Critical review of open access and transitional agreements

Reporting in early 2024, our review will examine the rate, costs and progress in transitioning research outputs to immediate open access and determine where next for transitional agreements.

Aims and outputs

Jisc's critical review of open access and the role of transitional agreements aims to:

  • Chart the progress of open access to research
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of transitional agreements in that process
  • Make recommendations for the future

Commissioned and governed by Jisc’s strategic groups with input from Deltathink, an open access data and analytics company, this significant piece of work will result in a report early in 2024.

The report will serve as an evidence base and a catalyst for a national conversation about what comes next. What is the ideal future state of open access? What are the conditions that will get us there?

Why do we need a review?

The UK has been a leader in the transition to open access, driven by funder policy and institutional demand for a publishing ecosystem that is affordable, fair and transparent.

It’s been more than 20 years since the Budapest, Bethesda and Berlin statements on open access, which set out the benefits of open access and the actions required for the ‘rapid and efficient transition to open access publishing’. However, progress has been slow, with 50% of global research articles still behind paywalls. It's now time to kick start the evaluation of our approach and then to determine where next for these agreements.

In common with the global research community Jisc and UK institutions adopted transitional agreements (TAs) as a mechanism to convert subscription spend to fund read access and open access publishing in paywalled journals.

The requirements for transitional agreements, established through consultation with UK institutions and endorsed by the UUK content negotiation strategy group, focused on:

  • Constraining costs
  • Enabling open access publishing in compliance with funder policies
  • Reducing administrative burden for individual researchers and institutions

As we approach the ninth anniversary of transitional agreements in the UK, we want to examine the effectiveness of these agreements in making research open access.

What will the review cover?

We will examine the rate, costs and progress in transitioning research outputs to immediate open access and their effectiveness in meeting the sector’s requirements.

The review aims to answer the following questions:

  • What proportion of scholarly literature is open access?
  • What impact have Jisc-negotiated transitional agreements had on the open access of UK research publications?
  • What effect have transitional agreements had on costs for UK higher education providers?
  • How far have transitional agreements facilitated author compliance with funder requirements?
  • To what extent have transitional agreements enabled greater transparency around publisher open access processes for the academic sector?

The review will be split into four sections:

  1. Background: setting out key factors such as government reports and funder policies that stimulated the UK approach to open access; an overview of negotiated approaches and sector spend
  2. Assessing open access in scholarly literature: collecting evidence of the current rate of transition to open access (global and UK); an analysis of publishers’ output and journal titles flipping to open access; a study of the transition to open access by subject
  3. Evaluation of transitional agreements: assessment of transitional agreements against iterations of sector requirements, including cost constraint, funder compliance, licence type selection and transparency through data analysis, and publisher and institutional case studies
  4. The future: consideration of findings and initial exploration of unintended consequences of transitional agreements and article-based publication models on author behaviours, workflows and open research practices. Discussion and possible options for future open access models

The methodology for section two will be peer-reviewed by DeltaThink. The UUK Jisc content negotiation strategy will review and assess the report and provide a high-level executive summary with recommendations.

Find out more about transitional agreements and Jisc's role in open access.