Negotiations with Elsevier stall, contract to expire Dec. 31

Knight Library (Akendall/CC BY-SA)

The University of Oregon’s contract with academic publisher Elsevier will be allowed to expire as the two sides have so far failed to reach an agreement on a new deal and negotiations have stalled.

The current contract with Elsevier expires Dec. 31. After that, the UO will no longer have access to new 2023 Elsevier-published subscription content.

The university will retain access to the content of 189 of the most used and subscribed journals that were published up to Dec. 31. The UO also will retain access to 609 journal back files with pre-1994 content that were purchased several years ago.

Elsevier is a major publisher of academic and research journals. Universities across the country have faced increasing costs for access to its long list of publications, with many others failing to reach acceptable agreements with the publisher.

Acting Provost Janet Woodruff-Borden said in a campus message that access to Elsevier's journals package is the single-largest annual expenditure for UO Libraries, consuming about 10 percent of the entire collections budget. She said annual price increases have vastly outpaced inflation and squeezed other collections and services.

“These unsustainably high and escalating costs ignore modern realities, such as the increasing prevalence of open scholarship, and undermine our very purpose as a public research institution: to advance the creation and dissemination of new knowledge,” Woodruff-Borden said. 

The UO joined with Oregon State University and Portland State University to reach a package agreement with Elsevier that covered all three institutions. Negotiations took place through the spring and summer, but the provost said the talks have not produced a contract.

Alicia Salaz, vice provost and university librarian, said savings from the expired contract will used to support other research needs.

"The libraries will reinvest savings into critically needed open scholarship and data initiatives," she said. "We believe in a fairer and more affordable future for knowledge creation and will keep pushing to get there."

The university proposals offered a fair price for access to content and data for researchers and tried to advance a more open, inclusive and sustainable future for scholarly publishing, as outlined in UO Libraries' common negotiating goals, Woodruff-Borden said. The Oregon State University Faculty Senate endorsed the principles in May, and they reflect the values in the UO's Open Access Scholarship Policy adopted by the UO Senate in March 2021. 

“Elsevier’s response and counterproposals to date have failed to meaningfully address these goals or provide a clear rationale for pricing beyond profit-seeking at the three institutions' expense,” the provost said. “The pace of negotiation has further been delayed by Elsevier's slow response times and repeated postponement and rescheduling of negotiation meetings.”

As a result, no deal has been reached, and the three universities say they have little choice but to allow the current contract to lapse. They noted that the University of Washington recently announced a similar failure to reach agreement with Elsevier and will also enter 2023 with no package in place.

The universities agreed that further negotiation with Elsevier this year will not be productive, and all three will pause further talks with the publisher until they can assess the effects of the contract lapse. The universities intend to reopen negotiations together in 2023.

“Our librarians will continue to gather feedback and input from our campus communities to inform proposals and to push for a fair and sustainable resolution,” Woodruff-Borden said. 

In the meantime, the UO still will have access to a growing share of open-access articles published in Elsevier journals, which are free to read, and for some journal titles. Those include more than 70 percent of newly published content. 

Also, faculty members still will be able to publish their work in or review for Elsevier journals; those activities are unaffected.

“Our libraries are committed to minimizing any inconvenience to researchers and ensuring that researchers are able to access the content they need, through a raft of alternative access measures, including interlibrary loan,” Woodruff-Borden said.

Access the alternative access to Elsevier articles handout to locate resources using other methods. Find more detailed descriptions about how to access articles on the alternative access to Elsevier articles webpage.