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UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group

Catherine Sharp13 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.

Paul Ayris
Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Finding journals in UCL’s transformative agreements

Catherine Sharp25 June 2020

“Planet Transformers” by pavlinajane is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Over the last few weeks we’ve been writing about UCL’s transformative agreements and introducing more researchers to them. These agreements give UCL corresponding authors a way to publish open access in subscription journals. They meet the requirements of the new Wellcome open access policy, which applies to research articles submitted from 1 January 2021, and we anticipate that they’ll also satisfy the new UK Research Councils/UKRI open access policy that’s due to be announced next year.

We’ve put together a list of journals in our transformative agreements (more than 5,000!) by subject. They include Modern Law Review, British Educational Research Journal, Annals of Neurology, Geo: Geography and Environment, and Human Brain Mapping (published by Wiley); Gender & Society (Sage); Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, Climatic Change, and European Journal of Nutrition (Springer); Physics in Medicine and Biology (Institute of Physics); Journal of Materials Chemistry A, B and C (Royal Society of Chemistry); Art & Perception, and Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions (Brill).

If you aren’t very familiar with these agreements, read on to find out more about why they’ve developed and how they work. We’ve also explained a bit of confusing open access terminology – ‘hybrid’ journals – into the bargain.

If you know about transformative agreements already, feel free to go straight to the list: it’s below, and on our transformative agreements webpage. For more information about what’s in the list, scroll down to the “New tool – journals by subject” section below. Make sure that you check the relevant publisher terms and conditions on the transformative agreements webpage before submitting to one of these journals.

Journals in UCL’s open access transformative agreements by subject

Why transformative agreements?

Funders increasingly want to ensure immediate open access to journal articles. Delayed open access after the publisher’s embargo period (usually between 6 and 24 months) isn’t enough; and paying for open access in subscription journals, without the journal committing to becoming fully open access, isn’t going to be acceptable either.

We anticipate researchers that researchers will have to publish in:

  1. fully open access journals (listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals) – e.g. the PLOS and BioMed Central journals, Nature Communications and Scientific Reports (Gold open access);
  2. subscription journals that allow the accepted manuscript to be made open access in a repository (Green open access), with the CC BY licence, on publication (e.g. Royal Society and Emerald journals); or
  3. subscription journals that are part of transformative agreements (or that have “transformative status”) – also Gold open access – for as long as this third option is permitted.

To offer a publishing option that meets these requirements, a journal can become fully open access (option 1), remove its embargo on Green open access and allow CC BY (option 2), or offer a transformative agreement (option 3).

Subscription and hybrid journals

Most journals require a subscription – either institutional or personal – for access. Journals that are accessible through UCL’s subscriptions appear in the E-journals link on our E-resources webpages. Some subscription journals (e.g. the Nature journals, and Science) have a Green open access option, but don’t offer Gold (paid) open access. If you upload the accepted manuscript of a Nature journal to UCL’s Research Publications Service, we’ll make it open access in UCL’s open access repository, UCL Discovery, at the end of the embargo period: six months, for those journals. You can use Sherpa Romeo to check journals’ embargo periods.

Many subscription journals offer an open access option to make specific papers openly available. They’re known as hybrid journals. These journals are in a position to offer transformative agreements that meet the requirements of option 3 above, provided they are serious about transitioning to becoming fully open access. Most journals are hybrid journals.

We’ve already mentioned some high-profile journals that are in our transformative agreements. Most are hybrid journals: Modern Law Review, British Educational Research Journal and Annals of Neurology (published by Wiley); Gender & Society (Sage); Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, Climatic Change and European Journal of Nutrition (Springer); Physics in Medicine and Biology (Institute of Physics); Journal of Materials Chemistry A, B and C (Royal Society of Chemistry); Art & Perception, and Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions (Brill). There are also some fully open access journals in our Wiley agreement: examples are Geo: Geography and Environment, and Human Brain Mapping.

Negotiating transformative agreements

These new agreements replace UCL’s subscription agreements with publishers. An additional sum is paid for the (open access) publishing element, funded by UCL’s UKRI, Wellcome and institutional open access budgets. Over the course of the agreement (sometimes several years), an increasing proportion of the cost is directed towards publishing instead of access (subscriptions).

