Plenary Session (2) :
Case Analysis on Transformative Agreements

Speaker: Angel Borrego, Associate Professor – Department of Library and Information Science & Audiovisual Communication at the University of Barcelona

Title: Transformative agreements: do they pave the way towards open access?

Description: Transformative agreements, also known as “offsetting”, “read and publish” or “publish and read” agreements, have shifted the focus of scholarly journals licensing from cost contention towards open access publication. An analysis of 36 full-text transformative agreements recorded in the ESAC registry shows that “transformative agreement” is an umbrella term that encompasses different kinds of contracts. We differentiate pre-transformative, partially transformative and fully transformative agreements. Pre-transformative agreements are traditional subscription licences that grant APC discounts or vouchers for open access publication of a limited number of articles. Partially transformative agreements differentiate a read fee and a publish fee to cover the processing charges of a certain amount of articles. Fully transformative agreements allow the unlimited open access publication of the scholarly output of the subscribing institution. In all three categories, some agreements restrict open access publication to hybrid journals whereas others allow publication in both hybrid and gold journals. Transformative agreements are more transparent than traditional journal licences, allow authors to retain use rights and make provisions to facilitate the management of open access workflows. It is harder to assess whether these agreements are just a temporary phase in the transition towards open access or they will perpetuate the current structure of the scholarly communication system and its associated high costs.

Speakers: Quentin Dufour, David Pontille & Didier Torny (CSI, CNRS, Mines ParisTech, PSL University)

Title: Transformative Agreements to achieve Open Access. A first systematic analysis of  available consortium-publisher documents.

Description: Since the digitalization of academic publications, subscription to journals had taken the form of access rights to content platforms for users. Despite almost 20 years of open access policies, paywalled papers and subsequently subscriptions are still paramount for the oligopoly of publishing industry in its relations with ever-growing consortia of universities and libraries. Nevertheless, in the last five years, new forms of agreement have been signed, notably including paying open access publishing options. The range of names given to these new agreements underlines their complexity and diversity: offset agreements, read and publish, publish and read, transformative agreements.  Whereas previously subscription agreements included confidentiality clauses on their content, the transparency requirements of some consortia have led to their availability.

Thanks to this publicity and to the funding of the French Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, we will present the preliminary results of a first systematic comparison of more than 60 available agreements between “big” or “medium” publishers (ACS, Elsevier, OUP, Sage, Springer, Wiley, etc.) and European or North American consortia. Drawing on science and technology studies approaches, we have read and analyzed these hundreds-pages long documents, written or translated in English and will present the following results.
1/ The diversity of agreement transparency conditions: apart from the fact that more than a hundred contracts of this type signed over the last five years are not available, we will show that traces of the culture of secrecy of the previous period are still present and that the “as transparent as possible” logic is dominant
2/ The morphological variety of agreements: we observe a great variety in the size, structure of central objects and content of annexes in the agreements, even if there is clearly a “Springer Compact model” in a limited number of cases.
3/ Shared objects and devices: definition of eligible authors and articles, perimeter of eligible journals for publication, system of recognition of authors and rights holders, financial payment circuits, monitoring of actual costs and number of papers published through the agreement, definition of editorial independence..
4/ A diversity of options for publication: the publishing part of agreements is clearly an output of long and often difficult publications. As a consequence, from the whole collection of agreements, we observe different choices (hybrid and/or full OA journals, limited or unlimited volumes, capped or unlimited costs, …), some consortia signing for constant ones, while others change from one publisher to the other.

We will discuss the limitations of these results and the subsequent stages of our research before concluding by raising two issues: first, the establishment of a terminology regarding the financial mechanisms of these agreements; second, the scope of the transformative nature of such agreements on an individual and collective basis.

Speaker: Adam Der, License Management, Max Planck Digital Library (MPDL)

Title: A tiered, transformational framework for open access publishing and complete access for Nature and Nature-branded research journals

Description: While negotiating the first ever transformative agreement for Nature research journals MPDL developed a model that clusters potential participants into five tiers, from primarily reading institutions to research-intensive. The tiered pricing structure distributes costs for open access publishing and access services with a single annual fee that enables institutions to plan with a stable budget. The underlying model allocates the total annual fees of participating institutions between a smaller share, covering Nature’s in-house produced editorial content, and a larger share dedicated to the original research articles published in Nature journals.

With such a structure, the benefits are balanced across institution types, and by utilising the collective action of participating institutions, the framework mitigates the financial and organizational challenges faced by institutions whose subscription budgets and processes would not sustain an immediate shift from subscriptions to an open access publishing model based purely on article processing charges.

The presentation will discuss the background of the negotiations, the publishing trends of German institutions, the tiering mechanism that was used to categorize the institutions, the transformative nature of the model, and the resulting financial impact on institutions.

Moderator: Lluis Anglada, Director of Open Science, CSUC (Consortium of Services of the Universities of Catalonia)

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