The University of California has ended its subscription to journals published by Elsevier, citing a failure to reach an agreement that would lower fees and prioritize open access to its scholars’ work, the UC system announced yesterday (February 28). The decision to stop paying for access to Elsevier’s journals came after eight months of contract negotiations.
The university system’s previous contract with the publishing giant expired on December 31, and the research heavyweight, accounting for nearly 10 percent of research output in the US, aimed to secure a deal to pay a one-time fee that covered both journal subscriptions and the processing fees to make UC researchers’ articles open access for all readers.
The break with Elsevier is part of UC’s push for free access to publicly funded research. “I fully support our faculty, staff and students in breaking down paywalls that hinder the sharing of groundbreaking research,” says UC President Janet Napolitano in a statement. “This issue does not just impact UC, but also countless scholars, researchers and scientists across the globe — and we stand with them in their push for full, unfettered access.”
Last year, groups of research labs and universities in Sweden and Germany canceled their subscriptions with Elsevier over open access. This stand by UC makes it one of the first and largest US institutions to do so.
“It’s hard to overstate how big [UC’s move] is for us here in the US,” Heather Joseph tells Science. Joseph is executive director of the DC-based Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which advocates for open access. “This gives institutions that are on the fence about taking this kind of action a blueprint,” she says.
Although they lose access to articles published after the contract expired, UC scholars can still retrieve much of Elsevier’s previously published content because of contract terms for “post-termination access,” according to Nature. And libraries in the UC system may provide other means of access to newly published Elsevier articles as they would for other content not covered by a subscription, Science reports.