Major Win for Open Access at UC

As of January 4, 2021, UCSF authors can make research they publish in Springer journals freely available for anyone to read by taking advantage of the University of California’s new transformative open access agreement with Springer Nature.  See the Library News announcement.

BMC Genome Biology Journal
   Image courtesy of Springer

The first phase of the agreement will support UC authors whose articles are accepted by journals in the Springer portion of the Springer Nature portfolio, including Springer, BioMed Central, Adis, and Palgrave Macmillan titles, as well as academic journals on

Beginning January 4, upon acceptance of an article, UC-affiliated corresponding authors will, by default, have their article designated for open access publishing, with funding support from the UC libraries. The support will work in this way:

For authors whose articles are accepted in journals from the portion of the Springer Nataure portfolio and who choose open access publishing, the UC libraries will automatically pay the first $1,000 toward the open access fee (called an Article Processing Charge or APC).

Authors who do not have research funds available can request that the UC libraries pay the entire open access fee, ensuring that lack of research funds does not present a barrier for UC authors who wish to publish open access in these journals.

As with other similar publishing agreements, authors may opt out of open access publishing if they prefer to publish their article on a subscription (pay-to-read) basis. For additional details, see the Frequently Asked Questions.

The University of California has brokered a transformative open access publishing agreement with Springer Nature, a global academic publishing company. This is the largest open access agreement to date in North America with a major academic journal publisher. It encompasses all of UC's chief transformative open access (OA) goals, which were developed in advance of the Elsevier negotiations in 2019. The deal covers Springer Nature’s entire journal portfolio, with Nature branded titles phased in during the four- year agreement. Under the agreement, all articles with a UC corresponding author published in more than 2,700 of Springer Nature’s journals will be open access by default on the day of publication, with the UC Libraries paying a portion of the OA fee on behalf of all authors. Authors without available research funds for the remainder of the publishing fee can request that the library cover the entire amount. Authors may also choose to opt out of OA publishing if they wish.

The significance of involving faculty in publisher negotiations cannot be overstated. Prioritizing faculty principles and including faculty on the publisher negotiation team helped lead UC to a successful agreement. UCSF has long been a leader in supporting and advancing open access. What is less well known, however, is the leading role that faculty within the Academic Senate have taken in OA efforts. Indeed, the UCSF Senate has led the way in developing UC’s OA general framework and policy – initially passing the first faculty OA Policy at UCSF in 2012, followed by the systemwide Academic Senate 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, scholarly publishers, OA, new publishing models, information technologies, and scholarly communications since 2004. He chaired both UCSF’s 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, and was one of the lead faculty negotiators with Elsevier, Springer Nature, and other publishers as part of the UC Negotiating Team.

It was in his capacity as UCOLASC Chair that Schneider authored and led the effort across the systemwide Academic Senate to endorse a “Declaration of Principles for Transforming Scholarly Communication.” This document lays out 18 negotiating principles for transforming 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.

Commenting on this new agreement with Springer Nature, Professor Schneider shared: "Open access on this scale has been something that many of us at UC, especially via the Academic Senate, have been working towards for over 15 years. I am pleased that Springer has agreed to include the Nature titles as part of the deal, which has yet to be accomplished elsewhere. For me, the opportunity to serve as a faculty member on the negotiating team and represent the needs and aspirations of our authors and our institution is a real privilege. But ultimately our team’s success is due to the fact that we had phenomenal support and collaboration from the Academic Senate, the Library, and the Administration—in many ways this agreement epitomizes shared governance at its best."

Echoing statements of excitement and support were also made by other involved UCSF faculty committed to OA, as well as those involved in UCSF’s research enterprise.

“The agreement between Springer/Nature and the California Digital Library is truly historic and transformative, and will be enthusiastically embraced by the UCSF faculty. As a UCSF faculty member and the Chair of the UCSF COLASC, I am particularly thrilled that the high impact Nature journals will be covered by this agreement within a couple of years, enabling every citizen of the world to access the highest impact UC research without delay. With this agreement in place to show the way, I am confident that the CDL will be able to reach similar agreements with all major scientific publishers over the next few years, making the entirety of the UC scholarly output immediately and fully accessible to all.” Marta Margeta, 2019-20 COLASC Chair

Leaders within UCSF’s research enterprise – both within and outside the Senate – were also quick to praise the new agreement. Lindsey Criswell, UCSF’s Vice Chancellor of Research, observed that “this new agreement between the University of California and Springer Nature represents an enormous victory for all of us who have worked so hard to increase access worldwide to emerging knowledge and discoveries. Importantly, given the visibility and prominence of Springer Nature, this new open access agreement establishes a new standard and expectation for publishers worldwide. I am grateful for the hard work and persistence of those who helped to secure this transformative agreement.”

And Lea Grinberg, Chair of Senate’s the Committee of Research (COR), points out that “in the past years, publication costs of scientific papers are becoming prohibitive for the research community, negatively impacting research dissemination. This new agreement is a game-changer.” As critical leaders in OA transformation, UCSF faculty affirm the benefits to society that will result from this deal, supporting the UCSF mission of advancing health worldwide, in addition to pushing societies and their publishers to develop open and sustainable scholarly publishing models.

While broad-based open access publishing in the most well-known Nature journals is not initially included, the deal commits Springer Nature and UC to collaborating on an open science pilot in 2021 and developing plans for a transformative agreement for all of the Nature journals to be implemented in the third year of the agreement. The deal also includes reading access and perpetual rights to more than 1,000 journals in Springer Nature’s portfolio to which UC did not previously subscribe.

The open access publishing provisions will go into effect once the formal agreement has been signed and will run through 2023. More details are available on the UC’s Office of Scholarly Communication website.

Besides the Springer Nature agreement, UC has also implemented four other transformative open access agreements, with a diverse range of publishers — Cambridge University Press, society publisher ACM, and native open access publishers JMIR and PLoS) — and conversations with other publishers are still underway. For an update on progress with Elsevier, see the Library News 6/16/20 announcement.