UC libraries have initiated open access to university-authored research with two new publication contracts announced in the new year, while the contracts with research giant Elsevier and other publishers remain in flux.
Following the university’s decision in February 2019 to forego a contract renewal with Elsevier — the largest scientific research publisher in the world — after they were unable to reach an agreement allowing public access to UC research, the university in July 2019 lost instant access to Elsevier articles published after January 2019. According to campus librarian Jeff MacKie-Mason, the university has plans to meet with Elsevier early this semester in an “all-day workshop to find common ground.”
“It would be wonderful (if the contract is renewed),” said Berkeley Divisional Chair for the Academic Council Oliver O’Reilly. “It would mean faculty research published in Elsevier journals would have open access to every researcher in the world.”
MacKie-Mason added in an email that should the workshop be productive, he hopes negotiations with Elsevier will reopen. A UC Berkeley Library press release added that Elsevier has signed open access agreements with other institutions, which could indicate that the publisher is prepared to “discuss deals that align with UC’s goals.”
In an effort to promote widespread access to research, the UC system has entered two new open access agreements to make UC-published research widely available at low cost, according to the press release. These two agreements mark the first of their kind within the UC system to promote public access to university research and to eliminate or reduce author fees, the release stated.
The first is a three-year agreement with the Association for Computing Machinery that would eliminate author fees for open access. The UC system also entered a two-year pilot agreement with the Journal of Medical Internet Research Publications, in which UC libraries would cover the first $1,000 of author fees and provide financial assistance for authors thereafter.
The university has also renewed its existing contracts with publishers Wiley and Springer Nature but is in the process of negotiating to reach a “transformative agreement” with the two, combining the UC system’s subscription with open access to UC research, according to the release.
“From the standpoint of a student, I feel thankful that these smaller agreements have taken place with an agreement to open access,” said ASUC Senator Liam Will. “However, since Elsevier is such a large platform … I hope (the other agreements do) not sway away from the momentum that has been built to reach an agreement with Elsevier.”
Will, who was a campus representative on the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication, said an economic barrier to accessing research could prevent the campus from “producing our best work.”
Each UC campus has created a survey to gauge how the lack of instant access to Elsevier’s journals has impacted students and faculty, which Will said can show the publisher how the reduced access has affected university research.
“All of society — especially those areas with lower income who can’t afford to pay for subscriptions — will be better off if scientific results are freely available,” MacKie-Mason said in an email. “The UC has decided the time has come to use its size and leverage to accelerate the transition to full open access.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Liam Will represented UC Berkeley in contract negotiations with Elsevier. In fact, Will was a campus representative on the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication but not in Elsevier contract negotiations.