Deadline looms as UK universities reject Elsevier deal

Publishing giant’s offer fails to meet goals of reducing costs and supporting rapid switch to open access, says sector

十月 29, 2021
Rejection of deal, illustrating an article about open access negotiations, the HE sector, Elsevier and Jisc
Source: iStock

UK universities’ negotiations with Elsevier have hit an impasse with just two months left on the current deal, after the sector rejected the academic publishing giant’s latest offer.

University leaders said that Elsevier’s proposals did not meet its core goals, “to reduce costs to levels which are sustainable and facilitate rapid transition to full and immediate open access to UK research”.

The current agreement allowing UK-based researchers to read content in more than 1,800 Elsevier journals – a deal that is worth more than £50 million annually – will expire on 31 December this year.

If a deal cannot be struck before then, the UK would join major sectors including California and Germany, which have gone without access to Elsevier journals for extended periods in a bid to force a swifter transition to open access.

In a joint statement, UK higher education leaders said that they were “fully committed” to the approach of their negotiating team.

“UK universities have agreed a set of negotiation objectives that reflect our shared desire to foster open research,” the statement said. “We welcome the progress the Elsevier negotiation team has made with Elsevier over recent months, whilst noting their advice that the current proposal does not yet deliver against the sector’s requirements.

“We hope both parties can continue to work together to achieve a more equitable agreement which allows for the sector-wide management of the open access transition.”

The current Elsevier deal, which started in 2017, is the UK’s biggest such journal agreement. Last year, Elsevier received £42 million in subscription fees for reading access, plus £7.2 million in payments made to make journal articles available on an open access basis in hybrid journals.

Sector technology body Jisc, which is facilitating the negotiations, said that expenditure would exceed more than £50 million in 2021. In 2019, 34 per cent of the total amount paid to the 12 biggest journal publishers via Jisc agreements went to Elsevier, an arrangement that institutions described as “not sustainable or affordable”. The next deal “must result in a material reduction in expenditure”, they said.

Meanwhile, only around a quarter of UK-authored articles published with Elsevier are available on an open access basis, and universities are keen to accelerate the transition away from the subscription model. Under the new open access policy published by the country’s main funder, UK Research and Innovation, all publicly funded research must be made freely available at the point of publication from April 2022 onwards.

Jisc said that Elsevier was the only major publisher “that does not have an agreement in place with UK universities that enables academics to both freely read and to freely publish the version of record immediately open access in compliance with funder policies”.

Liam Earney, executive director of digital resources at Jisc, said that a revised proposal had been requested from Elsevier.

“We will continue to work alongside the sector and negotiate on their behalf to help them achieve an agreement which provides full and immediate open access to research, reduces expenditure with Elsevier to a cost that universities can sustain and which helps them realise their education and research ambitions,” he said.

In March 2021, after a two-year stalemate, the University of California signed a contract with the publishing giant that largely met the system’s demands, including cutting overall costs and the using author-paid fees to let readers see articles without buying subscriptions.

German universities have been without access to Elsevier journals since 2018 after negotiations between the two sides broke down.

An Elsevier spokeswoman said the publisher was “engaging constructively” with Jisc and emphasised that there “has been progress in our negotiations over recent months”.

“Elsevier understands the pressures that UK universities are under and, consistent with Jisc’s priorities, we continue to work collaboratively to achieve an equitable agreement which enables sector-wide transition to open access,” she said.



  • 注册是免费的,而且十分便捷
  • 注册成功后,您每月可免费阅读3篇文章
  • 订阅我们的邮件
Please 登录 or 注册 to read this article.


Reader's comments (2)

With Elsevier refusing to publish peer reviewed papers their globalist masters don't like perhaps the UK Universities have more grounds to refuse the deal than is being made public?
Universities should have in house journals and staff should publish in them. Why bother with the likes of Elsevier? If indeed the quality of a paper is to be judged based only on the paper and not on the journal (the fundamental argument that REF is making) then why bother with outside journals? As for anyone making the argument that it might be valued outside of the UK. Why would you want to go and work for a place where they couldn't read your work and make up their minds about the quality of your research? The current system is a totally useless system and ripe for disruption if the renk seekers and gatekeepers would allow it.