Approximately 50 people from all ends of the scholarly publishing ecosystem—librarians, funders, publishers and vendors—convened at four round tables at the Researcher to Reader conference to discuss the ever-hot topic of Transformative Agreements. Participants at each table brainstormed the issues, resolutions, and visions of the future for scholarly research, and I couldn’t help but reminisce of the days I sat at identical round tables in my school lunchroom. The electricity in the room was much the same; some peers with confidence and strong opinion leading the conversation, some quite tentative to say exactly what they think so as not to be ostracized from the others, and most everyone working to figure the right path forward as we learn the state of the world around us.

Looking back on my pages of notes, it only felt appropriate to document this session just as I would have a school lunch: in my diary. The current state of the OA ecosystem is, after all, akin to the confusion, pandering, and drama I once frantically poured into those journals.

Day 1, Session 1

As defined by the Efficiency and Standards for Article Changes Initiative (ESAC), Transformative Agreements are those “contracts negotiated between institutions (libraries, national and regional consortia) and publishers that transform the business model underlying scholarly journal publishing, moving from one based on toll access (subscription) to one in which publishers are remunerated a fair price for their open access publishing services.”

Our workshop discussions began with putting issues on the table and naming our fears. We answered the question, “What’s eating you about Transformative Agreements?”

Whether your role is as a researcher, publisher or institution, Transformative Agreements seem to be eating through every aspect of the scholarly publishing ecosystem – taking a bite out of time, funds, and business models.

The ongoing transition within scholarly publishing to an “open” ecosystem is definitely an ambitious objective – which is another way to say, “Help!” From open access publishing models to the broader notion of “open science,” stakeholders fear difficulties around every corner.

It’s reassuring, though, to see how we are all ready to admit that change to one part of the system has a ripple effect that leads to changes throughout the whole system. Ideas and suggestions from any one of us are inevitably countered with, “Yes, but what about…?” or, “OK, but that doesn’t work for [insert other stakeholder].”

Metadata (mainly, author affiliations) is not well collected and subsequently, the baseline reporting necessary to land some deals is not obtainable (or is quite incomplete).

Our workshop session could have gone on much longer than the time limit, I think!

Day 1, Session 2

Our afternoon exercise was to imagine “mash-up” solutions that incorporated best practices from across the stakeholder spectrum. These would be “new animals” with evolutionary features that incorporate adaptations to the new research and publishing environment.

The capacity for change to full Open Access (OA) is different for all stakeholders – whether commercial publishers with legacy business models; newer born-digital publishers; and society publishers for whom publishing is a means to an end, which is servicing members.

A commercial publisher working with legacy systems is expected to act just as quickly as one just spinning up or with a much smaller portfolio. It’s an unreasonable expectation, I’m beginning to realize.

There is room for all sorts of support here – helping institutions benchmark their progress against peers; providing tools for librarians to educate their non-OA team members/directors/provosts about the current OA climate; and OA training for campuses and libraries.

Day 2, Third and Final Session

Attendees were asked to prepare individual statements of what they each can do today to advance implementation of one or more best practices.

One table declared we need a cross-party platform able to process publication agreements, collect relevant data and other information, and issue compliance and financial reports to a variety of stakeholders.

In our two days together, our group reached consensus that collaboration among stakeholders should aim to relieve researchers of the administrative burden associated with Open Access compliance. When negotiating a Transformative Agreement, we recognized, the place to start is with the top level of an institution who can drive change throughout the entire organization.

And finally, we can only expect transparency from others when we advocate for it from ourselves.

Solutions Exist – Learn More

RightsLink is in use by dozens of the world’s leading publishers to manage APC workflows and a growing number of transformative agreements, creating a powerful RightsLink network effect that drives collaboration, partnership and innovation in the evolving scholarly publishing ecosystem. The value of the RightsLink network effect extends beyond publishers to thousands of authors, dozens of funders and over 100 institutions who trust RightsLink’s familiar user experience and flexible workflow.

To learn more or request a demonstration, please click here.


Author: Shannon Reville

Shannon Reville has been a Product Manager with Copyright Clearance Center since June 2017. She previously held several service and technology roles at Liberty Mutual Insurance where she honed her skills in software product ownership. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Hampshire, a master’s in project management from Boston University, and enjoys performing with her local community theater.
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