Elsevier ‘big deal’ negotiation

The Library is committed to the transformation of academic publishing to create an equitable and open research environment.


 Last updated 9th January 2022

    Key points

    • Our subscription to ScienceDirect (Elsevier) expires end of 2021
    • Sheffield is part of a UK-wide consortium negotiating a new deal
    • The new deal needs to support open research and reduce and constrain costs
    • We have received a 7th proposal from Elsevier and the Elsevier Negotiation Team is recommending we accept the offer
    • Read the FAQs to understand how this might impact you
    • For more information or to provide feedback please contact the librarian for your department

    The Library works in partnership with Jisc and other UK academic libraries to negotiate access to content to support the University’s vision for learning and teaching and the University’s commitment to create an open research culture that values a range of contributions and delivers the highest standards and best practice in research integrity and ethics. Our comprehensive content strategy outlines how we approach this. 

    The Elsevier Negotiation Team is recommending that we accept the 7th and latest proposal from Elsevier. At Sheffield Sue Hartley (VP for Research), Anna Clements (Library Director) and Library colleagues will be considering the detail of the proposal between now and the first week in January 2022. They will take this to the Open Research Advisory Group meeting in January before submitting a full response to Jisc by the 31 January 2022 deadline.

    Elsevier has agreed to maintain our current read-access to journals beyond the current subscription’s expiry date of 31 December 2021 and whilst negotiations continue.

    Your input to this process is still very welcome and you are invited to contact the librarian for your department throughout this period if you would like to put forward your views.

    Our principles:

    The Library holds to the negotiating principles of Jisc:

    1. Cost constraint, and ultimately cost reduction
    2. Transitional, breaking from legacy publishing models and ensuring a greater proportion of research is made Open Access
    3. Compliant with funder mandates and policy on Open Research
    4. Transparent, to articulate what public money pays for and why
    5. Effective, improving the workflows of publishers, researchers and libraries
    Our current subscription and key dates

    Our subscription to ScienceDirect (Elsevier) is due to expire at the end of 2021 and we are currently in a period of negotiation as part of a UK-wide consortium. 

    Unlike other publishers, Elsevier has not put in place any mechanism to reduce, constrain or offset sector spend on open access publishing.  

    The negotiations are sector-led involving senior academic leaders and Jisc. Details are at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/elsevier-sciencedirect-negotiations/about. The core aims of the negotiations are to provide full and immediate open access to UK research, and to reduce and constrain costs. Initial meetings have been held with Elsevier and outcomes fed back to the UUK / Jisc Content Negotiation Strategy Group and the Jisc Content Expert Group. Professor Sue Hartley (Vice President for Research) is a member of the former, Anna Clements (Interim Director Library Services) is a member of the latter. The negotiating team will seek feedback from individual institutions over summer 2021 and have further meetings with Elsevier in due course.

    Jisc member libraries (UK universities) spend £50m annually with Elsevier to subscribe to ScienceDirect and for open access publication fees. In 2019, RELX Group (which owns Elsevier) made a profit of 31%.  The cost of large, “read only” journal subscriptions no longer represents value for money. These subscriptions consume an increasing proportion of library budgets, locking up funds that could be used to better support research, teaching and learning. At Sheffield, the ScienceDirect (Elsevier) subscription is our largest ‘big deal’ (Tell me more). Our 16 largest big deal journal subscriptions account for c.50% of our overall subscriptions budget. The ScienceDirect (Elsevier) subscription accounts for 14% of our entire content budget by itself.

    What is the Library doing to prepare for negotiations?

    It is important that we agree a deal which aligns with the University’s vision, including our commitment to open research and inclusivity. Equally the deal must be affordable, sustainable and align with funder open access requirements. If we are to achieve a successful outcome, we need to take a clear and firm stance. We remain positive that a good deal can be achieved but we are preparing in case negotiations stall.

    At a national level we take part in regular meetings with Jisc, providing opinion and feedback. We also work closely with regional and national academic and library networks, including the Russell Group, the N8 and Research Libraries UK (RLUK). Here at Sheffield we have a clear plan for this period of negotiation. We are currently in a data collection phase, looking at our institutional and departmental exposure to Elsevier in terms of usage in teaching and research, citation patterns and our involvement in editorial boards. At the same time we are assessing alternative access arrangements for the material you need in your teaching and research. Our next phase involves us talking to you: outlining our current position, listening to your concerns and working with you to address these.

    What can the academic community do?

    Keep up to date with the negotiations via this page or by talking to your faculty’s Library team. You can find the librarian for your department at www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/libstaff/sllist

    We welcome departmental ‘champions’ - colleagues who can talk to us regularly about the impact on their department and help to disseminate information from us. If you would like to take a more active role, countries and institutions around the world (such as the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and the University of California) have gone before us and have seen strong practical support from the academic community. Academic support has proved to be crucial in achieving a suitable deal in such negotiations. This has taken various forms including media outreach, boycotts of Elsevier, resignations from editorial boards and refusals to engage in peer review.

    Routes for accessing Elsevier material

    Instant access

    It’s worth noting that, in the event that we don’t reach an agreement, we still have instant access to a lot of Elsevier material through post-cancellation access agreements and open access initiatives. A search in StarPlus will show whether we have full text access or not.

    The LibKey Nomad browser extension flags up open access journal articles, as well as articles we subscribe to, when you’re browsing the web. You can download and install it on your computer for free from the LibKey Nomad webpage.


    Alternative access in the event of not reaching an agreement

    Where you are unable to get the full text of the items you need the Library has several services in place to obtain material from elsewhere, including:

     - for items required for research and private study, use our interlibrary request service 

     - for items required for teaching, use the library resource recommendation form 

    There are several tools available to make it as easy as possible to find full text material. In addition to StarPlus there is:

     - the Open Access button from OA.Works has a ‘contact the author’ service. Many publishers allow authors to share their own articles responsibly and authors will often willingly share their final manuscript with you. ResearchGate and Academia.edu are other sharing sites.

     - Web of Science, Scopus, and Dimensions are excellent tools for undertaking literature searches and systematic reviews. Clicking on the FindIt@Sheffield links in Web of Science or Scopus will indicate whether or not full text access is available and, if not, will offer the option of an interlibrary request.

      Contact the librarian for your department to find out more and how to get involved.

      Related information

      FAQs about the Elsevier negotiations

      Tell me more about ‘big deals’

      Jisc information about the Elsevier negotiations

      Content strategy

      List of Elsevier big deal journals

      Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

      CC BY Creative Commons licence

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