Faculty Take the Lead in Elsevier Negotiations

The UCSF Division of the Academic Senate is pleased to announce its 2019 Senate’s Chancellor’s Funds Awards are open for application as of January 22, 2019.

As was recently reported by the EVCP’s Expresso newsletter, UC is currently in ongoing good faith negotiations with Elsevier. Prompted by the end of UC’s contract with Elsevier on December 31st, 2018, these negotiations are driven by a need to hold down the rapidly escalating costs associated with scholarly publishing while aligning UC’s journal contracts with the principles of open access (OA).

What is less well known, however, is the leading role that faculty within the Academic Senate have taken in these negotiations. Indeed, the UCSF Senate has led the way in developing UC’s OA general framework and policy – initially creating UCSF’s OA Policy in 2012, followed by the systemwide Academic Senate’s OA Policy in 2013, and eventually the OA Presidential Policy in 2015. Leading much of this work has been Dr. Richard Schneider, a UCSF Associate Professor within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, who has engaged in issues related to the library, commercial publishing, OA, new publishing models, information technologies, and scholarly communications since 2004. He chaired both the local Senate Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (COLASC) and its systemwide counterpart, the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC), during that time. In addition to advising the campus and administration on issues and policies regarding library space utilization and collections, both committees participate in shared governance with respect to OA publishing models for UC authors and journal subscriptions for our institution.

It was in this capacity that led UCOLASC Chair Schneider to author and lead the effort across the Academic Senate to endorse a “Declaration of Principles for Transforming Scholarly Communication,” which laid out 18 negotiating principles that hold the potential to transform the system of scholarly communication from one that remains closed and unaffordable, to one that is more open, fair, transparent, and sustainable. Among others, these principles include such concepts as no copyright transfers, no barriers to data availability, no free labor (e.g., UC authors, peer reviewers, editorial boards, etc.), no double payments, and no non-disclosure agreements.

In order to maintain a leadership role for the systemwide Senate, and at the request of the Council of University Librarians (CoUL), Dr. Schneider became one of two faculty representatives on the library team that is negotiating for a transformative license agreement with the publishing giant Elsevier. A major goal of these negotiations is to end the current financial model where UC essentially pays for some content twice – once through high institutional subscription fees and then again through author OA fees (article processing charges, or APCs). In its new contract with Elsevier, UC wants to redirect subscription money to support OA publishing for all UC corresponding authors, and receive get a discounted APC for publishing OA articles in Elsevier journals.

Dr. Schneider recently commented on the gravitas of these negotiations. “For the first time, the UC is negotiating based on the OA principles that we as faculty have been championing for more than a decade. The transformative agreement that we are seeking would enable UC corresponding authors to continue publishing in any Elsevier journal but provide the resources and infrastructure to make such publications immediately and freely available to the world. UC authors would also retain their right to share and re-use their own work widely.”

In moving the needle of the scholarly communication model forward, Professor Schneider has always taken a grassroots approach on these issues, and one that is rooted in the traditions of shared governance. In doing so, he has vigorously engaged with faculty on multiple Senate committees and School Faculty Councils, as well as other groups, on important policy OA initiatives. For instance, immediately preceding his current role on the Elsevier negotiating team, Dr. Schneider utilized this consensus-building strategy to facilitate UCSF signing onto a global OA initiative called OA2020. Speaking to the success of this strategy, he was a UC faculty representative at the OA2020 meeting in Berlin, which not only brought UCSF additional prestige as a leader in OA, but laid the groundwork for other UC campuses to sign onto the agreement.

The significance of involving faculty in these negotiations cannot be overstated, by inserting the faculty voice directly into the discussion that will ultimately lead to an agreement. UCSF University Librarian (UL) Chris Shaffer sees this as a natural progression of shared governance.

“The Council of University Librarians (CoUL) partnered with the UC Systemwide Academic Senate and the Systemwide Library and Scholarly Information Advisory Committee (SLASIAC) to identify the best ways to make the results of UC research widely available at the moment of publication. Our faculty, students, and librarians have been working together for many years in support of open access and increasing the visibility of UC research,” says UL Shaffer.

In partnership with the UCSF Library, the UCSF Senate’s COLASC led campus outreach efforts on the negotiations to 15 Senate committees, the Graduate Professional Student’s Association, and a campus town hall. COLASC Chair Diana Laird is proud of these outreach efforts undertaken by her committee.

Chair Laird, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, recently commented, “I am inspired to be part of an institution where taking a stand for your values is in the cultural fabric. COLASC is committed to advancing open access publishing but is also working to build awareness and solicit feedback from the research community at UCSF. […] Faculty members are willing to look past a little personal inconvenience now to recognize that the publishing model will ultimately change, that UC’s position is important, and that we will be on the right side of history.”

Dr. Schneider remains hopeful that these negotiations with Elsevier will bear fruit, and feels that significant progress has already been made in terms of conveying a clear message about what UC wants to achieve both in the short and long-term. “The importance of UC’s leadership in this effort cannot be overstated. We are at the forefront of a global movement. Academic institutions across the US and around the world are watching closely as we leverage the power of our ten campuses to transform the system of scholarly communication into alignment with our public mission, and for the betterment of society at large.”

< Back to February 2019 Newsletter