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Why are these negotiations happening?

Infographic reiterating key statistics given in text on the main pageThe University subscribes to over 1,800 Elsevier ScienceDirect journals, comprising a significant portion of the literature that our researchers engage with daily. The University pays £1.3 million for the current subscription deal with Elsevier, enabling University members and users of our libraries to access Elsevier journals online.

Our authors also publish extensively in Elsevier journals, which incurs additional costs in the form of Article Processing Charges (APCs) - the fees charged by publishers to make an article open access in one of their journals. An individual article can incur between £120 - £7,800 in APCs when a Cambridge author publishes in an Elsevier journal. There is currently no open access agreement in place with Elsevier, and open access fees are paid on an article-by-article basis where funding is available.  

The contract between Elsevier and UK Universities is due for renewal in December 2021.

The UK Universities sector is entering negotiations with Elsevier with two core objectives: to reduce costs to levels UK universities can sustain, and to provide full and immediate open access to UK research. The aim is to secure a read and publish agreement with Elsevier, converting subscription expenditure to support immediate open access publishing, and maintaining access to paywalled content for a reduced fee. Such models of ‘transitional’ or ‘transformative’ agreement are supported by Plan S funders.

Who is negotiating?

UK Universities agreed their priorities for the next Elsevier agreement in 2020 and began negotiations in March 2021. The negotiations are governed by two groups; the Universities UK content negotiation strategy group and the content expert group. Representatives from each group will sit on the official negotiation team and Jisc, the UK not-for-profit digital services provider for education and research, facilitates the overall negotiations.

How is the University of Cambridge involved in the negotiations?

The University of Cambridge is represented in these discussions by the Journal Coordination Scheme (JCS) Steering Group and the Open Research Steering Committee, who are working with Cambridge University Libraries to gather information and data that will inform institutional responses to proposals and influence negotiations. Senior leaders, including the JCS Chair and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, are closely engaged with these groups and with the University's response.

Throughout the Spring, representatives from these groups have been talking to Heads of Schools in the University to gauge priorities across the disciplines.

Our libraries have been analysing data about past usage of, and publishing in, Elsevier journals in Cambridge, will help us to form a picture about the implications of any future proposed deals. We know this information will be of great interest to the academic community, and we will share details as soon as we are able (we anticipate that this will not be before the end of September 2021)   

What happens if a deal is not agreed?

The collective ambition of UK Universities is to negotiate a Read-and-Publish deal with Elsevier that meets the sector’s requirements on costs and open access. However, as negotiations continue, institutions are positioning themselves to ensure that we have a realistic alternative access solution if the decision is to not sign an agreement. This alternative solution is known in the UK University sector as 'Plan B'. Explore what this would mean for accessing content and publishing open access - What is 'Plan B' if a deal is not reached?

Contribute your voice

To support planning and analysis throughout the process we are keen to hear all voices, from across disciplines and roles, to ensure the University’s decision is rooted in the interests of researchers at all levels.

Plans for a broad University consultation are being developed and notices about this will be circulated in Michaelmas Term 2021. 

In the meantime, we welcome feedback and expressions of interest from anyone wishing to participate in future events and engagement plans - contribute through this form or write to us at  

Follow the negotiations


Remind yourself of the key facts and figures in this bite-size infographic