Library Services


Elsevier Negotiations

24 November 2021

Dr Paul Ayris, Pro-Vice-Provost for Library Services and the UCL Office for Open Science & Scholarship, outlines the status of negotiations between UK universities and the publisher Elsevier.

Students on campus. Focus on student wearing headphones and using a laptop.

November has seen potentially good news about the status of current negotiations between the UK Higher Education sector and the publisher Elsevier. The contract between UK universities and Elsevier is the biggest contract negotiated on behalf of the sector. The current contract runs out on 31 December.

I am a member of the High Level UUK/Jisc Committee which is overseeing the deal. Having rejected 6 offers made by Elsevier, we have now finished initial analysis of the 7th and the outcomes look hopeful that a deal may be struck, although there are still significant uncertainties.

Elsevier Negotiations – status as of 21 November 2021


  • The UK publishes 7% of global research – accounting for 28% of citations.
  • 20% of the UK's research is published by Elsevier.
  • 53% of the spend with Elsevier is by the Russell Group.

Negotiation Objectives

A Read and Publish Deal that converts subscription expenditure to support immediate Open Access publishing and maintain access to paywalled content, for less money:

  • 100% unlimited publishing.
  • Maintaining read access at existing levels.
  • Maintaining post-cancellation access rights.
  • Access and publishing beyond the list of Elsevier titles in current agreement.
  • Automate and guarantee compliance with current and future funder policies – application of Creative Commons (CC-BY) licence, deposit in PubMed Central.
  • Reductions in costs have to be meaningful to all institutions.

Negotiation status 21 November 2021

  • 6 proposals rejected.
  • 7th proposal has now been analysed (received 29 October).
  • “Far simpler, less costly and provides unlimited publishing in all eligible journals including Cell Press and Lancet”.
  • There are reductions in total costs with APC (Article Processing Charge) spend.
  • 3-year agreement with 1% increase in year 2 and 2% increase in year 3.
  • Includes unlimited publishing in titles such as Lancet and Cell Press.


  • Costs and conditions for fully Open Access titles yet to be agreed.
  • Sector needs clarification on whether VAT is going to be re-imposed by Government on the ‘publish’ part of Transformative Deals.

Next Steps

Sector consultation will start shortly before Xmas; ideally a decision is needed by 31 December. Rollover of negotiations into the New Year would be possible, with no loss of access to current content

Fallback positions

  1. Core Plus. A smaller core of titles which would be shared across UK universities, with the ability for individual institutions to buy extra titles. Gaps would be filled by Open Access content; and/or a wider interlending service between universities to support research institutions.


There is a real possibility of striking an effective, transformative deal with Elsevier which will allow UCL researchers to comply with funders’ Open Access requirements, and to allow 100% OA output in Elsevier titles. However, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and there is still some distance to travel.