What is a Transformative Agreement?

Historically, Scientific, Technical, Medical, and Scholarly publishers have relied on a traditional subscription model to fund their journal programs. Institutions or consortia would subscribe to one or to a bundle of journals for a single annual subscription fee.

Now, given mandates from the funding community, government agencies, and research institutions, more journal content is published open access. Instead of a subscription fee, authors or their institutions/funders pay an article processing charge (APC) to make articles open access.

Because there are very few pure open access publishers, many scholarly publishers are signing annual agreements with institutions or consortia that combine one fee to access or read the publisher’s subscription content with a second fee or per-article-fee to publish the institution’s eligible research articles open access.

The three most common types of agreements being signed today between publishers and institutions include Membership, Deposit, and Read and Publish.


  • Also known as Partner agreements, these agreements occur when one or more institutions pays a “membership fee” to the publisher.
  • In exchange for enrolling as a member in the publisher’s open access program, authors from the member institution(s) receive discounted open access charges.
  • When the manuscript is accepted and the open access transaction is placed, usually by the author, the APC due reflects the discounted membership price.
  • Sometimes institutions must approve funding requests before the invoice is generated.


  • This agreement occurs when one or more institutions prepay or deposit an agreed upon amount to the publisher to cover all anticipated APCs for a given time period, usually a year.
  • In exchange for the upfront deposit, the institution(s) are eligible for discounted APCs.
  • Open access transactions reflect a zero-balance due from the author and institution, but all parties need a record that the ‘transaction’ has occurred. On an agreed upon cycle, as articles are published open access, the publisher deducts the net price transaction value (retail prices less the agreed upon discounts) from the respective deposit account.
  • When the deposit is exhausted, the discounted open access charge must be paid “out-of-pocket” by the author or the institution.
  • Sometimes institutions must approve funding requests before the APC debits can occur.
  • Some agreements expect the author to complete the APC payment workflow. But, increasingly, other agreements expect the articles to be published open access without the author completing an AP payment workflow.


  • This agreement occurs when one or more institutions pay an agreed upon amount for “read” access to subscription-based journals (the subscription fee portion of the agreement) and receive “publish” benefits which means all eligible and accepted manuscripts from the respective institution’s researchers are published open access immediately (the APC portion of the agreement).
  • Within these agreements, the APCs are often deeply discounted.
  • The transactions reflect a zero-balance due from the author and institution, but all parties need a record that the “transaction” has occurred or that an eligible article has been published open access.
  • Sometimes, these agreements have caps and when the APC cap or monetary threshold is reached, a retail or discounted open access charge must be paid “out-of-pocket” by the author or institution.
  • Sometimes institutions must approve manuscript eligibility but increasingly the agreements expect no approval, by the institutions or the publishers, in advance of articles being published open access.
  • When the agreement skews towards a bigger emphasis on publishing benefits, it may be called “Publish and Read” instead of “Read and Publish.”

While these models of Transformative Agreements are common, new models are constantly evolving based on the unique complexities involved in any particular negotiation.

Recommended Reading


Author: Jennifer Goodrich

As Director of Product Management at CCC, Jen Goodrich leads the development and evolution of CCC’s transactional licensing services as well as its RightsLink® for Scientific Communications platform, an innovative e-commerce platform that automates the payment and collection of article publication charges (APCs) for open access content. Her current focus includes helping publishers codify and implement their transformative agreements (such as Read and Publish, Publish and Read and Pure Open Access) with institutions and funders, as the scholarly communications ecosystem migrates from traditional subscription publishing to open access publishing. Jen and the RightsLink team work closely with publishers, authors, manuscript management systems, standards organizations as well as academic and funding institutions to ensure the platform meets the needs of all open access stakeholders.
Don't Miss a Post

Subscribe to the award-winning
Velocity of Content blog