This tool is saving universities millions of dollars in journal subscriptions | Science | AAAS

“In April, when the State University of New York (SUNY) system canceled a big subscription deal with Dutch publishing giant Elsevier in favor of a smaller, cheaper package of subscriptions, headlines focused on how much money the university would save: about $7 million. But behind the savings was a careful cost-benefit analysis and a software tool, Unsub, that helped SUNY work out how to get the most out of its subscription dollars. Many expect the approach to catch on more widely as cash-strapped universities try to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

SUNY was facing an annual $9 million bill for its subscription to about 2200 Elsevier titles. But Unsub revealed that by spending $2 million a year for just 248 of the journals, the university could give researchers at its 64 campuses immediate access to roughly 70% of the Elsevier papers they are likely to read in the next 5 years. The tool produces its forecasts by analyzing data from each university’s library journal usage, and by scouring the web to see how many of the papers that faculty and students access are already available for free.

Unsub is a “game changer,” says Mark McBride, SUNY’s library senior strategist in Albany, and “I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that.” Like many universities chafing at high subscription fees and fearing the budget impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, SUNY was looking for savings. And with the help of Unsub, McBride says, it concluded “a big deal is no longer necessary in order for a library to function effectively.” …”

Sharing Experiences of Journal Cancellations on a Rapid Timeline – SPARC

“In discussions with the SPARC Journal Negotiation Community of Practice, many institutions have discussed needing to prepare for cancellations on a rapid timeline. On June 18, SPARC provided a forum for librarians who recently led their institutions through a fast-tracked Big Deal cancellation to share how they navigated the process. Building on our Big Deal cancellation debrief in May, this event focused on how the process of preparing for and executing a cancellation differs when the timeline needs to be compressed to a few months.

The webinar was moderated by Jaclyn McLean of the University of Saskatchewan and featured Megan Heady from West Virginia University and Kristin Henrich from the University of Idaho.

Budget cuts are forcing many to rethink their contracts with publishers and, in some cases, pivot quickly. Both West Virginia University and the University of Idaho recently had to react to state-imposed budget reductions and prepare for a new way of operating. In the wake of COVID-19, many institutions anticipate financial pressures that could result in accelerated efforts to end their Big Deals – a process that may be complicated by remote work….”

MIT Terminates Elsevier Contract Over Open Access Dispute

“In an unprecedented move last year, the University of California system terminated journal negotiations with Elsevier over open access issues and higher costs. Last month MIT did the same, saying the publisher’s proposal did not align with the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts. The UC system includes more than 280,000 students and over 227,000 faculty staff. MIT has roughly 24,000 students, faculty and staff in its system.

Developed in 2019, MIT’s Framework creates a mechanism to ensure research is freely and immediately available, while recognizing that the value in published papers lies with the authors and institutions that support them. Since it’s debut, more than 100 institutions have endorsed the MIT Framework in recognition of its potential to advance open scholarship….”

Universities Step Up the Fight for Open-Access Research | WIRED

“FIVE YEARS AGO, when Jeffrey MacKie-Mason first joined the University of California team that negotiates with academic publishers, he asked a colleague what would happen if he failed to strike a deal. What if, instead, he simply canceled their subscription? “I was told I would be fired the next day,” the UC Berkeley librarian says. Last year, he tested out the theory. The university system had been trying to negotiate a deal to make all of its research open-access—outside of a paywall—with Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher. But they were too far apart on what that would cost. So MacKie-Mason’s team walked away.

To his surprise, the army of UC researchers who depended on that subscription were willing to go along with it. They’d lose the ability to read new articles in thousands of Elsevier journals, sure, but there were ways to get by without a subscription. They could email researchers directly for copies. The university would pay for individual articles. And yes, unofficially, some would just probably download from Sci-Hub, the illicit repository where virtually every scientific article can be found. To MacKie-Mason, it was clarifying: The conventional wisdom that had weakened his negotiating hand was thoroughly dispelled.

Since then, progress towards open access has crept along. More deals of the kind UC wants have been struck, especially in Europe. But in the United States, progress has been especially halting. Then, last week, MIT officials announced that they too had stepped away from the table with Elsevier, saying they couldn’t agree to a deal. And now, University of California officials have announced their intention to make a deal with Springer Nature, the world’s second-largest publisher, to begin publishing the university system’s research as open-access by default. The deal starts in 2021 for a large number of the company’s journals—and puts UC on the path, at least, to do so for all its journals within two years, including its most prestigious ones, like Nature….”

