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Update March 2021

UC Reaches Open Access Agreement with Elsevier

After more than two years of negotiations, the University of California announced a transformative open access agreement with Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher. This successful outcome is the result of UC’s faculty, librarians and university leadership coming together to stand firm on our goals of making UC research freely available to all and transforming scholarly communication for the better.

The new four-year agreement will go into effect on April 1, 2021, restoring UC’s direct online access to Elsevier journals while accomplishing the university’s two goals for all publisher agreements:

(1)  Enabling universal open access to all UC research; and

(2)  Containing the excessively high costs associated with licensing journals.

These goals directly support UC’s responsibility as a steward of public funds and its mission as a public university to make its research freely available. The agreement with Elsevier will double the number of articles covered by UC’s open access agreements.

What the agreement means for the UC community

    Reading access: Effective April 1, UC will regain access to articles published in Elsevier journals the libraries subscribed to before, plus additional journals to which UC previously did not subscribe.  Access to those journals in ScienceDirect will start to be restored now and will continue to be added until they are all available on April 1. If you cannot access a particular journal yet, please contact the LBNL Library in the interim.

    Open access publishing in Elsevier journals: The agreement will also provide for open access publishing of UC research in nearly 2,300 Elsevier journals from day one. The Cell Press and Lancet families of journals will be integrated midway through the four-year agreement; UC’s agreement is the first in the world to provide for open access publishing in the entire suite of these prestigious journals.

    Library support for open access publishing: All articles with a UC corresponding author will be open access by default, with the library automatically paying the first $1,000 of the open access fee (also known as an article publishing charge or APC). Authors will be asked to pay the remainder of the APC if they have research funds available to do so.

    Discounts on publishing: To lower those costs even further for authors, UC has negotiated a 15 percent discount on the APCs for most Elsevier journals; the discount is  10 percent for the Cell Press and Lancet families of journals.

    Full funding support for those who need it: To ensure that all authors have the opportunity to publish their work open access, the library will cover the full amount of the APC for those who do not have sufficient research funds for the author share. Authors may also opt out of open access publishing if they wish.

The economics of the deal

As with UC’s other recent open access agreements, the Elsevier agreement integrates library and author payments into a single, cost-controlled contract. This shared funding model enables the campus libraries to reallocate a portion of our journals budget to help subsidize authors’ APCs — assistance that makes it easier and more affordable for authors to choose to publish open access.

Even with library support, authors’ research funds continue to play a critical role. This funding model only works if authors who do have funds pay their share of the APC.

In the other open access agreements UC has implemented, we are already seeing a significant proportion of authors paying their share of the APC. If this promising trend continues, UC can blaze a path to full open access that is sustainable across ever more publishers.

Partnering with publishers of all types and sizes

Meanwhile, the university continues to forge partnerships with publishers of all types and sizes. In addition to Elsevier, UC also signed open access agreements with three more not-for-profit and society publishers this month — The Company of Biologists, The Royal Society and Canadian Science Publishing. These agreements are in addition to those secured previously with Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press, society publisher ACM, and native open access publishers PLOS and JMIR.

Ultimately, UC’s goal is to make it possible for all authors to publish their work open access in whatever journal they choose — providing broad public access to the fruits of UC’s research. This month, we have made a tremendous stride in that direction. We know that this has been a lengthy process and we thank you for your patience and support as we worked to reach this outcome.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the library at any time.

Update: June 2020

Discussions between Elsevier and UC are ongoing but there is no news to report at this time.   Other major Universities including MIT have recently also cut ties with Elsevier.

Update: August 27 2019

This is a small update to the ongoing UC/Elsevier negotiation situation.

Update: August 09 2019

A group of prominent University of California faculty say they will step away from the editorial boards of scientific journals published by Elsevier until the publishing giant agrees to restart negotiations, which stalled in February and left the 10-campus system without subscriptions to some of the world’s top scholarly journals.

Update: July 26 2019

UC has identified that, due to the slightly different agreements with Elsevier that cover LBL's access, LBL staff access to Elsevier publications is more narrow then originally understood, and more narrow then those of our UC campus colleagues.

We are preparing additional outreach and content on this topic, including specific lists of impacted publications.

In the meantime, the information below on alternate access remains correct.


UC and Elsevier have been unable to agree to a new contract for access to Elsevier publications that meets UC’s goal of supporting Open Access.

As a result, the UC system including LBNL has lost access to all, non-Open Access, 2019 Elsevier content.  In addition, LBL specifically has lost access to most Elsevier publications from the past 10 years.   (LBL will still have access to all open access content, past and present.) 

In short, UC seeks a new contract which facilitates Open Access to the research UC researchers publish in Elsevier journals. Since Open Access is a requirement of both UC and DOE, such an approach would greatly simplify compliance with OA requirements for LBL researchers.

For more information on the status of negotiations, and the issues involved in the dispute, please see this websites maintained by the UC Berkeley Library (

Impacts and Alternatives:  

The LBNL and UCB libraries are standing by to assist you with getting access to this content through other means.

Alternative Sources for Content:

Library Assisted Acquisition of the Title:

For earlier Elsevier content that may be available to non-LBL UC locations:

  • If you have a UC campus affiliation or appointment, use remote access to access the campus resources (e.g. Remote Access for UCB Libraries)  You can also check out the UC Berkeley Library's alternative access page for more UC Berkeley specific information.
  • If you know someone with a UC campus affiliation, you may ask them for assistance, provided this is part of a peer to peer scholarly exchange.
  • You may go to any UCB campus library with your LBL ID and use Library computers to access these journals.
  • You may use UCB provided Eduroam wifi at any UCB campus location and connect using your LBL credentials.   Eduroam members are considered to be part of the visiting scholar community on campus and receive access to campus provided journal subscriptions.

Further information:

Alternative access to Elsevier articles:

As always, the LBNL Research Library staff is available to help if you have any additional questions (

Not Impacted:

  • Scopus
  • SciVal
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