In push for open access, UC breaks ties with publishing giant Elsevier

Doe Library

Berkeley's University Library was a key player in negotiations with Elsevier. (Photo by J. Pierre Carrillo for the University Library)

The University of California system took a bold stand today in its push for publicly-funded UC research to be accessible to the world, free of charge. It chose not to renew its nearly $11 million-a-year scholarly journal subscription to publishing industry giant Elsevier, producer of more than 1,500 scientific journals.

The UC had been trying to negotiate a new subscription deal with Elsevier since Dec. 31, when its five-year license ended. But Elsevier was unwilling to provide the main goal of UC’s fight: achieving what’s called universal open access publishing, so that the 10-campus system’s research could be freely available to anyone, anywhere.

Why UC split with publishing giant Elsevier

“Make no mistake: The prices of scientific journals now are so high that not a single university in the U.S. — not the University of California, not Harvard, no institution — can afford to subscribe to them all,” says professor Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, University Librarian at UC Berkeley and co-chair of UC’s negotiation team. “Publishing our scholarship behind a paywall deprives people of the access to and benefits of publicly-funded research. That is terrible for society.”

A letter today to the UC Berkeley academic community from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos, Barbara Spackman, chair of Berkeley’s Academic Senate, and MacKie-Mason breaks down the news to help professors and other researchers understand what happened and what happens next.

Read a letter to Berkeley's academic community from UC leaders