SpringerNature ‘big deal’ negotiation

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


Last updated: 12 May 2023

Key points:

  • Our subscription to SpringerNature expired at the end of 2022
  • Sheffield was part of a UK-wide consortium which successfully negotiated a new deal covering the period 1 Jan 2023 to 31 December 2025
  • The new deal supports our principles of cost reduction and increasing the number of published outputs that are open access
  • The new deal falls short of our expectations around transparency and the cost of publishing outside the agreement

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, supporting the FAIR principles to the benefit of society (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.) Our comprehensive content strategy outlines how we approach this.

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

The University Library provides read access to Springer Nature Research Journals through the Jisc negotiated national deal. This deal ended on 31 December 2022 and is one of our ‘big deals’ (Tell me more). Our 16 largest big deal journal subscriptions account for around 50% of our overall subscriptions budget. The cost of large, “read only” journal subscriptions no longer represents value for money.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. 

The terms of the new SpringerNature deal

The new agreement meets our key criteria in that it provides full and immediate open access to UK research, recognises that authors can retain their rights, and reduces costs. We continue to have read access to 2,500 SpringerNature titles, including Nature, Nature research journals, and Palgrave tiles. Authors are able to publish gold open access, and apply the University’s Publications and Copyright Policy to ensure they retain their rights.

However, we have serious reservations about aspects of the deal, which are shared by many other universities. SpringerNature continues to model their pricing on high article processing charges (APCs) of up to €9000, without explaining how this fee relates to the cost of making an article open access. Furthermore, there are fundamental concerns that this deal and other transitional agreements are failing to progress the transformation of scholarly communications towards sustainable and equitable open access. You can read more about the concerns of our community in this WonkHE blog post by Libby Homer and read more about the terms of the deal on the Jisc website.

What can the academic community do?

In order to make significant progress in scholarly publishing we need the help of the academic community. At an institutional level, we need to ensure our recognition and reward processes support our institutional commitment to DORA, and that we assess research on its own merits rather than the perceived merits of the venue of publication. At an individual level, there is scope for authors, peer reviewers and members of editorial boards to take action. Authors can consider their choice of publication venue. Peer reviewers and members of editorial boards can challenge the practices of journal publishers (listen to a Guardian podcast about action taken by the Neuroimage editorial board). The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) have jointly issued a call to action, outlining how you can help.

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