Four Urgent Recommendations for Open Access Negotiations with Publishers
A lot has happened in the scholarly publishing landscape since LIBER published its Five Principles for Open Access Negotiations in 2017. At the time, avoiding subscription fee price increases was the extent of many library negotiation goals, and — perhaps even more detrimental to the progress of open access — library open access strategies tended to be framed around the choice of one route over another, i.e. Green or Gold. This binary approach reflected the organisational divide that, to some degree, still persists between librarians with responsibilities for scholarly communication and those responsible for licensing of electronic resources; the one addressing the needs of researchers as authors, the other addressing the needs of researchers as readers. This disconnect plays into the ‘divide and conquer scenario in which commercial publishers continue to extract ever-greater revenues from libraries in subscription fees, on the one hand, and hybrid APCs on the other.
Today, with the ESAC Market Watch documenting more than half a million research articles enabled for immediate Open Access publication in the past five years, transformative agreements (TAs) have emerged as a highly impactful Open Access transition strategy. Yet beyond the sheer amount of openness achieved, the process of bringing together the two sides of scholarly journal publishing — reading and publishing — under the oversight of one agreement places the library in a strategic position, poised for a broader role in supporting researchers in a fully open paradigm.
Re-organising institutional processes, communication lines and financial streams around open access publishing prepares libraries to “support researchers in the publication process…[which] will become even more important in the future,” as envisioned in the newly published German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat) paper ‘Recommendations on the Transformation of Academic Publishing: Towards Open Access’.
In a number of countries across Europe — the first to incorporate publisher Open Access negotiations in their strategies, the level of research article output published immediately Open Access, combining articles published in fully OA and hybrid journals governed by TAs, has reached more than 50%. In the UK, now approaching OA output levels of 75%, a multi-pronged approach has recently led to a groundbreaking transformative agreement with Elsevier, as well as the establishment of an Open Access community framework to support diamond OA journals. The Netherlands, thanks to a comprehensive strategy that combines transformative agreements and ‘green’ OA, is nearing its goal of 100% of publicly funded research made freely accessible.
The incredible progress made in the past five years shows the potential of open access strategies that incorporate multiple open access routes, demonstrating that all roads, together, lead to making open the default in scholarly communication.
Building on this insight, LIBER’s Urgent Recommendations for Open Access Negotiations with Publishers outline four priorities to bolster and integrate library Open Access strategies. Each recommendation comes with suggested actions to put the recommendation immediately into practice and links to additional resources that illustrate the good practice of LIBER member libraries and their partners.
1. 100% open access under fair conditions, or no agreement
Many member research libraries of LIBER have made significant advances in their transformative open access negotiations with publishers: reining in the unchecked revenue stream of author fees for ‘hybrid’ Open Access publishing, repurposing their investment in subscription fees to support Open Access publishing instead of propagating paywalls, securing Open Access publishing entitlements for 100% of their institutions’ research articles at no additional cost, overall cost reduction, and retention of author rights over their peer-reviewed manuscripts. Based on these new benchmarks, no library should demand anything less.
- Ground your strategy on data by tracking and analysing your total expenditure in scholarly publishing–both subscription fees paid by the library and Open Access publishing fees (APCs) paid by authors–together with the publishing profile of your institution.
- Strengthen your position by negotiating via national-level consortia and by building coalitions within your institution including faculty governance and research administration aligned around principles and objectives for your publisher negotiations.
2. Pricing of open access publishing services must be fair and transparent
Disallowing non-disclosure clauses in agreements with publishers is an important first step to creating a more transparent market. In order to compare pricing of different service providers, enable conversations on what the community considers to be fair pricing, and exert critical market pressure to help contain pricing, fees for Open Access publishing services must be transparent and comparable.
- Require publishers to communicate pricing with transparency frameworks, such as those promoted by cOAlition S and the Fair Open Access Alliance.
- Generate more transparency by entering transformative agreements in the ESAC Registry and by uploading data on author and institutional payments of Open Access publishing fees to OpenAPC.
3. Define strategies to support a diversity of open publishing venues
Open Access negotiations with large commercial publishers may be a necessity to achieve the greatest impact on institutional output and investment, but fostering a diverse ecosystem in open scholarly publishing means engaging in negotiations with a spectrum of scholarly publishers across all disciplines and investing in a variety of open publishing venues and services. Libraries can shape the open ecosystem by defining comprehensive strategies based not only on their immediate financial and OA-output goals, but also on their commitment to enabling a diversity of open publishing opportunities for authors.
- Establish a framework that combines service, cost and values-based criteria to evaluate and prioritise transformative Open Access negotiations with publishers.
- Include fully Open Access publishers and other open publishing service providers as well as smaller, independent scholarly and learned society publishers in your agreement strategy, to level the playing field in scholarly journal publishing.
- Seek opportunities to divest from subscription agreements and repurpose funds to support alternatives to traditional, commercial publishing venues, such as diamond open access initiatives, open scholarly communication infrastructure and library-based publishing.
4. Engage stakeholders in the process of transition
Putting into practice a fully open paradigm that enables Open Science practices in research requires coordination and adjustments on many levels, especially on how institutions are funded and how they organise their investments in scholarly and research communication. Engaging key stakeholders, such as research administrators, university leadership, research councils, funding bodies and ministries of research, in the development of data- and values-based strategies that support their Open Science goals will position the library as a key and trusted partner for the future and secure the library’s role as the central point for managing research communication services within their institutions.
- Share the results of your data analysis of the institution’s total expenditure in scholarly publishing and publishing profile with stakeholders and engage them in discussions on future scenarios, potential cost redistribution and funding requirements.
- Increase your negotiating power through coordinated or collaborative approaches to involving universities, funders and libraries/library consortia.
- Engage university administration in fostering responsible and fair approaches in research assessment that reward openness and reduce reliance on impact factor (or other journal metrics), and support their process of formulating Open Science objectives.
- Monitor and share your progress to keep all stakeholders informed and aligned.
View the Four Urgent Recommendations for Open Access Negotiations with Publishers in PDF format here.