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Elsevier Negotiations and Access to ScienceDirect

Negotiation Timeline

  • March 2020. Negotiations conclude.  SUNY ends 'big deal' ScienceDirect Journals subscription, to be replaced with a system-wide subscription to 250 core titles.
  • 3-month contract extension beginning January 1, 2020
  • Contract due to expire December 31, 2019
  • August 29th conference call with Elsevier. 
  • July 24th the negotiations team met with Elsevier and rejected the proposal citing the lack of price relief.
  • June 27th, 2019 Elsevier submitted a renewal proposal to the negotiations team.
  • Negotiations meeting scheduled for June 3, 2019. Postponed
  • April 17, 2019 Elsevier indicated they could not meet May 6th. 
  • March 18, 2019 May 6th was selected for the next negotiation meeting where Elsevier would present the proposals SUNY requested in December.
  • March 15, 2019 SUNY canceled scheduled March 18, 2019 meeting on grounds that Elsevier was not prepared to present the proposal we requested.
  • March 14, 2019 Elsevier reiterated their position of the necessity of a “proper needs-assessment must come before an informed renewal proposal,” and that they would not be presenting a proposal at the scheduled March 18, 2019 meeting.
  • March 14, 2019 SUNY responded to Elsevier’s request to change agenda of meeting indicating that meeting should still proceed but with revisions to agenda proposed by Elsevier.
  • March 12, 2019 Elsevier sent email indicating uncertainty as to “whether our understanding of SUNY’s current needs is adequate to put forward an informed set of 2020 ScienceDirect renewal proposals for SUNY at this time.” This “uncertainty” was communicated to us less than a week ahead of scheduled meeting along with a request to redirect the focus of the scheduled meeting.
  • February 20, 2019 Elsevier sent an email indicating that they potentially could provide a proposal prior to the scheduled meeting for March 18, 2019. No mention of needing to meet with SUNY before being able to prepare a proposal.
  • February 5, 2019 Elsevier sent email requesting delay of proposed end of February meeting date citing among other reasons the need to “ensure we have the time to conclude engagements with various policy-makers and senior management within Elsevier to help us address SUNY’s request for progressive renewal options beyond the standard offerings.” No indication of needing to meet with SUNY again prior to developing an offer. 
  • December 18, 2018 SUNY and Elsevier met in Albany. Elsevier presented a value-added proposal and SUNY presented on the overall budget capacity of the system and requested a proposal continuing the access we have and controlling costs. 

SUNY ScienceDirect Negotiation Conclusion and Core Title Subscription

Access to the ScienceDirect ‘big deal’ subscription package will end on April 1, 2020.  Following a year plus of negotiations SUNY and Elsevier could not reach mutually acceptable terms on renewing our license to ScienceDirect. While Elsevier made some accommodations in recognition of SUNY’s requirements, there remained a vast difference in their proposed charges and cost expectations of the SUNY negotiating team. The journal-based research literature marketplace is dynamic, and publishers no longer have the same tight control over content that they’ve had in the past. The negotiating team’s perspective was that Elsevier did not go far enough in recognizing that the marketplace has changed, nor were they able to comprehend SUNY’s dissatisfaction at the disparity between the calculated cost per FTE between what SUNY was being charged and what our sister system, CUNY, was being charged – a difference in excess of 200%.

      Rather than canceling access to all subscribed Elsevier ScienceDirect titles however, the negotiating team worked with librarian colleagues around the system to develop a list of approximately 250 core titles that we plan to subscribe to as a system.  These titles include approximately 75% of SUNY Oneonta’s most highly-used ScienceDirect journals.  Our forecasting indicates that using our pre-existing access to ScienceDirect content for the period 2010-2019, along with Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery and a growing body of open access content, most needs for teaching, research and scholarship will continue to be met. Individual campuses including Oneonta will have the flexibility, local resources permitting, to supplement titles on the core title list in order to better meet local needs.

Important Information About ScienceDirect

  • Milne Library will always subscribe to core titles that support our educational and research missions. Access to scholarly content is not all or nothing.
  • Our current subscription to ScienceDirect and Cell Press provides access to 2,742 titles, 68% of which were accessed five or fewer times last year. 
  • Only 66 titles saw more than 100 cumulative uses from all years of publication last year.
  • Only 70 titles saw more than 100 cumulative uses from articles published in the last 3 years. This is what we are really paying for – only 2.5% of the collection.
  • SUNY Oneonta usage patterns are very consistent year to year.
  • Our current cost for ScienceDirect is $78,617. That is more than 33% increase since 2012.

SUNY Negotiations for ScienceDirect

SUNY is negotiating a new multi-year, system wide contract with Elsevier for access to ScienceDirect and Cell Press. Our current license was due to expire December 31, 2019. While negotiations continue, SUNY has received a 3-month extension for ScienceDirect access. The SUNY Libraries Consortium (SLC) is taking the lead on negotiations with Elsevier. SLC requested pricing proposals for SUNY-wide subscriptions that are aligned to usage data and FTE, and asked Elsevier to consider subscription access as well as support for Open Access in the form of exemption for SUNY authors from paying high article processing charges (APCs). The Negotiation Team has received and is carefully reviewing Elsevier's proposal.

Negotiations with Elsevier are extremely challenging.  They have proven to be inflexible with their pricing model, and we have had difficulty getting critical information from them. Over a year ago the Elsevier sales team gave a presentation to several deans and library directors about their product roadmap, yet refuse to provide us with their presentation slides. Almost a year ago they were asked for a list of faculty from a specific campus who serve on the editorial boards of Elsevier journals. They have been unwilling to provide this information. Because we need to verify those titles to which we will continue to have access should this round of negotiations not conclude successfully, we have asked Elsevier for documentation showing campus-by-campus post-cancellation rights  They have not responded to our request.

We will soon learn the outcome of SUNY’s negotiations with Elsevier. The financial challenges confronting our campuses, libraries and the University have been made explicitly clear to them.

At its October 2019 Plenary meeting, SUNY University Faculty Senate passed a resolution of support for the SUNY negotiating team.  See the attachment below to read the "Support for SUNY Negotiations for a fair and reasonable contract with Elsevier" resolution.

SUNY and other North American institutions of higher education contribute significantly to Elsevier's value and profitability by supporting the creation of valuable content (mostly peer-reviewed journal articles authored by faculty and students), and through payments for subscriptions and payments for article processing charges (APCs). Our Negotiation Team is seeking a good faith effort on the part of Elsevier with respect to the value of SUNY-authored content that is freely given to Elsevier journals. Some relevant details:

  • Elsevier does not pay for the peer-reviewed journal articles it publishes; most authors are academics and researchers (including SUNY Oneonta faculty).
  • Editors are generally unpaid volunteers who perform their duties alongside a full-time job at their academic institutions. 
  • Approximately 44% of Elsevier's revenue by geographic location came from North America (2018).
  • Approximately 83% of revenue by format came from electronic usage and 17% came from print.
  • Elsevier is extremely profitable; in 2018 their profit margin was 40%.

Contact Library Director Darren Chase for questions or comments about this guide.

Some content of this guide used by permission of Matthew Smith, SUNY EFS Moon Library.