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“A real win for researchers”: UC and Elsevier sign transformative agreement

March 16, 2021

By Ian Evans

Cooperation picto

In new shared-funding model, University of California researchers can publish open access and read content across Elsevier’s extensive journal portfolio

A new 4-year agreement between the University of California (UC) and Elsevier will implement a pioneering shared-funding model at unprecedented scale. The agreement supports UC’s libraries, funders and authors in increasing open access publishing while also providing reading access to Elsevier’s extensive journal portfolio.

As with each of the 15 pilot deals Elsevier has announced over the past 24 months, the agreement is tailored to the specific needs of the institution. In this instance, that means meeting the needs of a highly research-intensive university that has a strong vision around open access and a clear sense of how to deliver it.

We spoke with Gemma Hersh, Senior VP of Global Research Solutions at Elsevier, and Gino Ussi, Executive VP for Research Solutions at Elsevier, to understand how the agreement took shape.

When the deal was announced, Ivy Andersonopens in new tab/window, Executive Director of the California Digital Library, who was co-chair of UC’s negotiation team, described it as “a significant step” toward their goal of supporting all scholars who wish to publish open access. Would you agree?

Gemma Hersh and Gino Ussi

Gemma Hersh and Gino Ussi

Gino: Absolutely! Our agreement delivers a real win for the world-class researchers across the UC system. It supports them to publish open access in Elsevier journals and to access high quality, trusted research from the rest of the research community. UC is very passionate about securing open access to its research, and we’re equally passionate about helping our customers achieve their goals and ensuring that research is accessible and reliable, whatever model it’s published under. Those were really the driving forces that shaped the agreement.

Gemma: What’s more, the deal presents another opportunity to learn about author behavior and how authors might respond to the shared-funding model we are piloting. So as well as helping UC reach its goals around open access, it gives us more insight about what works and what doesn’t, and how we might work with other institutions to reach their goals, whatever those goals might be. In that sense, yes, it’s a significant step for UC – and it’s also a notable development for the wider research community.

Ivy also noted how far Elsevier and UC came to reach this agreement. Does this reflect the approach you’ll take going forward?

Gino: This was a genuine collaboration, and we appreciated UC’s willingness to work through the hurdles and solve them pragmatically. The agreement is the result of us listening to each other and working together to reach an agreement that reflects fair value, risk sharing on both sides, and common goals. That’s what we always try to do, and its great when we have a partner who is one the same page.

It’s important to understand just how different the needs of customers can be depending on their organization’s focus, with different budgets and different balances between subjects, research and teaching. No two agreements are the same. We know better than to take a one-size-fits-all approach, so in each instance we’re listening to what each customer is looking to achieve and using that collaboration to deliver a truly tailored approach. And as Gemma rightly says, each time we do that, we build our understanding by testing and learning from author choices.

What are some of the elements that makes this agreement unique?

Gemma: I think the scale is part of it. There are 10 campuses in the UC system, which is home to an amazing research community – one that produces nearly 10 percent of US research output. The 4-year agreement pilots UC’s pioneering shared funding model at an unprecedented scale, meaning UC researchers can publish open access across Elsevier’s journals and also be able to read content across our extensive portfolio of high quality journals. I think what our UC colleagues have set out to achieve is really remarkable, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to work with them to help deliver it.

Dr Jeffrey MacKie-Masonopens in new tab/window, a university librarian and economics professor at UC Berkeley, commented that “disseminating UC knowledge freely will spark new solutions to the world’s most pressing problems – and this deal will make it happen.” Does that reflect your view of the importance of the deal?

Gino: I think Jeff is right, and I think every instance where we’re able to help researchers validate their work and then share it in the way that best suits them goes some way to achieving this. UC had a really clear goal in terms of what that meant for them, and I was very appreciative as to how willing they were to work with us to make it a reality.

Open science at Elsevier

This agreement is illustrative of Elsevier’s commitment to a collaborative, inclusive and transparent world of research where authors, researchers, and academic institutions can share knowledge and build on each other's work to advance outcomes.


Portrait photo of Ian Evans


Ian Evans

Senior Director, Editorial, Content & Brand


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