Decrypting the Big Deal Landscape: Follow-up of the 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report

“As of 2017, the European University Association (EUA) assembled a unique collection of ‘Big Deals’ data on agreements between scholarly publishers and (national) consortia of libraries, universities and research organisations. This was carried out in the light of mounting higher education institution concerns about the increasingly unsustainable cost of subscriptions to scholarly publications. In 2016, EUA committed to “establishing an evidence base about current agreements and on-going negotiations with publishers in collaboration with NRCs”.1 Subsequently, data collected by EUA has served as the basis for two reports released in 2018 and 2019, respectively.2 Big Deals now receive increased attention due to their potential to ‘flip’ entire segments of the scholarly publication market from closed to open access publications. Big deals have also been widely criticised for locking-in library budgets, due to constantly increasing subscription costs. The 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report surveyed covered 30 European countries and found that over €1 billion is spent on electronic resources each year, including at least €726 million spent on periodicals alone. Big Deals are said to limit competition and innovation in the scholarly publishing system3 and curb universities’ and consortia’s financial freedom to pursue other priorities. However, recently, several European negotiating consortia and scholarly publishers have concluded Big Deals that allow eligible authors to publish articles in open access formats in specific journals. Known as ‘transformative agreements’, these contracts are also supported as one way to comply with future funder requirements that will apply as of 2021 under Plan S.4 In a system that is largely defined by Big Deals, this report aims to inform the transition to open access debate, by providing additional insights and indicators on these agreements’ costs, publication volumes and timelines. This has been achieved by placing EUA Big Deals data into context….

Part 1 explains the methods used to obtain the underlying data as well as limitations and responsible use of the data. Part 2 links the publication outputs of journal articles and reviews to the large five publishers’ market share. It seeks to provide a bigger picture of the relation between subscription costs and publishing output. Part 3 sets out an analysis of the price-per-article for each country and publisher, calculated on the basis of subscription prices and publication volume. It provides European negotiators with comparative Big Deals price per article data in 26 countries. Part 4 takes a closer look at the timeline of Big Deal agreements collected by the EUA Big Deals Survey. It shows that the 2018-2020 period is crucial for negotiations with scholarly publishers (in terms of market volume). Negotiations that occur during this time may also be crucial for the further development of ‘transformative’ agreements and therefore compliance with Plan S requirements. Part 5 provides a brief summary of our main findings, contextualises them with current developments and provides policy recommendations….”

ARL Supports University of California Libraries’ Commitment to Barrier-Free Access to Information – Association of Research Libraries

“The Libraries of the University of California (UC) are seeking transformative agreements with publishers such that access to the research of UC faculty is open to all, not limited to those who can afford it. In February 2019, the UC Libraries withdrew from negotiations with the publisher Elsevier due to lack of progress, and in July, Elsevier cut off access to current content for all UC campuses.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) expresses strong support for the UC Libraries in their efforts to initiate change and expand access to research. While ARL member library approaches to transformative change may vary, we applaud UC’s commitment to the values and vision they have articulated even at the expense of disruption. In particular, we commend the strong coalition of faculty, librarians, and administrators across the UC system, that together developed the principles and together managed the negotiations….”

New Read & Publish agre­e­ment publicly avai­lab­le – Kungliga biblioteket – kb.se

“46 organisations chose to join the new agreement, which runs for three years, starting January 1st 2019. It covers rights to publish in over 1 800 hybrid journals at no extra cost for the author as well as reading rights from 1997 for over 2 100 journals. Together with the other agreement recently signed for publishing in gold open access journals, this new Read & Publish agreement allows researchers affiliated with the Bibsam Consortium to publish open access in almost the entire Springer Nature journal portfolio….”

New deals could help scientific societies survive open access | Science | AAAS

“In the push to make the scientific literature open access, small scientific societies have feared they could be collateral damage. Many rely on subscription revenue from their journals—often among the most highly cited in their disciplines—to fund other activities, such as scholarships. And whereas big commercial publishers have the scale to absorb financial losses in some of their journals, many scientific societies operate at most a handful of journals.

A reprieve may be in sight. Last week, a project that included funders backing Plan S, the European-led effort to speed the transition to open access, released a set of contract templates and tips meant to help small, independent publishers reach deals with libraries that would eventually eliminate subscriptions while protecting revenue. The project also helped arrange pilots, which may soon be inked, that use the guidance; they will allow researchers served by library consortia to publish an unlimited number of open-access articles in return for a set fee paid to societies….”

New deals could help scientific societies survive open access | Science | AAAS

“In the push to make the scientific literature open access, small scientific societies have feared they could be collateral damage. Many rely on subscription revenue from their journals—often among the most highly cited in their disciplines—to fund other activities, such as scholarships. And whereas big commercial publishers have the scale to absorb financial losses in some of their journals, many scientific societies operate at most a handful of journals.

