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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, had these aims:

  1. support full and immediate open access to research
  2. reduce and constrain costs
  3. build confidence that the charges for the Elsevier agreement are fair and reasonable
  4. deliver full compliance with funder policies and improvements in service.

The aim of the negotiations was 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 ended on 31 December 2021, but an extension was granted so that no access was lost whilst negotiations continue.

Negotiations progress

The seventh proposal from Elsevier met the key requirements set out at the start of the negotiations and has been formally accepted by the UK HE sector.

The read-and-publish deal provides full and immediate open access to research outputs published in the vast majority of Elsevier journals. There are some exceptions, particularly with some publications published by Elsevier on behalf of learned societies. But in the majority of cases, this means that articles published in Elsevier journals will be compliant with the new UKRI policy on research outputs which launches on 1 April 2022.

Subscription costs will reduce by around 15% to read the Elsevier journal titles that we currently subscribe to. This fee will now also cover the cost to publish in all hybrid titles published by Elsevier, which was previously an extra charge. There will still be an article processing charge to publish in Elsevier’s wholly open access (also known as gold) titles, but a 15% reduction will be applied to that charge.

The deal also constrains the costs for reading and publishing articles. It is a 3-year deal, and price increases are capped at 1% for year 2, and 2% for year 3, giving budget certainty over the life of the deal.

The education sector and Jisc will continue to work together to monitor how well this deal serves the sector and to make sure that the costs of making UK research outputs openly available remain transparent and affordable.

Why are these negotiations important?

UK universities were 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 spent 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.

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: