Transitional agreements (TAs) will be of interest to senior stakeholders for various reasons, eg impact on costs and budgets, OA agenda and funder compliance, and effect on publishing options.
Engaging this group with TAs will be vital in achieving significant and lasting change in scholarly communications. We’ve provided template text answering five questions to support the creation of briefing notes or presentations.
What are transitional agreements?
TAs are examples of the ‘transformative arrangements’ referred to in the Plan S implementation guidance. They align with the OA objectives of the UK’s major research funders, including UKRI and Wellcome Trust.
TAs are contracts which gradually shift the basis of payments from an institution to a publisher from subscription-based reading to OA publishing services in a controlled manner.
Such agreements are intended to ensure that the financial impact to UKHE of a transition to full and immediate OA will be minimal. In other words, that journal subscription budgets is converted to pay for a suite of open access publishing services.
What is the background to transitional agreements?
Since 2013 most subscription publishers have received two forms of payments from UK institutions: subscription fees and OA article processing charges (APCs).
Efforts to constrain these costs have only partially succeeded and the transition to OA has not been as rapid as anticipated, with publishers unwilling to shift away from the subscription-based business model. In 2018 UK academic institutions and sector agencies, working alongside Jisc Collections, established a set of requirements for transformative agreements which set out the measures required to accelerate OA in the UK.
Plan S, announced in September 2018 by a group of research funding organisations (cOAlition S), aims to expedite the transition to full and immediate OA to research publications and challenges publishers to move away from the hybrid (subscription) business model.
Under Plan S, publishing in hybrid (subscription) journals is only permissible if journals are part of a ‘transformative arrangement’. Plan S applies from January 2021, though individual funders can choose when to introduce the measures in their respective OA policies. The new Wellcome Trust policy applies from January 2021.
What are the financial implications of transitional agreements?
In negotiations Jisc seek agreements that reduce and constrain costs, ie, the total fee charged for both access to paywalled content and OA publishing must result in a reduction on existing subscription expenditure.
In the short term (until December 2024), institutions in receipt of OA block grants from UKRI and/or Wellcome Trust funding may use these funds towards the cost of TAs. Funders have provided guidance to institutions on this point.
It is not yet clear if funders that provide OA funding within individual grants, eg the European Commission, will allow these to be used towards the cost of TAs.
How will the institution benefit from engaging with transitional agreements?
TAs ensure that researchers can continue to publish in hybrid (subscription) journals and comply with funder OA requirements.
TAs can broaden OA opportunities for authors across campus and disciplines and increase the institution’s volume of OA publishing.
TAs negotiated at a national level ensure that the costs to institutions, for both reading (subscription) and publishing (OA), are affordable and controlled. They increase efficiencies via time-saving workflows for authors and OA administrators, and author-facing communication from publishers that minimise the need for campus-led advocacy initiatives.
TAs have the potential to break up big deal journal subscription packages, enabling the shift away from current inequitable pricing models and supporting rationalisation of collections. Participating institutions will be encouraged to contribute views on the future of scholarly communication and agreements with publishers.
Savings achieved through TA negotiations should allow institutions to repurpose budgets, eg to create/increase institutional OA funds.
What is the consequence of not engaging with transitional agreements?
Institutions that do not participate in TAs will not increase gold OA publishing options for affiliated authors.
If current publishing choices persist when new OA policies incorporating Plan S principles come into effect, institutions that have not signed up to TAs may face sanctions from funders. Possible consequences range from reputational risk to financial penalties. While it may be possible to achieve compliance with funder OA policies outside of TAs, the goal of these agreements is to ensure that processes for authors and OA administrators will be more efficient.
Institutions that don’t participate in TAs are likely to be subject to legacy pricing for access to journal content.
NB. Jisc Collections aim to negotiate agreements that permit all institutions to participate, hence affordability is a critical requirement of a TA.