Jisc Collections negotiates transformative agreements on behalf of all UK institutions. These agreements are transitional: Plan S (to which UKRI and the Wellcome are signatories) and the new Wellcome policy allow costs of transformative agreements to be funded until the end of 2024. Like other universities, we’re monitoring the overall costs of these agreements, takeup, and researchers’ views of them, very closely.

We currently have agreements with Brill, Electrochemical Society, European Respiratory Journal, IMechE, Institute of Physics, IWA Publishing, Microbiology Society, Portland Press (Biochemical Society), Rockefeller University Press, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Medicine, Sage, Springer, Thieme and Wiley. Jisc is actively negotiating with other publishers, including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and many others. Agreements are for calendar years. What’s really critical is that agreements should cover 100% of outputs by UCL corresponding authors, and be affordable.

New tool – journals by subject

We’ve had lots of positive reaction to these transformative agreements, as well as questions about journals that aren’t currently covered (see the section above). One of the things we’ve been asked to do is to provide information about which subjects each journal covers.

We’ve used Scopus and Web of Science to put together a list of journals in the current agreements with different subject granularity. The list below shows broad Scopus categories, narrower Web of Science and Scopus ones, and lastly very specific Scopus categories. In the same file, we’ve included a separate list of the detailed Scopus categories, which might help with interpreting the main list.

Journals in UCL’s open access transformative agreements by subject

We know that only researchers can decide where best to submit their work; but we hope that by providing this information we can help more researchers to publish open access. Make sure that you check the relevant publisher terms and conditions on our transformative agreements page before submitting to these journals.

More information

If you’d like to receive updates on open access and transformative agreements, please use the Subscribe by Email option to sign up for an alert when we publish a new post. You’ll find it to the right of this post, or at the bottom if you’re reading this on a mobile device. Alternatively, or as well, follow us on Twitter!

If you’d like to arrange a department briefing on anything covered in this post, or on open access more generally, contact catherine.sharp@ucl.ac.uk

Open Access Week highlights

Catherine Sharp25 October 2019

It’s nearly time to say farewell to Open Access Week 2019. The Open Access Team would like to thank all the academic and library staff who’ve come to our training sessions and retweeted us. In case you haven’t been following us this week, we’ve been celebrating UCL academics’ open access achievements, and encouraging everyone to learn about Plan S in preparation for new UKRI and REF open access policies in 2020. We’ll be updating our webpages, tweeting and offering training sessions once the new policies are announced, but get in touch with us if you’d like to know more now.

If you haven’t already downloaded the OA Button and Unpaywall browser extensions or added your ORCID ID to RPS, we’d like to suggest that you try this today. It’ll only take a few minutes, and will help you find open access outputs, and make your own work open access.

Here’s a quick reminder of this week’s highlights, with many thanks to our communications and publicity colleagues for all their help!

A response from Robert Kiley, Head of Open Research at the Wellcome Trust, to UCL’s “Response to Plan S”

Catherine Sharp30 January 2019

UCL is pleased to post Robert Kiley’s response to the UCL Town Hall meeting and UCL’s Plan S consultation response as a contribution to the ongoing consultation over Plan S.

As the cOAlition S representative at the UCL Town Hall meeting I’d like to thank UCL for their response to the Plan S guidance document and for giving me the opportunity to respond to some of the points raised.

Firstly, I’d like to commend UCL for the principled stand it has taken on open access and open science more generally.  This stand has been supported by concrete actions as seen in the development of UCL Press – where all content is made freely available – and the fact that UCL were one of the first UK universities to sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and implement this through its academic career framework.

With this pedigree and background, I was disappointed by the UCL response to Plan S which calls for a “wholescale rethink of the strategy and timelines for moving to 100% Open Access”.

The fundamental aim of Plan S is to ensure that research outputs are made openly available, for the benefit of all.  As a species we are facing huge problems – climate change, epidemic preparedness etc. – and to begin to address these we need to ensure that the research we fund is fully accessible and usable.  At the UCL Town Hall meeting, Professor David Shanks gave the example of the Liberian government being unaware of research which talked about the potential impact of an Ebola outbreak within their country.  Had this research been openly available – and the Liberian government acted upon it – then some of the 4810 deaths may have been prevented.

