University of California secures landmark open access deal with world’s largest scientific publisher

The University of California today (March 16) announced a pioneering open access agreement with the world’s largest scientific publisher, Elsevier, making significantly more of the University’s research available to people worldwide — immediately and at no cost. The deal will put more UC research into the hands of individuals across the globe at a time when international collaboration to fight COVID-19 has illuminated the value of open access to scientific findings.

The agreement is the largest of its kind in North America to date, bringing together UC, which generates nearly 10 percent of all U.S. research output, and Elsevier, which disseminates about 17 percent of journal articles produced by UC faculty. The deal will double the number of articles made available through UC’s transformative open access agreements.

“This groundbreaking agreement will allow for more open, equitable access to information,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “As more universities and research institutions support open access, scientific knowledge will advance at an unparalleled pace.”

Two years after the University cut ties with the publisher in a push for open access to publicly funded research, UC and Elsevier are able to bridge differences and reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial while helping advance the critical work of researchers worldwide. Open access publishing, which makes research freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world, fulfills UC’s mission and has been a University priority since 2013, when the systemwide faculty Academic Senate affirmed its commitment to “disseminating its research and scholarship as widely as possible.”

“This development is a boon for researchers, students and all other members of the public who will be able to read, use and build upon UC’s research and scholarly work,” said Marta Margeta, associate professor of pathology at UC San Francisco and chair of the UC Academic Senate’s University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC). “At all times, and especially now during a global health crisis, openly and rapidly sharing our research can and will save lives.”

Under the four-year deal, all research with a UC lead author published in Elsevier’s extensive portfolio of hybrid and open access journals will be open access by default. It is the first such agreement to include open access publishing in the entire Cell Press and Lancet families of journals, which are considered among the world’s most prestigious scientific and medical titles. University researchers will also be able to read articles published in Elsevier journals.

“Our agreement with UC delivers a real win for the world-class researchers across the UC system, supporting them to publish open access in Elsevier journals and access high-quality, trusted research by others,” said Kumsal Bayazit, chief executive officer of Elsevier. “Both sides showed flexibility to reach a truly tailored approach, based on the needs of the research-intensive UC community, so we can test and learn from author choices and enable a sustainable transition to universal open access to UC research.”

The agreement delivers on the University’s two faculty supported goals for all publisher agreements: securing universal open access to UC research and reducing projected costs by integrating library and author payments into a single contract.

“It’s a breakthrough agreement, and would not have happened without Elsevier and UC having worked together to find common ground,” said Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, university librarian and economics professor at UC Berkeley, and co-chair of UC’s publisher negotiation team. “Many people simply can’t afford the high price of journals, even though the findings in those journals may be critical to their work. Disseminating UC knowledge freely will spark new solutions to the world’s most pressing problems — and this deal will help make that happen.”

UC continues to serve as a national leader in the transformation of scholarly publishing by piloting its visionary shared funding model with publishers of all sizes, demonstrating that research-focused institutions can create a sustainable and inclusive path to open access. UC’s agreement with Elsevier is the ninth transformative open access agreement the University has secured in the past two years.

“UC strives to support all scholars who wish to publish their findings open access in any journal of their choice,” said Ivy Anderson, associate executive director of the California Digital Library and co-chair of UC’s publisher negotiation team. “Given the impressive volume of research generated by the University, there’s still a lot of work to be done. But this agreement marks a significant step in the long journey to full open access.”