Breaking: University of California strikes landmark open access deal with publishing giant Elsevier

TO: The UC Berkeley academic community

FROM: Paul Alivisatos, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Jeff MacKie-Mason, University Librarian and Professor
Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, Chair, Academic Senate, Berkeley Division
Thomas Dandelet, Chair, Academic Senate Library Committee

Tuesday, March 16, 2021
RE: University of California strikes landmark open access deal with Elsevier

Dear campus community,

The University of California has struck a deal with Elsevier, the largest academic publisher in the world — a landmark victory for the university and for open access publishing.

The transformative agreement comes after a much-publicized split between UC and the publishing giant, and more than two years of negotiations. The deal is the culmination of UC faculty members, librarians, and leaders coming together and standing strong in our efforts to make UC research freely available to everyone, and to transform scholarly publishing for the better.

The four-year agreement — going into effect on April 1, 2021 — restores UC’s direct online access to Elsevier journals and doubles the number of articles covered by UC’s open access agreements.

The outcome aligns with the university’s goals of making UC research freely available for all and containing the excessive costs that come with licensing journals. These goals support UC as a responsible steward of public funds and as a public university that strives to make knowledge available for everyone.

What the agreement means for the UC community

  • Reading access: Effective April 1, UC will regain access to articles published in Elsevier journals the libraries subscribed to before, plus additional journals.
  • Open access publishing in Elsevier journals: The four-year deal will also provide for open access publishing of UC research in nearly 2,300 Elsevier journals from day one. Open access publishing in the Cell Press and Lancet families of journals will be available as early as April 2022. UC’s deal is the first in the world to provide for open access publishing across the entire suite of these prestigious journals.
  • Library support for open access publishing: All articles with a UC corresponding author will be open access by default, with the Library automatically paying the first $1,000 of the open access fee (also known as an article publishing charge or APC). Authors will be asked to pay the remainder of the APC if they have research funds available to do so.
  • Discounts on publishing: To lower those costs even further for authors, UC has negotiated a 15 percent discount on the APCs for most Elsevier journals. The discount is 10 percent for the Cell Press and Lancet families of journals.
  • Full funding support for those who need it: To ensure that all authors have the opportunity to publish their work open access, the Library will cover the full amount of the APC for those who do not have sufficient research funds for the author share. Authors may also opt out of open access publishing if they wish.

The economics of the deal

As with UC’s other recent open access agreements, the Elsevier deal integrates Library and author payments into a single cost-controlled contract. Under this shared funding model, the Library can reallocate a portion of our journals budget to help subsidize authors’ APCs — assistance that makes it easier and more affordable for authors to choose to publish open access.

Even with Library support, authors’ research funds continue to play a critical role. This funding model works only if authors who do have funds pay their share of the APC. In the other open access agreements UC has implemented, we are already seeing a significant proportion of authors paying their share of the APC. If this promising trend continues, UC can blaze a path to full open access that is sustainable across ever more publishers.

In other open access news …

Meanwhile, the university continues to forge partnerships with publishers of all types and sizes. Just this month, UC signed open access agreements with three more not-for-profit and society publishers — The Company of Biologists, The Royal Society, and Canadian Science Publishing. These agreements are in addition to previous deals with Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press, society publisher ACM, and native open access publishers PLOS and JMIR.

Ultimately, UC’s goal is to make it possible for all authors to publish their work open access in whatever journal they choose — letting even more people enjoy the fruits of UC’s research. This month, we have made a tremendous stride in that direction.

This has been a long process, and we warmly thank all of you for your support and patience. It was worth it!

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Library at You can also read more on Berkeley News.

A. Paul Alivisatos
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Jeff MacKie-Mason
University Librarian and Professor

Jennifer Johnson-Hanks
Chair, Academic Senate, Berkeley Division

Thomas Dandelet
Chair, Academic Senate Library Committee