Public talk by Jeffrey Mackie-Mason (UC Berkeley) who has been co-chair of the negotiations with Elsevier (University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer, University of California, Berkeley, and a professor in the UC Berkeley School of Information and the Department of Economics)

  • 1994 - Steven Harned’s statements as the start to OA.
  • FTP server
  • Budapest in 2002
  • Little evidence that any of the purported “good” of OA is true. No impact about evidence of open access.
  • Counter is often - “everyone that needs access already has access.” Non scientists not going to get much from it.
  • Not clear that people can build on the research don’t already have access to it…
  • No impact documented. 
  • “Religious ferver” - world surely is better off with more access to knowledge.
  • Self-archiving.
  • Idea that we can solve our problems by creating new journals and abandon the old ones hasn’t worked.
  • Need to demonstrate research that is high quality.
  • Promotion and tenure is a numbers game.
  • Failed effort so far. 
  • 2013 - UC Faculty - mandatory deposit into OA e-scholarship repo by the data it is published. Mandatory but unenforced. Author accepted manuscript. Peer-reviewed version. Doesn’t have the final copy-editing or page numbers.
  • Anyone who gets a paycheck from UC who publishes scholarly work is supposed to deposit it into OA repository.
  • 15% are being deposited into e-Scholarship
  • 50% in Green OA but others say it is lower (25%) - after 25 years.
  • Goal: immediate OA as final access version - complete and universal OA

  • 2016: started getting organized to organize UC libraries to support OA 2020 initiative.
  • Expression of interest that says that institute is expressing intention to start shifting subscription funds into money paying for publishing OA.
  • New strategy - start focusing on money. Take it away from subscriptions and move it towards OA publishing.
  • Goal - get world to 100% access point by 2020. People fed up with 25 years and still not getting to OA.
  • 2017 - Pathways to Open Access
  • Offsetting (one of the ways)
    • Pay publishers to publish material and then let people read for free.
    • Exact same amount of money as part of the first order.
    • Publishing has extremely high profits and need to get them down but that is separate.
    • Give you subscription for X dollars, let everyone read.
    • Since early 2000s, let people read for free and get authors to pay the fees.
    • Offset agreement, combine those payments  - you are going to let us read everything for free and also publish open-access. 
    • Eventually - All the money paying to publish and no money paying to read.
    • Giving them the same amount of money. Publishers hate this idea because right now the money they are getting is from people who read.
    • This is getting money from people who publish. Those aren’t always the same people.
    • Private industry & Gov’t want to read but don’t publish. Teaching colleges.
    • People who are publishing a lot don’t want to be carrying most of the burden (b/c there are more readers than publishers)
  • Using buying power to switch the industry.
  • Can publishers have multiple business models?
  • UC authors OA to the whole world. If other people don’t enter similar contracts, then they will still be publishing, etc. 
  • Transitional model - enough of the articles are published OA so that the companies flip.
  • Declaration of Rights and Principles - UC Libraries. (April 2018)
  • June 2018 - Committee issues call to action which said the systems should prioritize contracts for immediate OA and payment.
  • Decided on Elsevier contract negotiation. Started negotiations in July 2018.
  • Collectively decided on this in Berlin conference.
  • Publisher protected. 
  • Cost reduction
  • Default OA publication for all UC corresponding-authored articles
  • Transformative agreement that integrates publishing and reading with offsetting

Elsevier ( Negotiations July 2019 - Feb. 2019)

