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Open Access: A Deal With Springer, Negotiations Continue With Elsevier

By MacKenzie Smith and Dennis J. Ventry Jr. on June 16, 2020 in University

A letter from MacKenzie Smith, university librarian and vice provost of Digital Scholarship; and Dennis J. Ventry Jr., professor of law and chair of the Academic Senate’s University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication:


In the midst of very challenging times, we are pleased to share good news. The University of California has reached a transformative open-access agreement with Springer Nature, one of the world’s largest and most respected academic publishers.

Under the agreement, all articles with a UC corresponding author published in more than 2,700 of Springer Nature’s journals will be open access by default, with the library paying a portion of the open-access fee. Authors without available funds for the remainder of the publishing fee can request that the library cover the entire amount. Authors may also opt out of open-access publishing if they wish.

While open-access publishing in the most well-known Nature journals is not initially included, the deal commits Springer Nature and UC to collaborating on an open-science pilot in 2021 and developing plans for a transformative agreement for all of the Nature journals to be implemented in the third year of the agreement.

The deal also includes access to more than 1,000 journals in Springer Nature’s portfolio to which UC did not previously subscribe.

The open-access publishing provisions will go into effect once the formal agreement has been signed and will run through 2023. More details are available on the UC’s Office of Scholarly Communication website.

Elsevier update

UC’s negotiating team continues to communicate with Elsevier, but progress remains slow. While we know this has been a long process, there continue to be new developments that strengthen our position:

  • COVID-19 — As a recent Los Angeles Times column laid out, the need for access to research has never been clearer. Many publishers, including Elsevier, have temporarily made coronavirus-related articles freely available.
  • Federal policy — The Office of Science and Technology Policy is considering a zero-embargo policy for authors’ final manuscripts for all federally funded research — a change strongly supported by UC’s faculty senate and one that, if adopted, would further incentivize publishers to accelerate their shift toward open access.
  • Actions by other institutions — The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Iowa State University and the State University of New York, or SUNY, all recently ended their “big deal” subscription packages with Elsevier. As the head of UNC’s university library wrote: “UC helped to expose the runaway journal costs that are breaking university and library budgets everywhere [and] the need to increase open access to research, rather than locking it behind steep and rising paywalls.”

Meanwhile, the feedback we received through the UC-wide poll conducted earlier this year confirmed that, while researchers are feeling the impact of UC’s lack of an Elsevier contract — particularly in the health and life sciences — the majority both systemwide and here at UC Davis remain supportive of UC’s position. The library also continues to pursue further improvements to our alternative access services so that we can get you the articles you need more efficiently.

While we don’t yet know what form the final resolution with Elsevier will take, UC remains committed to getting closure on the situation and finding a path forward in the coming months.

Moving forward

The new Springer Nature agreement — the largest open-access agreement in North America to date — is an exciting note on which to end the academic year. Over the course of the year, UC has also implemented four other transformative open-access agreements, with a diverse range of publishers — Cambridge University Press, society publisher ACM, and native open-access publishers JMIR and PLoS) — and conversations with other publishers are still underway.

Together, these deals demonstrate the broad potential of UC’s approach to transform scholarly publishing in the United States to a sustainable, open-access model, and to provide broad public access to the fruits of UC’s research.

We will continue to keep you apprised of any new agreements or other notable developments. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the library at any time.

MacKenzie Smith
University Librarian
Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship

Dennis J. Ventry Jr.
Professor of Law
Chair, Academic Senate University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication

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