To bring about this change, we need to move to a world where no research is behind a paywall: this is why we are no longer supporting the hybrid OA model.  However, we recognise that publishers may not be able to change their business model immediately.  For this reason, the Plan S implementation guidance makes clear that, for a time-limited period, we will continue to support subscription publishers who develop transformative models to move to OA.  And we are already starting to see some publishers move in this direction, as witnessed by the recent Wiley agreement with Projekt DEAL.

In your response you point out that, as of today, many journals do not offer a Plan S-compliant option.  This is true.  But, if these journals wish to continue to publish the outputs of researchers funded by cOAlition S funders, they will need to develop alternative publishing models.  A journal which can no longer publish research funded by cOAlition S funders is, in the long term, a less impactful journal.

And, even if some journals do refuse to change their model, given that many funders and institutions have signed DORA (including UCL) does this really matter?  If you are assessing researchers based on the research they have conducted and its societal impact, the venue of publication should have no bearing on funding, promotion and hiring decisions.

Within the Plan S leadership team we fully appreciate that the changes we are seeking to bring about will be challenging and that a number of learned societies – many of whom rely on publishing revenues to support their other activities – may face particular difficulties.  To address this issue, Wellcome has joined with UKRI and the ALPSP to fund a study to explore how learned societies can adapt and thrive in a Plan S world.  In reviewing the submissions for this piece of work it is interesting to see a number of new initiatives being trialled, such as the Electrochemical Society’s “Free the Science” initiative, the “Subscribe to Open” model being implemented by the not-for-profit publisher Annual Reviews and various other consortia models.

Ultimately, for Plan S to be successful we need the initiative to be supported globally.  The UCL response correctly points out that Europe alone is too small a player to bring about this change.  That is why significant effort is being deployed to encourage other funders to align their policies with Plan S.  At the recent Berlin OA2020 meeting the Chinese delegation indicated that they support the ambition of Plan S.  More recently the African Academy of Sciences signalled its support, and discussions are ongoing with colleagues in many other parts of the work including the US, Canada, Japan and India.

Of course, it is not just funders who need to support this initiative.  As your observations indicate, engagement between many stakeholders is required, and cOAlition S members are keen to foster this dialogue.  Specifically, institutions – like UCL – can play a significant role in bringing about the change we all seek. At one level this can be supporting academics, making it clear that venue of publication will not be used when undertaking researcher evaluation.  At another level this might take the form of making a public commitment that library journal subscription budgets will, at some future date, be used to meet the publishing costs incurred by researchers at your institutions.  If publishers understand that the subscription revenues for “read access” are time-limited, the flip to open access will surely happen more quickly.

Working together we can bring about this change to ensure that research outputs are made openly available, for the benefit of all.  Now is the time to act.

UCL response to Plan S consultation

Catherine Sharp21 January 2019

UCL has submitted an institutional response to the Plan S consultation. This response was shaped by the UCL Plan S Town Hall meeting that was held on 8 January (and also takes into account subsequent feedback received from UCL academics). The response, and the supporting document (notes from the Town Hall meeting) are available below.

UCL response
UCL Plan S Town Hall meeting notes

UCL Plan S Town Hall meeting

Catherine Sharp10 January 2019

Plan S requires that, from 2020, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.

Plan S is an initiative for open access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders. This group currently comprises 13 national research funding organisations (including UK Research and Innovation/UK Research Councils) and three charitable foundations (including the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) from 13 countries. Together with the European Commission and the ERC, they have agreed to implement the 10 principles of Plan S in a coordinated way.

UCL held a Town Hall meeting on 8 January to discuss the principles of Plan S, as well as what its implementation will mean for researchers. Around 115 staff from across UCL attended. The Open Access Team would like to thank everyone who shared their views and questions.

Presentations from the meeting are now available:

cOAlition S is running a consultation on the Plan until 8 February 2019. You can contribute to the consultation directly. To arrange a meeting in your department to discuss the implications of Plan S, contact the Open Access Team at open-access@ucl.ac.uk.

Update: UCL’s response to the Plan S consultation is available in a separate post.