  • 11 million dollars per year for one subscription contract across the whole system.
  • Authors were paying 1 million a year in Open Access Fees (5% of Elsevier articles)
  • 12 million USD a year to Elsevier.
  • Final proposal in Jan 2019. 
    • Willing to go to cost-neutral contract. 
    • Continue to give them 12 million. Discounted APCs. 
    • Default OA (unless author opts out)
    • Multi-payer - library pays 1,000 USD for every article automatically and rest by author research funding. Library on average pays half and author pays half.
    • OR library pays all of it if author unfunded. (We didn’t want to exclude authors because they couldn’t pay).
  • Jeff was Co-chair of negotiations
  • Publish-and-read = merging them both. Elsevier offered integrated contract in Jan. Agreed to support multi-payer workflow.
  • 21 Dec 2018 in Oakland. Energetic discussion. Last few minutes - head pulled out paper.
  • Jaws hit the ground. They didn’t think UC was going to go through with it.
  • 12 Jan - fired CEO.
  • Trouble with negotiations with people around the world.
  • Hungary didn’t sign, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UC, Max Planx, Germany - all happened in Dec.
  • New CEO from Berkeley Economics.
  • Jan 31 offer
    • Integrated but 100% OA would raise payment 80% (30 M over 3 years)
    • No OA for two single most valuable journals they have - Cell, Lancet or many (>400 society journals)
    • Forego perpetual access to many journals (lose access to past materials)
    • No workflow support for Library to cover unfunded authors
  • Perpetual access two ways:
    • we can mount it securely, etc. We don’t want to do that. 
    • Other option - keep having access to their servers as long as we are subscribing to something on Science Direct. Some of their e-books are there. Renewed e-books subscriptions. Under contract, have to give access to all the past ones that way.
    • Max Planx - subscribed to 2 of the 2500 journal subscriptions.
    • Question from audience - why not mount it yourself?
    • “It would be really hard. We actually did it. Peak Project in 1990s. Figured them out to price their electronic journals. We mounted it, set up server system, etc. Experiment with different pricing models.” Pain in the neck, we wouldn’t want to do it.
    • UC did it. It was very expensive. Hardest part - tons of input streams and perpetually changing.
    • Ontario collective in Canada. National Labs.
  • No contract since Dec 31, 2018. Negotiations terminated in Feb. 28, 2019. Not paying since then. Still have access. Don’t know why.
  • New CEO, reopened negotiations and very conciliatory. France got 13% price cut.
  • Lack of access causes inconvenience. Libraries & Elsevier worried about faculty getting mad.
  • Two petitions for faculty to stop all publishing with Elsevier.
  • 2 Journal editors resigned from Elsevier since Dec.
  • They haven’t cut off access yet.
  • UC subscribed to 130,000 journals.
  • Pre-print versions available online. 15% of Elsevier content available OA already.
  • Grey market - Researchgate and
    • Publishers very unhappy about this. But high fraction available. You really aren’t supposed to post the copyrighted version.
  • Email the author. Under Fair use, you can send the author approved version.
  • ILL - all electronic.
  • Sci-Hub - 80% of all published peer reviewed article. Higher percent for paywall journals. It is stolen and illegal. Russian.
  • Those who left Elsevier are doing just fine. Measure demand of what articles for previous year’s published article. Libraries are getting help in finding 5 - 10% of the demand. Other percent people are finding on their own. 
  • ME: This is such a moment for building of decentralized infrastructures!! What are people doing with the papers that they are receiving peer-to-peer?
  • Demand for journals is elastic? It has been inelastic which is why prices so high. But this move towards green OA created good substitute.
  • Demand more elastic b/c of substitutions
  • Wiley - third largest publisher in world. Signed big agreements - 1 with germany & 1 with Norway.
  • Authors sending things to other journals when they can. Wiley interested in transformative agreements. More favorable in the past year. Want to stick it to Elsevier.
  • The only competitions in this market is competition for authors. Journals compete for authors.
  • Question RE: peer review. Have people begun to refuse peer -reviewing?
  • In US, faculty decide it as their right where to publish.
  • “We don’t want faculty to get mad at us.” Anywhere where faculty feel like organization is imposing, they don’t like it.
  • Boycott on peer review
  • Society published journals moving away from big 4.
  • Transforming societal publishers towards Open Access. Advising publishers on this. Another strategy. Not much traction.
  • Problem - nonprofit societies are making 40% surplus on journals and using it to subsidize conferences, etc. 
  • Societies also use the profits
  • Current model:
    • UC Authors - 10M APCs, library subscription = 40M; unsustainable. More authors go towards OA, worse for the library.
    • Under new agreement (“transformative agreement”), trying to standardize industry on this model.
    • By default it is open access unless you default. If you go with OA, then lib pays plus grants or lib pays in full.
    • Lib financial transactions handled every quarter.
    • Benefits for authors: much less expensive to publish OA now.
    • Low in compscience because all comp sci use archive. Pre-print versions so engagement in paid OA is relatively low. Use conference proceedings more than journals (many are behind paywall).
    • Reading fee + publishing fee = total contract cost.
    • Reading fee paid by library then publishing fees as a split (library subvention + grant-paid + library-paid remainders). Total contract fixed at a base set and then control by restricting variance to +/%. Bounding it so risk on both sides is controlled.
    • Don’t want to favor Elsevier over PLOS, etc. Want library to save money by bringing in grant money and then use it to advance OA in other areas.
  • Not talking about a lot of money from research grants. 
  • Funding agencies pay for all of this anyway.
  • 57% federal overhead of UCB includes subscription budget. (
    • Money is there, just about redirecting that money.
    • Bear accounts - increase money from library to pay it to bear accounts. Money is there but just needs to be redistributed.
  • Conclusion:
    • Today: unmanaged, escalating OA economy.
    • Tomorrow: transitional OA agreements.
    • Eventually: primarily OA world.
      • Subscription payments largely disappear with funding reallocated to OA support (both APCs and other funding models).
  • RELX (company that owns Elsevier) - stock price went down 7% on the day of UC stopping negotiations on Feb. 28. Elsevier stock price went down 28%.
  • Elsevier’s annual revenue is 1.5 billion USD!!
  • US is biggest market for the publishers.
  • Seems like many more in the US will explore “Transformative” agreements.
  • Question: is the traditional model of journals just outdated and needs to be redone?
    • Jeff: No, I think we still need the professional journals. Smaller scholarly journals sell out to big ones because they just can’t handle the complexity. 
    • Another respondent: “issue is scale”

Cambridge University


Creative Commons Licence



Contributed date

April 26, 2019 - 8:20pm


Notes from public talk



Cite as

Angela Okune, "pece_artifact_fieldnote_1556324248", contributed by Angela Okune, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 26 April 2019, accessed 16 July 2024.