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CSU/Elsevier Open Access Agreement


San Jose State University Library held a forum on September 26 to inform the campus community about the CSU-level negotiations for journal content on the ScienceDirect platform with the multidisciplinary publisher Elsevier.

Attached is the slide deck that was presented.

Please see below for frequently asked questions about the subscription, transformative agreements, and open access.


Update -- October 15, 2019

The CSU Libraries Council of Library Deans published their statement on the ongoing negotiations between CSU and Elsevier.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. When it has to make budget cuts, what is the library’s process? 


When we consider cancellations, we take into account the cost per use and cost per download. For example, Nature journals are expensive, ranging from $7,000-$15,000 per title annually. There have to be a lot of downloads to have a reasonable download cost. Subject librarians and department chairs are also contacted to determine what impact a cancellation would have on scholarship, teaching, and learning.


Interlibrary Loan (ILL) provides alternative ways of getting articles. When using these services, copyright charges to the library range from $55-$80 per article, far cheaper than subscribing to many journals. 



Q. If the library walked away, would we lose access to older Elsevier journal articles?  


For our subscribed titles we would retain access from 1995-2019. We would lose access to new content (2020 and going forward), so those journal collections would be stagnant. We would lose access to some titles completely without access to the backfile (older content). However, there is hope that access would continue after the contract expires during the ensuing negotiations period.



Q. What are the some of the ramifications for losing access to new content?


For a financial perspective on this question, we can look at the results of our 2014 Wiley cancellation for some information. CSU walked away from a Wiley package in 2014, which became effective 2015. We retain perpetual access to content from 1998-2014. Any new content that is published is not part of our subscription, so users access that individually via interlibrary loan. Older content may also be available through database aggregators.


Interlibrary loan costs can be complex. There are guidelines from the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU) that provide information on when an institution should pay copyright fees for materials received via interlibrary loan. Copyright fee assessment is done on a calendar basis. Basically, libraries may request 5 articles from a particular journal within the last 5 years of coverage during a calendar year without paying any additional copyright fees. Every request beyond those first 5 will incur additional copyright fees. 


As this applies to the Wiley scenario, we are still paying to access new 2019 content, but we are also paying copyright fees for each individual interlibrary loan request for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 content when we have exceeded the five requests for that particular journal title in the calendar year. Over time, that 5-year window continues to move. Starting in 2020, we may request 2015 content from cooperating libraries without paying additional copyright fees.


Q. How have the UC universities been affected by walking away from their Elsevier contract?


Access to ScienceDirect was terminated July 10, 2019. Based on previous usage of the platform, UC anticipated that there would normally be about 108,000 downloads during the July - August months (for ~6 weeks). With access terminated, all users would see a turnaway/paywall page for new ScienceDirect content. Only 1,300 UC members submitted ILL requests during that corresponding time frame. The UC called this a yield rate of 1.5%. 


Q. Students being turned away from accessing articles is not good for research, teaching, or learning. Do they have good alternatives?


The subscription bundle from Elsevier includes first, second, and third tier journals. The library’s databases provide many other alternatives from other reputable publishers. It should be noted that some titles may be available through database aggregators after an embargo period.


Faculty Comment: We can advise and teach our undergraduates and graduates how to select good alternatives, as well as promote interlibrary loan. 


Q. If the CSU does walk away from the Elsevier contract, what would that money be spent on instead?


Some of the money might be spent on single Elsevier journal titles that are heavily used. Other spending decisions would be up to the Provost.


Q. What if the CSUs negotiate for just a “read” contract rather than “read and publish”?


In the first round of negotiations, Elsevier did not even offer a “read and publish” option and still included a 3-4% increase for just a “read” contract. A Norwegian consortium negotiated a “read and publish” contract for a similar 3% increase. 



Q.  What are the next steps in negotiating process? 


The library is going to survey students and faculty to get more feedback. We’ll be sharing our results with the entire CSU, and will keep the campus community up to date via our website. However, we cannot provide specific details of the contract offers until the final contract is accepted. It is possible that negotiations will extend beyond the December 31 deadline as they did for the UC negotiations with Elsevier.


Q: Where does the California private school consortium stand on the issue? Other states?


Recently on Sept 13, 2019, Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium (SCELC) released an endorsement of UC’s decision to walk away and acknowledged CSU stance. SUNY  is a work in progress. University System of Florida agreed on a smaller package with an opt in component, Florida State University did not opt in.