Alternative Access to Articles
January 24, 2019

Negotiations between the University of California system and scholarly journal publisher Reed Elsevier failed to reach an agreement and the grace period extended by Elsevier has now passed.

What this means for UC Riverside students, faculty, and researchers:

Our existing contract has expired and, at any time, Elsevier may turn off access to all of the UC libraries' subscriptions. The UCR Library will provide alternative means of access to our users as we do for any other content that we don’t currently license.

The infographic below shows alternative means to access scholarly articles:

The UC continues to advocate for an integrated agreement with Elsevier that would cover both subscription charges and open access publishing fees, making open access the default for any article published by a UC author.

This proposal breaks from the status quo.

Elsevier has earned international criticism for profit margins of close to forty percent, annual price increases that far exceed inflation, and for its opposition to open access except in its own open access journals.

Elsevier is both the largest scholarly publisher in the world and the largest expenditure in each of the 10 UC libraries’ collections budgets.

In 2017 UC paid Elsevier more than $10 million for access to fewer than two thousand journals, and UC authors paid nearly $1 million on top of that in article publishing fees for open access or hybrid journals. In addition, many campus units subscribe to Elsevier’s non-journal research tools, bringing the total annual systemwide spend to more than $11.5 million.

Given that the University of California accounts for nearly 10 percent of all US publishing output — more than any other public educational institution in the nation – in a larger sense, the UC is paying even more. Countless UC faculty members and researchers publish in Elsevier journals, review manuscripts for those journals, or serve on the journals’ editorial boards.

Action Steps for Faculty, Researchers, and Staff

While these negotiations are going on, please consider:

Declining to review articles for Elsevier journals until negotiations are clearly moving in a productive direction. Possible language to use in response to requests: "Until the UC negotiations with Elsevier reach a successful conclusion, I decline to review articles for its journals."

Looking at open access publishing options, including prestigious open access journals in your discipline.

Contacting the publisher, if you’re on the editorial board of an Elsevier journal, and letting them know that you share the negotiators’ concerns.

Using UC’s open access policies to make your final pre-publication manuscript publicly accessible.

Articles in the LA Times (Dec. 8, 2018), the Chronicle of Higher Education (Dec. 12, 2018), Inside Higher Ed (Dec. 13, 2018), STAT (Dec. 19, 2018), and this interview on KQED (Jan. 3, 2019) can provide additional perspective.

Additionally, the UC Office of Scholarly Communication has prepared the following resources: