By Catherine Sharp, on 13 July 2020
There are now more than 5,000 journals in UCL’s transformative agreements, where UCL researchers can now publish open access without additional costs. They cover all disciplines; departments have been using our subject-specific list to identify journals that are relevant to them.
We’re getting lots of questions about which publishers might introduce an agreement next. Today, Paul Ayris (Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services) writes about the UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group that oversees negotiation of these agreements, and explains what the Group is hoping to achieve with current negotiations.
UCL Library Services makes tens of thousands of electronic journals, books and databases available to all UCL staff and students. Have you ever wondered how these materials are acquired and how the discussions with the publishers are conducted?
For e-journals, these discussions take place at a national level and are conducted by the Jisc on behalf of UK Higher Education. UK HE spends a lot of money each year with commercial publishers to acquire e-journals – over £100 million. It’s big business and the consortium of universities that Jisc can call together for a deal with an individual publisher can be both large and impressive. In summer 2019, I stood down after many years as chair of the Jisc Content Strategy Group, which oversaw Big Deal purchases for UK HE. I did this because both Jisc and I wanted to move oversight of these deals to a body chaired at Vice-Chancellor level and aligned with Universities UK (UUK). In this way the new UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group was born.
The membership is diverse. There are University Librarians like me on the Group, and I am happy to say that my colleague Chris Banks (Assistant Provost, Space and Director of Library Services at Imperial) is also a member. There are representatives from other University Libraries with less spending power than UCL and Imperial. SCONUL and RLUK (Research Libraries UK) are also members, as are senior academic figures representing UUK members. The Group is chaired by Professor Stephen Decent, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University.
What are our core aims? These are:
- Develop and advance strategy for cost-effective publication, acquisition and delivery of research output which takes account of the dynamic nature of the information marketplace and the changing needs of the community
- Develop and advance strategy for the utilization of negotiations with publishers and societies to facilitate a quick, cost effective and financially sustainable transition to OA
- Develop and advance strategy for the use of a broad range of innovative approaches in licensing and negotiation to facilitate the acquisition, dissemination and management of research outputs
- Provide leadership for national negotiations
- Act as a conduit between the negotiators and the sector (university leaders, researchers, administration and funders) for the agreement, communication, oversight and reporting on objectives, strategy, tactics and progress of negotiations
- Facilitate debate and action to help implement long term solutions to challenges in publication and acquisition of research output
- Oversee the conduct of the negotiations on behalf of the UK academic community
- Provide a focal point for the provision of guidance on the range of institutional responses to a dynamic research, policy and research environment
- Evaluate options in the event that negotiations do not proceed as planned and further action from the sector may be required to achieve an acceptable agreement
- Seek transparency in deals with publishers especially in relation to cost and how institutional money is being spent
It’s an ambitious and very demanding role. We have already written to all major publishers, asking for substantial reductions in subscription costs as a result of the pressure on university finances caused by covid-19. We have also set ourselves the target of turning all current subscription deals into Open Access Read and Publish deals. This will allow the UK to be compliant with a growing number of research funder policies, such as the forthcoming UKRI OA policy, the OA policy of the Wellcome Trust and Plan S from Science Europe.
The stakes are high. UCL is committed to Open Science/Scholarship principles as key drivers in the global research and education landscape. The role of the High Level Strategy Group is to deliver that change in the publishing arena, achieving the goal of 100% Open Access as speedily as possible.
Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)