2020 top trends in academic libraries: A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education | Research Planning and Review Committee | College & Research Libraries News

“Open access: Transitions and transformations

The past few years have brought major developments in the OA landscape—from major big deal cancellations to new agreements between libraries and publishers. Following the University of California system’s Elsevier cancellation in early 2019,16 the University of North Carolina announced in late 2019 that their license renewal negotiations with Elsevier will continue into 2020.17 Resources for institutions considering this route include SPARC’s “Big Deal Knowledge Base and Big Deal Cancellation Tracking,”18 University of California’s “Negotiating with Scholarly Journal Publishers Toolkit,”19 “Guidelines for Evaluating Transformative Open Access Agreements,”20 and “Guide to Transitioning Journals to Open Access Publishing.”21

Many new transformative agreements were announced between publishers and libraries or library consortia over the past year.22 A transformative agreement can be defined as a contract seeking “to shift the contracted payment from a library or group of libraries to a publisher away from subscription-based reading and towards open access publishing.”23 There are various flavors, including offsetting agreements, read-and-publish agreements, and publish-and-read agreements. Since 2018, many read-and-publish agreements have been signed between publishers and institutions.

After hundreds of responses from publishers, academic libraries, and researchers, cOALition S made some changes to its Plan S, which “aims for full and immediate Open Access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications from research funded by public and private grants.”24 Noteworthy differences: plan implementation is delayed to 2021, no cap on the cost of OA publication, tweaked rules around hybrid titles and transformative agreements, ignore the prestige of journals when making funding decisions, and more restrictive open licenses will be allowed when approved by the funder.25

Further transitions are happening at the society publishing level. The group Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access (TSPOA) formed at the October 2018 Choosing Pathways to OA Working forum. They “aim to provide relevant resources/experience working in collaboration with society publishing partners to help them develop an open access publishing model that is appropriate, effective and sustainable.”26 …”

SPARC Debrief on Three Recent Big Deal Cancellations – SPARC

“On May 15th, SPARC hosted a member debrief on recent Big Deal cancellations. Curtis Brundy, Evviva Weinraub Lajoie, and Nerea Llamas, spoke about their institutions’ processes leading up to the decision to walk away from their bundled Elsevier subscriptions, shared suggestions for other libraries that may be considering a similar move, and answered questions from the audience. 

All three institutions sought a cost reduction in their upcoming Elsevier contracts, as well as sustainable, affordable, and transparent agreements before making the ultimate decision to unbundle their Big Deals. Each speaker emphasized the importance of campus engagement strategies, including surveying faculty, hosting town halls, and equipping themselves and others with in-depth data analysis processes. Speakers recommend empowered negotiations decision-making through tools and communication strategies, ensuring vendors do not drag out the timeline for their own gain. …”

Taking a Big Bite Out of the Big Deal – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Unsub is the game-changing data analysis service that is helping librarians forecast, explore, and optimize their alternatives to the Big Deal. Unsub (known as Unpaywall Journals until just this week) supports librarians in making independent assessments of the value of their journal subscriptions relative to price paid rather than relying upon publisher-provided data alone. Librarians breaking away from the Big Deal often credit Unsub as a critical component of their strategy. I am grateful to Heather Piwowar and Jason Priem, co-founders of Our Research, a small nonprofit organization with an innocuous sounding name that is the provider of Unsub, for taking time to answer some questions for the benefit of the readers of The Scholarly Kitchen. …”

Iowa State University Library finalizes Elsevier negotiations, forgoes multi-year package deal in favor of individual journal subscriptions | University Library | Iowa State University

“The Iowa State University Library finalized negotiations over its 2020 journal agreement with Elsevier. Under the new agreement, the library will subscribe to journals on a title-by-title basis instead of a multi-year package deal, giving greater control over spending while still providing essential content to campus.

During negotiations, the library pursued three goals: reduce costs, remove confidentiality restrictions, and progress toward open access. These goals aligned with our Principles for Advancing Openness through Journal Negotiations, endorsed by the Iowa State University Faculty Senate, Library Advisory Committee, Student Government, and Graduate and Professional Student Senate in 2019.

The new agreement achieves a significant cost reduction by moving to individual subscriptions at a discounted price. In addition, it does not include confidentiality language and can be publicly shared. Although we anticipated greater progress toward open access in this agreement, we are committed to carrying the discussion forward in 2020….”