University of California in negotiations with Elsevier for academic journals subscriptions
January 18, 2019

The University of California system is currently negotiating the potential renewal of its contracts with scholarly journal publishers, including Reed Elsevier.

UPDATE: UC/Elsevier negotiations continue.

The University of California and Elsevier have agreed to continue good-faith discussions for the time being. For now, access is expected to continue. Should we learn of any changes to access at UC, we will notify our community. See the UC Office of Scholarly Communication for more information.


The Elsevier contract was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2018.

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.

The UC is advocating 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, and we want to ensure that our UC Riverside faculty and researchers are aware of the potential implications, should negotiations not be completed by the agreed-upon date.

If the UC does not reach an agreement with Elsevier, Elsevier may turn off access to articles published on or after January 1, 2019, as well as to a small number of journals for which UC does not have perpetual access rights. In this case, 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. More information will be made available immediately if this situation occurs.

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.

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.

The UC Office of Scholarly Communication has prepared this overview / briefingupdate on publisher negotiationsalternative access to articles guide. 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.