Transitional agreements (TAs) will be of interest to senior stakeholders for various reasons, for example, impact on costs and budgets, open access agenda and funder compliance, and effect on publishing options.
Engaging this group with transitional agreements 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?
Transitional agreements are examples of the ‘transformative arrangements’ referred to in the Plan S implementation guidance. They align with the open access objectives of the UK’s major research funders, including UKRI and Wellcome Trust.
Transitional agreements are contracts which gradually shift the basis of payments from an institution to a publisher from subscription-based reading to open access 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 open access will be minimal. In other words, that journal subscription budgets are 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 open access article processing charges (APCs).
Efforts to constrain these costs have only partially succeeded and the transition to open access 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 open access 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 open access 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 started to apply from January 2021, though individual funders can choose when to introduce the measures in their respective open access policies. The new Wellcome Trust policy began in 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 open access publishing must result in a reduction on existing subscription expenditure.
In the short term (until December 2024), institutions in receipt of open access block grants from UKRI, Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research Uk or the British Heart Foundation may use these funds towards the cost of transitional agreements. Funders have provided guidance to institutions on this point.
It is not yet clear if funders that provide open access funding within individual grants, eg the European Commission, will allow these to be used towards the cost of transitional agreements.
How will the institution benefit from engaging with transitional agreements?
Transitional agreements ensure that researchers can continue to publish in hybrid (subscription) journals and comply with funder open access requirements.
Transitional agreements can broaden open access publishing opportunities for authors across campus and disciplines and increase the institution’s volume of open access publishing.
Transitional agreements negotiated at a national level ensure that the costs to institutions, for both reading (subscription) and publishing (open access), are affordable and controlled. They increase efficiencies via time-saving workflows for authors and open access administrators, and author-facing communication from publishers that minimise the need for campus-led advocacy initiatives.
Transitional agreements 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 transitional agreement negotiations should allow institutions to repurpose budgets, for example to create or increase institutional open access funds that could be used to support other types of open research initiatives.
What is the consequence of not engaging with transitional agreements?
Jisc Collections aim to negotiate agreements that permit all institutions to participate, hence affordability is a critical requirement of a transitional agreement, and so we would encourage institutions to participate if they are able, in order to take advantage of the many benefits outlined above.
Not joining some transitional agreements may well mean funded authors can no longer comply with their funder’s open access requirements if they still choose to publish in a hybrid journal, which can lead to sanctions.
Many publishers offer alternative compliance options, such as via green open access, or you may want to consider