The UC Reaches New Publishing Agreement with Springer Nature

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Geisel Library
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

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The University of California (UC) announced a new four year contract with global research publisher Springer Nature on June 16. The contract, spanning from 2020-2023, will allow UC associated authors to publish their research at little to no cost, minimizing a major financial hurdle for researchers. The agreement will also expand access to 1000 Springer journals for UC students and faculty.

The agreement marks an important step in the UC’s Open Access (OA) Initiative, which aims to reduce or eliminate the cost of publishing and accessing academic research by 2020. Traditionally, academic researchers have had to choose between paying an additional fee for their research to be OA, allowing their work to be accessed for free without restrictions, or requiring readers to pay to read their work. This Initiative creates institutional support for OA publishing within the UC system.

“UC’s new transformative agreement with Springer Nature is another step in the right direction, signaling increasing global momentum and support for the open access movement,” said Eric Mitchell, Audrey Geisel University Librarian. “I am proud to see [the] UC and UC San Diego providing leadership to make the scholarship of our faculty and students openly available.”

The UC agreement with Springer Nature will proceed in three phases. During the 2020-21 phase, the UC will cover the additional fee typically associated with publishing OA articles. From 2021-22, UC libraries will contribute $1000 to help cover the OA fees. The UC libraries can also cover any remaining fees as needed. Finally, from 2022-23, Springer Nature will integrate its titles into the OA agreement, making them free to access.

While the worldwide push for OA has led to increased viewership and citation of published research, it may have unintended costs for researchers if they do not have adequate financial support from their academic institutions. In a traditional publishing system, authors often have to pay additional fees, up to thousands of dollars, to have their research be open access.

“We do write publication costs into our grant budgets, but the costs have really soared in recent years, and especially for open access, as the author paid the full cost. My recent paper in Nature Communications (Springer, open access) was $5,380! That’s the most I have ever paid to publish a paper”, said Professor Susan Golden.

Usually researchers publish through for-profit publishing institutions such as Elsevier, one of the world’s largest and most expensive academic publication services. In 2019, the UC terminated their contract with Elsevier after months of negotiations. Elsevier accounted for 25% of the annual systemwide journals budget and required UC associated authors to pay their fee, along with the UC’s subscription fees.

Since January 2020, the UC and Elsevier have remained in an informal dialogue to see if a new agreement can be made. As of July 27, the UC publisher negotiations team has restarted formal dialogue and hopes that negotiations can restart by the end of summer.

Orianna Borrelli is the Administrative Director for The Triton. You can follow her @orianna_b.