New UC-Elsevier Deal for Open Access

As the Libraries continues to track news related to “big deals,” open access, and the broader scholarly communications landscape, we wanted to share some perspectives on a recent, transformative deal reached between the University of California system and the publisher Elsevier. 

As mentioned in UC’s press release, “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.” 

The four-year deal, which goes into effect today, April 1, 2021, has been met with intense discussion and varying reactions. See, for example, the following: 

For more information about Sustainable Scholarship at the Mason Libraries, visit our Sustainable Scholarship site.

Questions or comments regarding the Libraries’ recent negotiations with Elsevier or other “big deal” subscriptions? We welcome them here

Virginia research libraries negotiate amended contract with Elsevier

Six members of the Virginia Research Libraries (VRL) group recently completed contract negotiations with Elsevier, the largest publisher of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) scholarly journals. Through a new one-year 2021 agreement, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, William & Mary, and James Madison University libraries addressed their priorities for affordability, accessibility, and equity.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia’s research libraries were moving toward a new contract with Elsevier beginning in 2022. Due to the pandemic’s negative effect on operating budgets, the group asked to renegotiate its last year of the current five-year contract. VRL appreciates Elsevier’s willingness to modify the agreement a year early in light of budget needs. The library group will be back at the negotiating table in 2021 to pen a longer-term agreement.

What does this new one-year agreement with Elsevier mean?

Cost savings

Most of the Virginia research libraries involved in the negotiation are experiencing budget shortfalls for 2021 and projecting budget shortfalls for 2022. Each institution involved reduced its overall spend for the year, balancing its COVID-distressed budget for 2021. The new agreement frees the institutions from the “Big Deal” Freedom Collection, allowing for a collection that better suits users’ needs.

This new agreement only includes subscriptions that are consistently used by our constituents. The libraries included titles in the agreement based on download data, article citations by institutional authors, open access availability of articles, articles published by institutional authors, and faculty and library liaison input. The group also analyzed the projected costs of alternative access to those titles. This is part of a longer-term effort to realign investments in favor of tools and resources that are more affordable, equitable, and sustainable. And it allows the libraries to build a more tailored collection from more diverse vendors that better service evolving needs of their universities.

Access

Researchers will continue to have access to everything they need to do their research. Subscriptions are just one mode of access to research, and our libraries are committed to helping researchers navigate alternatives.

The Virginia research libraries are confident that they can meet demand through existing subscriptions, backfile content, open access journals and repositories, and interlibrary loan services including article purchase. Recently, the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) invested in an improved interlibrary loan service for all Virginia public institutions that will decrease turnaround time and lower costs.

In addition to accessing articles, the new Elsevier agreement clarified privacy provisions and broadened the university community’s rights to allow for text and data mining of the scholarly materials.

What’s next?

The Virginia research libraries will be working with other big publishers to take similar steps toward a more sustainable scholarly communications ecosystem in the coming year. They will continue watching how resources are used, including the demand for alternative access, and use that knowledge to inform next year’s negotiations with Elsevier.

What does this mean for the Mason community?

Mason Libraries remains committed to providing our community with the published research and resources they need to pursue their scholarship and instructional activities. If an article is not immediately accessible, we will locate a copy for you via other networks. To learn more about our amended contract, visit our Elsevier overview site. To discover alternate methods for locating articles in journals we no longer subscribe to, visit our new Alternative Access site. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your subject librarian or fill out this feedback form.

Invitation to Mason faculty to join the conversation on Sustainable Scholarship

Virginia’s seven public academic research libraries (George Mason University, along with University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, College of William and Mary, James Madison University, and Old Dominion University) will soon be at the contract negotiating table with Elsevier, the largest STEM scholarly publisher, in an effort to reduce our shared access costs to the Freedom Collection, Elsevier’s flagship academic journal bundle.

Our shared Elsevier contract represents a collective yearly expenditure of $10 million and is scheduled to expire on January 1, 2022, with five percent inflation in the final year of the contract. In light of substantial budget cuts and ongoing fiscal uncertainty – as well as the unsustainable models favored by large publishing conglomerates who control access to academic journals – Virginia universities are considering our next steps for both cost reductions and future sustainability.

In preparation for these negotiations, we are implementing UnSub, an analysis tool that will help us make sound, data- informed decisions about the value of the Elsevier Freedom Collection and our other journal packages. The data we collect, along with additional information about sustainable journal collections, will be made available to the university community on our website throughout the fall. For an example of one large university system’s effective use of UnSub, see this recent Science magazine article.

We know that any changes to the way we share and access information affects our entire academic community. Our faculty are key partners in making any necessary changes, and we welcome your input. If a successful outcome is not reached through negotiations, we – and our partner universities – will continue our common commitment to delivering the resources students and faculty need to do their research and academic work.

We invite you to attend the upcoming Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum on Friday, October 2 at 9:30 a.m., where VRL members will share information about the group’s collective priorities concerning equity, accessibility, and the costs of bundled scholarly journal packages.

We have collated some resources about sustainable collections and journal pricing on our Sustainable Collections site. We hope you will find this information, particularly the “Six Things Faculty Need to Know”, helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have additional questions.

VA research libraries host virtual forum in advance of Elsevier negotiations

Representatives from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, William and Mary, and James Madison University will soon be in contract negotiations with Elsevier, the largest science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) scholarly publisher. Working as a group, they will be discussing the unsustainable cost of accessing Elsevier’s academic journals and options to make their public universities’ research more accessible to the public that paid for it.

On Friday, October 2 at 9:30 a.m., the group will host a Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum to share information about the group’s collective priorities concerning equity, accessibility, and costs of bundled scholarly journal packages. Forum moderator Brandon Butler, the University of Virginia Library’s Director of Information Policy, will also pose questions to the panel for discussion. Registration is open to all interested faculty, staff, students, and community members. Attendees can submit questions or discussion topics surrounding negotiation priorities and sustainable scholarship in advance through the forum’s registration site.

“This is an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming negotiations, the libraries’ priorities surrounding equitable access to scholarship, the impact of changing models on access to research, and why the costs of large bundled journal packages are unsustainable. We will also discuss the possible futures of scholarly publishing,” said Butler. “As a group, we are working together to find the best solutions to continue to be responsible stewards of state funds while providing our faculty and students with the informational resources they need to research, teach, and learn.”

Mason’s Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, John Zenelis, remarks, “Unsustainable access costs affect all of us in the Mason academic community. I invite faculty, staff, and students to join the conversation by submitting questions in advance via the registration site and attending the upcoming discussion. The forum will provide an opportunity to hear more about how we, along with our partner universities in Virginia, are moving together through this process towards a more sustainable library collections and scholarly resources model.”

Panelists include:
Carrie Cooper, Dean of University Libraries, College of William and Mary
Stuart Frazer, Interim University Librarian, Old Dominion University
Teresa L. Knott, Interim Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, Virginia Commonwealth University
Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries, James Madison University
John Unsworth, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, University of Virginia
Tyler Walters, Dean of University Libraries, Virginia Tech
John Zenelis, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, George Mason University

All interested faculty, staff, students, and community members are invited to register and attend the forum.

Virginia Research Libraries Endorse MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts

Virginia’s research libraries enthusiastically endorse the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts. As we work together in Virginia to forge a more sustainable, equitable approach to journal deals, the Framework is a powerful statement around which research libraries in the US and abroad can align. It describes core values our institutions share, including strong rights for our faculty authors and a fair price for the services publishers provide.

A shared vision is especially important in a time characterized by profound complexity and rapid change. Pressures favoring change are increasing by the day, and new platforms, tools, and business models are emerging to challenge the status quo. The commercial journal subscription as we know it is on an unsteady and unsustainable path. 

To stay relevant, publisher proposals need to be closely aligned with academic needs and values. The MIT Framework sends a powerful signal about what we expect to see in future contracts. We look forward to working with publishers to ensure they meet those expectations. 

Signed,

Carrie Cooper, Dean of University Libraries, William and Mary

George Fowler, University Librarian, Old Dominion University

John Ulmschneider, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian,Virginia Commonwealth University

John Unsworth, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, University of Virginia

Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries, James Madison University

Tyler Walters, Dean of University Libraries, Virginia Tech

John Zenelis, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, George Mason University