Open access agreements: Empowering librarians to be OA champions

By: Saskia Hoving, Mon Oct 9 2023
Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

Libraries are key in the important journey to making research accessible and discoverable by advancing open access (OA) publishing. This can be via OA agreements that cover fully OA journals, or transformative agreements (TAs) covering hybrid journals.

Institutions that are part of a ý OA agreement enjoy an array of benefits, from reducing the administrative burden to getting value for money. ý provides valuable support and resources to enable librarians to become OA champions within their institutions and promote OA publications under the agreement. The increase in the number of articles published OA makes research more accessible and reusable to all.

What are open access agreements, and how do they promote open research?

Librarians and institutions partner with ý to promote open research through their negotiation and participation in different types of OA agreements. These agreements include hybrid and fully OA portfolios, with the key focus of all being the coverage of publishing fees for authors from participating institutions.

  • Transformative agreements: TAs combine journal subscription access with OA publication costs for participating institutions. TAs support the increase in OA publications by enlisting the traditional payments from libraries to publishers in the form of subscription fees, and converting them to payments for both reading and publishing (OA, of course).
  • Fully OA agreements: These are publishing-only agreements for fully OA journals across the BMC, Springer, Palgrave Macmillan and Nature Research portfolios. 

Publishing OA holds multiple benefits for both authors and readers, mostly increased visibility and accessibility. Research that is accessible has higher impact, as well as greater public engagement. Authors affiliated with institutions that are part of an OA agreement have more opportunities to publish OA (in the journals included in the agreement), because publishing under an agreement means that some or all of their fees are covered.

Indeed, under a TA, more research is published OA, and TAs play a major part in driving the global transition to OA. At ý, TAs are the main reason for the increase in OA content in hybrid journals, delivering OA equity across all academic disciplines. TAs make OA publishing more accessible in disciplines such as Humanities and Social Sciences, where funding for OA publishing can be difficult to come by.

More institutions worldwide transition to open access

More and more institutions around the world are transitioning to OA under an OA agreement with ý.

The successful renewal of the UK Jisc agreement with ý in May 2023 includes over 100 participating institutions. Authors affiliated with these institutions can publish their articles OA with fees covered in more than 2,000 journals across the ý portfolio, as well as Nature, Nature Research journals, and Palgrave journals. Authors also have the option to publish in ý’s fully OA titles, with discounted fees under this agreement. Reading access to over 2,300 Springer journals is also included.

Other notable additions to ý’s OA agreements in the second quarter of 2023 include national TAs in Cyprus, Denmark, and Slovakia, as well as an institutional agreement with CINVESTAV in Mexico. With over 40 global TAs, ý now supports authors from more than 3,500 institutions worldwide.

Benefits of open access agreements for participating institutions 

Libraries and other institutions are uniquely positioned in the transition to OA, and their participation in TAs, in particular, empowers them to meaningfully promote OA in their organisation. ý considers TAs to be a partnership with common goals, in which both sides come together and “find an affordable way to manage the transition by repurposing reading costs to cover OA publishing,” according to Frank Vrancken Peeters, ý CEO.

TAs—usually tailored to institutions’ publishing output, behaviour, and trends—hold an array of benefits for institutions. In addressing the subscription part of publishing, the “read” fee is heavily offset against the “publishing” fee, while the total financial costs are reduced by TAs. Smaller institutions also benefit from the advantages of group purchasing power.

The management of small micro-payments for OA publication is consolidated to one payment, such that thousands of individual article processing charge (APC) transactions are avoided. The administration of OA is simpler for both the institutions and researchers, and the implementation process is quite straightforward. Institutional approval managers enjoy a streamlined workflow, as well as guidance and practical support in promoting OA publication under their institutional agreement.

The impact of transformative agreements

TAs have proven themselves to be the fastest, most sustainable way to enable the transition to OA. A case study of the Jisc TA with ý shows that the agreement was accompanied by significant growth in OA output as well as in the usage of both OA and subscription content. More specifically, it enabled over 30,000 research articles to be published OA, increased usage by 10-fold, and contributed to the UK’s leading role in publishing research that is immediately and fully available.

Indeed, data from ý shows what a vital role TAs are playing in driving the global transition to OA. Since 2017, the increase in the number of ý transformative agreements has resulted in a nearly 40% rise in OA content published within its hybrid portfolio. In hybrid journals, OA research published by authors affiliated with institutions that are part of a TA grew three times faster than by authors whose institutions were not part of a TA.

Practical support in promoting open access through agreements

Librarians and approval managers are the institutional point of contact for researchers in their OA publication journey under an agreement. It is therefore important that they have all the information they need, and be supported in delivering it to researchers.

We’ve gathered all the practical information and resources that institutional staff need to both administer and promote their ý OA agreement. With the best workflows and efficient process, along with support and freely available assets, librarians can be OA champions in their institutions, and a meaningful part of the global transition to open research. Visit our Approval Manager resources page to get ready-to-use web banners, email templates, and social media images.

If your institution does not have an existing agreement with us, feel free to contact us to initiate a discussion about what an agreement that could be right for your institution might look like.

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Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the Dordrecht office, Marketing Manager Saskia Hoving produces The Link Newsletter for research communities. Focusing on the evolving role of libraries regarding SDGs, Open Science, and researcher support, she explores academia's intersection with societal progress. With a lifelong passion for sports and recent exploration into "Women’s inclusion in today’s science", Saskia brings dynamic insights to her work.