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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)

Transforming publishing with new agreements?

Catherine Sharp25 May 2020

When Plan S was announced 18 months ago, requiring all publications from participating funders to be made open access from 2021, a new term – transformative agreement – entered the open access lexicon. The idea is to transform or transition journal publishing away from subscriptions towards full open access.

The Wellcome open access policy from 2021, and Plan S, allow authors to publish in three different types of journal. After their consultation on a new policy finishes, the UK Research Councils (UKRI) might well say something similar. Here are the three routes:

  1. Fully open access journals. All papers in these journals are published open access, often for a fee. Examples are the PLOS and BMC journals, Nature Communications, Scientific Reports, SageOpen, Wellcome Open Research, and UCL’s own UCL Open: Environment and UCL Child Health Open Research.
  2. Journals that aren’t open access, but that allow authors to make their manuscripts open access in a repository like UCL Discovery, on publication, under the CC BY licence. Royal Society journals are an example.
  3. Journals that are part of transformative agreements, or are themselves transformative journals, until 2024.

Most publishers still don’t allow immediate open access in a repository, and most that do don’t allow CC BY. Transformative agreements are increasing, though.

Jisc, which negotiates our subscription agreements, has some complex criteria for transformative agreements. Publishers must offer 100% UK open access publishing that’s affordable, sustainable and transparent. Large commercial publishers, as well as society publishers like Microbiology Society and Electrochemical Society, all have agreements.

What does this mean for me?

UCL is trialling lots of transformative agreements this year. These include our long-standing SpringerCompact, RSC and IOP agreements, smaller offers from Brill, Thieme, European Respiratory Journal and the societies we’ve already mentioned, and larger agreements with Wiley and Sage.

These agreements are restricted to UCL corresponding authors. Make sure you give your UCL e-mail address and affiliation when you submit to a journal; you should be recognised as eligible if we have a transformative agreement. See our step-by-step guide to open access funding for more information both about these agreements and about other open access funding arrangements.

Contact us if you’d like to arrange a virtual department visit from us to discuss these agreements.