A reprieve may be in sight. Last week, a project that included funders backing Plan S, the European-led effort to speed the transition to open access, released a set of contract templates and tips meant to help small, independent publishers reach deals with libraries that would eventually eliminate subscriptions while protecting revenue. The project also helped arrange pilots, which may soon be inked, that use the guidance; they will allow researchers served by library consortia to publish an unlimited number of open-access articles in return for a set fee paid to societies….”

Mixed reception for German open access deal with Springer Nature | News | Chemistry World

“The academic publishing powerhouse Springer Nature has reached what it is touting as ‘the world’s most comprehensive open access agreement’ with a consortium of nearly 700 research universities in Germany. But there is some pushback to the arrangement….”

New Open Access Agreements with SpringerNature and Oxford University Press | Medarbetarwebben

“The Swedish library consortium, of which SLU is a participant, has entered two new agreements with the scientific publishers SpringerNature and Oxford University Press. Both agreements state that any fees associated with open access publishing (APCs) are paid for centrally by the institution of the corresponding author instead of the authors themselves….”

‘Transformative’ open access publishing deals are only entrenching commercial power | Times Higher Education (THE)

“Plan S has already been credited with sparking something of a revolution in journal publishing. Major publishers are beginning – slowly and reluctantly in some cases – to replace their traditional “big deals” with what are being called “transformative deals”. Often negotiated with national consortia of libraries and research institutes, these combine access to subscription journals with an ability to publish open access without any additional charge.

However, I believe that we should think a lot harder before celebrating a tipping point.

The open access movement has always been intimately bound up with a critique of the whole concept of handing over billions of pounds of public money to wildly profitableprivate companies in exchange for publishing papers that are written, reviewed and edited by academics. Yet the current “transformative” deals do precious little to drive down margins that are often in excess of 35 per cent….

Instead of recklessly funnelling billions of taxpayers’ money into for-profit entities, funding bodies and research institutes could easily support these more sustainable ventures instead. This is already happening in some parts of the world, with initiatives such as Redalyc and SciELO in Latin America demonstrating leadership….

Every time we sign one of these so-called transformative contracts, which often contain multi-year lock-ins, we lose the opportunity to create something more just, sustainable, efficient and effective. We actively work against efforts to return control of publishing to the academic community. It is time to take a step back and to think again about what we really want.”

Elsevier signs pilot agreement to serve Hungary | Research Information

“Hungarian Electronic Information Service National Programme (EISZ) and Elsevier have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and Letter of Intent, as they move towards finalising a new innovative pilot agreement for research access and Open Access publishing in Hungary. As a result, EISZ consortium member institutions and their affiliated researchers across Hungary now have immediate access to ScienceDirect, as well as SciVal and Scopus.

Researchers affiliated to EISZ consortium member institutions are able to access 16 million publications from more than 2,500 journals published by Elsevier and its society partners via ScienceDirect. Access to Scopus and SciVal will support Hungarian research in benchmarking performance against more than 10,700 research institutions and their associated researchers from across the world….”

Diverting Leakage to the Library Subscription Channel – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Likewise, we’ve known for some time that, while some publishers take a highly contentious stance towards ResearchGate, others have taken a different approach. Whatever one might have thought about ResearchGate earlier in its development, it has clearly arrived as a major service for researchers. ResearchGate is one of the most trafficked science websites globally and has more than twice the traffic of Google Scholar and many more times that of Sci-Hub. ResearchGate is also without question a site of leakage and that is precisely what also makes it an attractive platform for syndication. …

ResearchGate users without entitlements via a Springer Nature institutional subscription will continue to have access to articles in a non-downloadable format. It is worth noting that this is the version of record, which diverges from Elsevier’s tactic of providing an author manuscript to the non-entitled, and so all users (entitled and non-entitled) have access to the version of record….

The code behind the rendered web pages did not seem to show that the entitlements information was being passed from Springer Nature, but rather that ResearchGate is determining authorization using a database it accesses directly or perhaps via API. …

We also noted that the PDFs one downloads from ResearchGate are different files than the PDFs that are downloaded from the Springer Nature platform. Both platforms provide the version of record PDF but the files from ResearchGate had different watermarks in the footer than those from the Springer Nature platform. This makes even clearer that this is truly a case of syndication to the ResearchGate platform and not linking out from ResearchGate to the publisher platform, such as is done from library discovery layers. …

Bringing library-subscribed resources into the scholar’s workflow on ResearchGate helps to ensure that scholars have easy and seamless access to licensed materials and bypasses the cumbersome process of moving from a citation on ResearchGate, back to the library website, only to then be required to navigate the link resolver, authentication mechanisms, and the publisher platform before getting the PDF. With syndication, discovery is delivery. …”