What is the Future of Transformative Agreements?

Judging by their growing number, “transformative agreements” will play a prominent role in the Open Access dimension of scholarly publishing over the years ahead. Many types of transformative agreements exist, though all move journals from subscription-based to contractually-based business models.

Such a change raises important questions for all stakeholders involved. How can systems and tools support the needs of researchers, institutions, and funders? What data is needed to track the efficacy of Transformative Agreements? In the absence of tools and frameworks, how can publishers guide the institutional sales team to negotiate the right deal? A panel of licensing, publishing and technology experts offered their insights in a panel moderated by Christopher Kenneally at Frankfurt Book Fair on October 16, 2019.

Panelists included:

  • Dr. James Milne, Acting President, the American Chemical Society’s Publications Division
  • Sybille Geisenheyner, Sales Manager Europe, Middle East, Africa & India, Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Mark Seeley, public policy consultant, SciPubLaw
  • Susie Winter, Director of Communications and Engagement, Research, Springer Nature

This panel is also available as streaming audio from Beyond the Book Podcast. View the full transcript here.


SUSIE WINTER: UK, Netherlands, Sweden, and Austria, we’re seeing between 73 and 90% of our authors in those countries publishing open access. So we can really see that they’ve got a fantastic ability to really drive that transition. But as you rightly say, that’s not the only thing that we think as publishers actually can and should be doing as an industry to do that.

Part of that is connected to those numbers that we’re talking about. For example, in the UK, about 77% of authors publishing open access with us, that still leaves 23% who aren’t for a variety of reasons, so we need to work out why is that the case and what can we actually do to get that 77% up higher, as well. I think part of it that we have identified, and again, it’s in another piece of research that we have done, it really shows the benefits to authors of publishing OA in terms of increased citations, increased downloads, increased broader impact by our metric scores. So there’s a real benefit to authors for doing that, and I think we need to look at ourselves as publishers about are we doing enough to actually communicate those benefits? Are we being active enough? Are we still being quite passive as to our authors publishing choice? Or should we see a shift in our approach to be far more active, saying no, actually you have a deal in this country, and therefore why aren’t you publishing OA?

DR. JAMES MILNE: Whatever we do at the ACS, we put the researcher at the core of any of our solutions. And we know that within the chemistry community, open access has really been at the back of their agenda, so anything we can do to try and encourage and support uptake in open access is part of our strategic direction forward. For instance we had multiple initiatives such as author rewards where we handed out over $60 million of credit to encourage open access uptake. Even with that, we had to really actively market and promote it, offset deals as part of that solution, as well. Max Planck is one of the most progressive institutes in terms of securing arrangements across all publishers, similar to other publishers. We’ve got many transformative agreements now, as well. These are ways that we can simplify the process for researchers so that they are at the heart of everything we do. The simpler we can make it for them to submit, undertake peer review, and then get published and help their research access, that’s good from our perspective because it’s supporting the community.

One of the main things that we’ve been working on, as well, in the past is the simplicity of using open access credits within these transformative agreements, so the author has the simplest process going. So they are encouraged to use the open access credits and then basically get back to the lab bench to do more research because we shouldn’t be putting burdens or hurdles in their way in that regard.

SYBILLE GEISENHEYNER: In our times, now with those requests for transparency that is, in many ways a challenge, and this is, for example, one of the reasons, as well, where we took that challenge and saying if we move into that direction of read and publish and working actually together on a model with our customers, that they need to be transparency on what actually get transformed.

So what are we talking about with transformative – what actually get transformed? The author from the side to the center, or the workflows, or the money parts, or what is actually getting transformed? I think the original idea of the transformation was that in the end everything – there is a 100% open access goal, and this is something that we try to very transparently put into our contracts, that all our contracts have a similar element where all deals work towards too, it’s like lowering the part or the content behind the paywall, so having more open access content and less paywalled content and so to get a transparency for all read and publish customers into that concept that was something we are working on.

MARK SEELEY: It has to be kept in mind that the idea of the transformative agreements is as an alternative. It’s meant to take a path towards open access. There are, for example, other methods of compliance with Plan S, have to do with the depositor repositories and the like, but this is about open access. So there are issues about the author retention of copyright, for example, which is a pretty traditional element in Gold Open Access, that certainly is identified here. The use of particular licenses, CCBY is encouraged. I don’t think it’s completely restricted, but I think it is encouraged. And then a number of the transparency elements that have already been discussed here today, progress reports and dashboards, are also quite important to the overall process. And then finally, many of the workflow requirements, including things such as particular methodologies in terms of ORCID identifiers and the like, these are all of the elements. You can go online and you can see many of these elements, and there is a repository of agreements which are being held and maintained. I have to say that there’s a lot of variation amongst those templates, so it’s sometimes difficult to just pick one, but these are the strong common themes.


Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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