UC terminates subscriptions with Elsevier in push for open access to publicly funded research

TO: The UC Berkeley academic community

FROM: Paul Alivisatos, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Barbara Spackman, Chair, Academic Senate - Berkeley Division
Jeff MacKie-Mason, University Librarian and Professor

RE: Outcome of UC Negotiations with Elsevier

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to share the outcome of the University of California’s negotiations to renew its systemwide license with scholarly journal publisher Elsevier, which have been underway for many months.

What’s happening

While we did make progress, particularly in the past few weeks, toward defining a model for open access publishing of UC research, Elsevier was ultimately unwilling to meet UC’s key goal: securing universal open access to UC research, as stated in UC’s faculty-driven principles on scholarly communication, while integrating open access publishing fees and subscription fees into a single cost-controlled contract.

The Academic Senate today also expressed its support for UC’s position with regard to the Elsevier negotiations.

In the end, cost, in particular, proved to be an insurmountable challenge. For example, Elsevier’s most recent proposal did not include any cap on the total amount UC faculty could end up paying in article publishing fees. Their model also would not have allowed us to fully subsidize article fees for authors who lack the funds themselves. To meet UC’s goal of open access publication for all UC authors, Elsevier would have charged authors over $10 million per year in addition to the libraries’ current multimillion-dollar subscription. The university is not willing to accept a deal that increases Elsevier’s profits at the expense of our faculty. As a result, UC has announced that it will not be signing a new contract with Elsevier at this time.

While we do not know exactly when, Elsevier is expected to begin limiting UC’s access to new articles through its online platform, ScienceDirect, possibly very soon. This will mean some changes to how UC scholars access certain Elsevier journal articles.

What content will — and won’t — be affected

• What is affected: At some point, Elsevier may begin to turn off UC’s direct access to articles with a 2019 publish date and the backfiles of certain journals (download list). However, open access versions of many of these articles are available. Visit alternative access to Elsevier articles on the Library’s website for advice on where and how to look. You can also submit a request, and the Library can help you get a copy of the final, published version of an article.

• Most Elsevier articles published in 2018 or earlier will still be accessible via ScienceDirect. Because UC’s prior contracts included permanent access to previously published content, you will still be able to get immediate access to the full text of most articles via Elsevier’s ScienceDirect backfiles, just as you have in the past.

• Open access articles in Elsevier journals are also unaffected. Many authors choose to pay an open access fee (called an article processing charge, or APC) when they publish, so it’s always worth checking to see if the article you’re seeking is available open access from the journal’s website or elsewhere online. Learn more about how to search for open access versions.

• Elsevier e-books and other products licensed by UC (e.g., Compendex, Reaxys) or by UC Berkeley (e.g., Scopus, Mendeley, Embase) are covered under separate contracts and remain available as before.

Learn more

Find the latest information on the Library’s Elsevier journal negotiations page.

If you have any questions or need help accessing an article, please don’t hesitate to email the Library at scholarly-resources@lists.berkeley.edu at any time.

Paul Alivisatos
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Barbara Spackman
Chair, Academic Senate - Berkeley Division

Jeff MacKie-Mason
University Librarian and Professor