skip to content

You may have lots to ask about the negotiations; on this page we address some of the most common questions. 


At this stage of negotiations, we are developing our webpages, at University of Cambridge and Elsevier, to give you access to as much information as we can as it becomes available. We don’t have all the details to share with you yet as we are still gathering data and planning scenarios, but we’ll try answer as best we can.   

You can read more about the background to the negotiations in our news story on the topic and on the Jisc website. Our ongoing series on the Unlocking Research blog explores many of these key questions, with views and insight from those at the heart of Cambridge's involvement with the negotiations.   


Image by Alice Boagey @AliceTheCamera for CUL. Page last updated 27 July 2021





How will this affect me?

The outcome of negotiations may affect how you read and publish research. If we have to step away from a deal, the way you access some publications may change (see the question below). Many funders have open access requirements, and a deal could mean that you can publish in open access journals ‘for free’ as the cost are incorporated in the deal, as is already the case with many other publishers. If a deal cannot be reached, some Elsevier journals may no longer fulfil funder policies.  


Who would be eligible to benefit from a read & publish deal with Elsevier?

Staff and students at the University of Cambridge (in possession of a Raven account) would be eligible to benefit from a deal, as long as they are the corresponding author or sole author of the manuscript. 

Alumni would not be eligible, and neither would staff at Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment. 

Retired members of staff and those with Emeritus positions may be eligible if they maintain an active role in teaching, administration, or publishing research within the University or Colleges. Requests will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with advice from the department or College involved.  


How will I be able to read Elsevier articles if we do not sign a new deal - what is 'Plan B'?

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'. Importantly, this Plan B does not just apply to Elsevier but would come into play in the event of opting out of deals with other big commercial publishers in future negotiations.

An effective Plan B will enable users at the University of Cambridge to obtain articles with a minimum of intervention and as seamlessly as possible. To achieve this, we are developing an integrated workflow that includes the use of browser extensions for discovery and document delivery services such as Inter-Library Loan (ILL). Additionally, we will subscribe to core titles (rather than a ‘Big Deal’ bundle) to provide continual access to content that we know will be in high demand, and make sure to actively share with our academic communities the post-cancellation access information detailing the journal coverage that will continue beyond the end of the existing deal.

Existing ILL services at Cambridge are being developed and expanded. We are implementing RapidILL, a document delivery service that enables quick turnaround times for the supply of journal articles and book chapters, which integrates with iDiscover and other discovery tools. In addition, we are co-ordinating with other UK universities for the supply of content through new and existing peer networks. The negotiations therefore offer the opportunity to bring our document delivery services up to date for this and any future negotiations. For requests that cannot be supplied by Inter-Library Loan, the library is establishing a funding plan to purchase articles on a case-by-case basis.

Another element of Plan B is the promotion of preprint servers and other openly accessible outputs for obtaining research that may not be the version of record but is still of use to researchers. Many articles will already be available as gold open access via publisher websites, but we also encourage our University members to utilise the vast array of papers uploaded to institutional and subject repositories and other indexes available on the web. These include legal author-sharing networks and Google Scholar. Through these networks, along with plugins such as Lean Library, users may also request access to papers directly from the authors themselves. These networks may be used to share materials under copyright. We should acknowledge that pirate sites are heavily used by some researchers; we will not be promoting these pathways to access through library channels and do not recommend their use.

At Cambridge we are doing our best to engage our research communities with the Elsevier negotiation so that any decisions around the deal and potential implementation of Plan B will only take place following communication and engagement with research-active members of the University. If we need to implement a Plan B, it should not come as a surprise; it will be planned and communicated in advance.

Read more in this Unlocking Research blog post, Michael Williams on the Elsevier negotiations: What’s our ‘Plan B’? 


How would cancellation affect resources to support teaching and learning?

We are currently analysing the impact of a possible cancellation on reading list titles and checking which content we would still be able to access through other sources. We will provide an update when this analysis is complete and the alternative access plan is developed.  


If we can’t agree a new deal, when will access to articles stop?

Our current deal runs out at the end of December 2021. Depending on the state of negotiations, it is possible that our access may extend a few months into 2022.


Will I still be able to publish in Elsevier journals?

Yes, the decision to accept a manuscript is not affected by institutional deals. However, if no Read and Publishing deal is agreed, this might affect your ability to obtain funding to publish open access in Elsevier journals. Read more about the university's Plan B for publishing if a deal is not reached.


Will the library pay APCs for publishing open access articles in Elsevier journals if the new deal is not signed?

There are no central funds to cover open access costs, although some funders do provide block grants for this in specific circumstances. In any case, you can make your article open access using the ‘green route’ by depositing it in Apollo, or by using Rights Retention, if required by your funder.


Will I still be able to be an editor or reviewer for Elsevier?

The selection of editors and reviewers should not be influenced by institutional deals with the publishers. It is your personal decision whether you would like to act as an editor or reviewer for any journal. 


How much does the current agreement cost?

The current Jisc Collections Elsevier ScienceDirect Journal agreement, which commenced in 2017 and will end on 31 December 2021, is the UK’s largest subscription agreement. In 2020, Elsevier received £41.95m in contractual subscription fees from subscribers to read content published in 1,808 subscription journals. Outside of the Jisc agreement, Elsevier also receives payments for articles to be published immediately open access in hybrid journals direct from researchers via institutions, and from research funders via institutions - in 2019 this was around £7.24million.  

Elsevier subscriptions consume an increasing proportion of university budgets, 34% of the total amount paid to the top twelve academic journal publishers on Jisc negotiated agreements by institutions in 2019 was to Elsevier. This is not sustainable or affordable. 



Who are the bodies that are negotiating?

Universities are negotiating with Elsevier through two representative groups – representatives from each group will sit on the official negotiation team: 

  • The content expert group represents expert practitioners and will work with the content negotiation strategy group and negotiation team to help set the detailed tactics and ensure alignment between strategy and implementation at the national and institutional level. 




How is Cambridge contributing to the negotiations?

Like other read & publish deals with publishers, this arrangement will be reached on a sector-wide scale - researchers and funders across UK Universities all need the investment they make in creating and funding research published by Elsevier to deliver better valueThe University of Cambridge is heavily involved in discussions with the Jisc negotiation team. 

The final decision about whether Cambridge signs up to the final proposed deal will be made between the PVC-Research, Chair of the Journals Consultative Committee and the Librarian, in consultation with the Heads of Schools. In order to assist the decision-making process, we are also consulting with researchers across the University through the online form and at open events. 


How can I make my views known?

You can share your views through this form or write to us at You can attend a town hall meeting on 9 September or 16 September, with presentations and an opportunity to raise questions.