good. The University is committed to making the outputs of our research freely accessible so that the widest possible community can benefit from them. Read the University’s publication policy (PDF)

Elsevier’s competitors are all providing integrated contracts for access and open access publishing at a significantly lower cost per article.

Unsustainable costs

The costs of maintaining these traditional read-only subscription arrangements alongside paying to publish are unsustainable. In 2021, UK universities will spend over £50million with Elsevier on subscriptions and APCs, with more than 20,000 UK articles published with Elsevier each year. In 2020 the University of Leeds paid £1million in subscription fees for Elsevier journals and an additional £300,000 to publish papers in those same titles.

Negotiations progress

After several rounds of negotiations Elsevier made an offer for a read and publish deal to the sector. Whilst the offer slightly reduced overall cost, there was a significant increase in the costs of its Lancet and Cell Press titles.

This proposal was rejected by UK Universities as it does not meet the sector's requirements for the following reasons:

  • The sector seeks a 15% reduction in overall payments (subscriptions and article processing charges) to Elsevier. The proposal delivered a reduction overall of 3.1%.
  • The proposal was split into 3 packages: Core (reduction of 8.3%); The Cell Press (increase of 43%); The Lancet (increase of 183%).
  • The proposal set up the Cell Press and The Lancet titles as premium titles, re-basing these titles at a higher price.
  • Institutions that don't take Cell Press and The Lancet titles would be excluded from publishing in these titles.

Elsevier are expected to respond to the rejection of their proposal in November 2021.

Keep in touch

If you would like to be kept informed about the negotiations, please register your interest with this form: Open access publishing

Overview of open access agreements by Jisc

Find out more about the negotiations at the Jisc website.

See how and why Jisc approach negotiating open access agreements on behalf of the UK research community: