Skip to main content My Account Off-Campus Access Give 24/7 Chat Meet with a Librarian Directory Technical Support Submit a Digital Sign Give Newsletters Social Media

Potential Changes to UC’s Relationship with Elsevier in January 2019

TO:        UC Davis Academic Community
FROM:  MacKenzie Smith, University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship
Dennis J. Ventry, Jr., Professor of Law and Vice Chair, Academic Senate University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication
RE:       Potential Changes to the UC’s Relationship with Elsevier in January 2019


An Open Letter to the Academic Community:

The University of California is renegotiating its systemwide licenses with some of the world’s largest scholarly journal publishers, including industry giant Elsevier. These negotiations may create significant changes in our access to new articles published in Elsevier journals as soon as January 1, 2019. (See below for details on town hall meetings where you can learn more regarding access and timing.)

Importantly, the UC has adopted a new approach to these negotiations, seeking not only to constrain the runaway costs of journal subscriptions, but to make it easier and more affordable for UC authors to publish their research with open access. Depending on how the negotiations proceed, a range of potential outcomes could materialize:

  • If we are successful, the UC may begin to implement a new system for publishing research in Elsevier journals in the near future.
  • On the other hand, if we are unable to reach an agreement before our current contract ends on December 31, we may lose access to future articles in Elsevier’s journals through their ScienceDirect platform.

The proposed change

The agreement that the UC proposed to Elsevier covers both UC’s journal subscriptions and open access publishing of UC research in Elsevier journals, similar to “publish and read” agreements pioneered in Europe. The proposal would give every UC author the opportunity to make their work freely accessible — automatically and upon publication — to readers and researchers around the world.

The UC’s approach is also designed to give UC authors maximum flexibility in determining how to publish. For those who wish to publish open access, discounted open access fees negotiated in bulk, alongside funding support from the UC Libraries to help pay those fees, would remove cost as a barrier to publication. Alternatively, authors could opt out of open access and publish their research behind the journal’s traditional subscription paywall.

Today, UC researchers who wish to publish with open access in a subscription journal must pay 100% of the article processing charge (APC) themselves. Many choose this route; in fact, UC authors pay nearly $1 million a year in voluntary open access publishing charges to Elsevier, in addition to the millions of dollars paid by the UC Libraries for subscriptions to those same journals.

An opportunity to lead

The UC’s efforts to shift its relationship with Elsevier will have implications beyond our University. Indeed, it is part of a global movement to break down paywalls for scholarly journals and to create a more open system of sharing knowledge, facilitating research, and enabling greater global equity of access to knowledge. Much of the action to date has been in Europe, but North American institutions, which represent 42% of Elsevier’s revenue, need to get involved. Because the UC accounts for nearly 10% of all US publishing output and has sizable subscription contracts, we are in a position to lead towards a more open and sustainable scholarly publishing ecosystem.

The UC’s stance on open access

As the UC renegotiates its licenses with scholarly journal publishers like Elsevier, we also have an opportunity to align our journal licensing agreements with the University’s goal of advancing open access. As stated in the UC’s Presidential Open Access Policy:

The University of California is committed to disseminating its research and scholarship as widely as possible [and] recognizes the benefits that accrue to its authors as individual scholars and to the scholarly enterprise from such wide dissemination, including greater recognition, more thorough review, consideration, and critique, and a general increase in scientific, scholarly, and critical knowledge.

The Academic Senate’s open access policy affirms this commitment: “As part of a public university system, the Faculty is dedicated to making its scholarship available to the people of California and the world.”

Next steps

Our current contract with Elsevier expires on December 31, 2018. As that date approaches, the UC Libraries are preparing for various scenarios so that we can continue to provide UC scholars with access to needed articles with minimal disruption or delay, regardless of what happens with the negotiations.

Learn more

This fall, we have briefed campus leadership including the Academic Senate Executive Council, Senate Library Committee, Senate Research Committee, and Provost’s Leadership Council on these negotiations.

To broaden this outreach even further, we will also host a series of town hall meetings on the Davis campus and at the UC Davis Health campus in Sacramento to provide an opportunity for all members of the UC Davis community to hear more, provide input and ask questions about the negotiations currently underway.

  • The first of those meetings will be held at noon on Thursday, December 6 at Shields Library, with a simultaneous webcast to UC Davis Health (a viewing location will also be available at the Blaisdell Medical Library). Lunch will be provided.
  • We will hold additional town hall meetings in January with dates TBD depending on the progress of the negotiations. Please check back often for updates, or provide your email address if you would like to be alerted when those dates are announced.

I also invite any deans or department chairs who wish to arrange a meeting with their faculty to reach out to me directly.

I will provide an update as soon as there is news to share on the progress of the negotiations. In the meantime, please feel free to email me with any questions.


MacKenzie Smith, University Librarian and Vice Provost of Digital Scholarship
Dennis J. Ventry, Jr., Professor of Law and Vice Chair, Academic Senate University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication


Announcements Open Access and Scholarly Publishing


faculty news open access