About the Springer Compact and Nature Journals agreement negotiation

The sector has now reached a three-year agreement with Springer Nature (with a review after year two).

The sector has now reached a three-year agreement with Springer Nature (with a review after year two).

The agreement provides open access publishing and access to paywalled journal articles in all Springer titles for a significant reduction in current sector spend.

Both the read and publish and the open access parts of the deal are available for member institutions to order via licence subscriptions manager. The publicly accessible version of the contract is available on the ESAC registry.

Background to the negotiations

The sector's negotiations with Springer Nature began in June 2022. The negotiations have been led by the sector and facilitated by Jisc. 

On behalf of their researchers and students, universities had five main objectives for the negotiations:  

  • To reduce and constrain costs
  • Secure full and immediate transition to open access 
  • To aid compliance with funder mandate
  • To build confidence that the charges for the next Springer agreement were fair and reasonable
  • To deliver improvements in service, workflows, and discovery

These requirements have been largely achieved. The agreement will reduce costs, provide full and immediate open access across Springer Nature’s titles, including the Nature and Palgrave portfolio, and will help researchers and their institutions meet funder open access requirements.  

This means that, alongside the sector’s other open access agreements, 81% of UK research can be made open access at no cost to authors. 

The deal is the first open access (OA) agreement globally to acknowledge the retention of intellectual property rights by institutions and authors through rights retention policies by providing a bespoke licence to publish. 

However, the sector has expressed serious reservations about the offer and the longer term implications of article-based models with commercial publishers: concerns include the high cost of publishing OA outside and beyond the agreement and the continued lack of transparency around how Springer Nature calculate its fees. 

Together with the sector, Jisc has already successfully negotiated OA agreements with more than 65 publishers, from large commercial publishers such as Elsevier and Wiley to smaller, society publishers.  

These agreements mean that researchers can publish open access at no cost to them and at a sustainable cost to their institution, while supporting funder and government policies. 

More than 73% of all UK research output is covered by a Jisc-negotiated transitional agreement.   

Why Springer Nature negotiations matter

Open research, and open access to research publications, is a priority for UK universities and research funders. UK academics produce outstanding high-quality research, often in collaboration with academics across the globe (pdf).

The imperative to ensure wide and free access to research, under conditions that allow for maximum reuse, is stronger than ever and the benefits of open access to research content for academics, citizens, students, industry are well catalogued. UK universities and research funders are committed to full and immediate open access and to transitioning swiftly away from paywalled access, as reflected in their policies (pdf) and requirements for transitional agreements.

Springer Nature is the second largest publisher of UK research. Expenditure by subscribing institutions with Springer Nature is over €20 million and this excludes spend on publishing fees for full open access (OA) titles.

Active agreements

UK institutions, via Jisc have two active agreements with Springer Nature, both of which expired on 31 December 2022:

Springer Compact

The UK Springer Compact agreement has been running since 2015. It was the first UK transitional agreement and combines open access publishing in 1900 Springer journals and access to the content of 2,500 Springer journals, including the 38 academic journals.

Expenditure on this agreement in 2022 is €13.7 million covering read access and OA publishing of up to 5,699 articles.

Nature Journals

The UK Nature Journals agreement has been running since 2011. This agreement provides subscription access on the nature.com platform to Nature Research, Nature Review, academic journals and Scientific American. Subscription spend will be €6.1 million on Nature Research and Review Journals in 2022.

In addition to these agreements, UK institutions spend c. €8 million on direct subscriptions to Palgrave Macmillan journals and article processing charges (APC) for open access publishing in hybrid and fully open access titles such as BMC.

What's next?

As with the Elsevier agreement, UK institutions are seeking to combine the two Jisc agreements – Compact and Nature journals under the one transitional agreement and include the Palgrave titles. The next agreement must support institutions and researchers in their open science ambitions by limiting costs and delivering full and unlimited open access across Springer Nature’s full portfolio of titles including fully OA titles.

A read and publish agreement that makes research published by authors at UK universities immediately OA at a reasonable cost and extends read access will accelerate and boost the visibility and impact of UK research and deliver better value for institutions, funders, students and researchers.

The next agreement should also recognise the significant non-cash contribution the sector provides to Springer. In both 2020 and 2021 authors from UK research organisations produced c. 7% of all Springer Nature articles, which accounted for c. 13% of all Springer Nature citations, in addition to representation on editorial boards and peer review services.

Timetable for negotiation meetings

  • 12 September 2022 - Springer Nature/negotiating team meeting
  • 28 September 2022 - Content expert group meeting
  • 17 October 2022 - Springer Nature/negotiating team meeting
  • 14 November 2022 - Springer Nature/negotiating team meeting
  • December 2022 - Jisc consulted with the sector on the latest offer from Springer Nature
  • January 2023 - The sector advised Jisc to reject the offer and continue negotiations

Priorities for the agreement with Springer Nature

Universities have been consulted on the negotiation strategy. A number of scenarios were presented, including the option of not seeking an agreement.

Institutions were clear that the preference is to seek an agreement that rapidly transitions UK research output to open access (OA) in support of UK government and funder policy whilst ensuring that the fees charged are affordable and reflect the cost of making an article OA.

As part of the negotiations we will be working with members to engage and consult the academic community which will also include focus groups (likely within their own institutions).

Based on the requirements for transitional agreements, the sector, through consultation, has identified the following priorities for its agreement with Springer Nature:

1. Reduce and constrain costs

The UK agreement with Springer Nature needs to deliver better value for money by constraining costs and providing a better return on investment.

The sector aims to reduce and constrain costs by combining the Nature and Compact agreements and including fully OA and Palgrave titles to achieve fair, affordable and sustainable fees for access and publishing services.

The transition to open access must be driven through the conversion of subscription expenditure and not require new funds.

2. Full and immediate transition to open access

The knowledge and discoveries resulting from the investment and collective effort of UK academic institutions, researchers, publishers and research funders must be available to all for maximum benefit and use.

The agreement must deliver full open access for all Springer Nature titles.

  • The agreement must enable institutions to publish 100% of their research OA in all Springer Nature titles
  • Where a scenario seeks gold open access, it should make 100% of output OA, retain rights and automatically apply a CC-BY licence
  • Rights retention statements are used increasingly by researchers wishing to make their works OA irrespective of the venue. The next agreement must support the use by authors seeking to retain the rights to works prior to submission
  • Where a scenario seeks green open access, it should support 100% of corresponding authors to publish their works OA with zero embargo and deposit the version of record or author accepted manuscript in repositories with a CC-BY licence
  • The agreement must break the link from legacy pricing models to support the implementation of clear, fair and transparent pricing models better suited to an open access environment
  • To secure long term access, the agreement must provide permanent full-text access to all content. This will remove the need for Springer Nature and institutions to maintain entitlement records relating to paywalled content. At no point should the removal of post cancellation rights be considered
  • Public funds and collective effort have assisted the transformation of titles to OA. Springer Nature should demonstrate its commitment to OA by offering unlimited publishing and by accelerating the transition of subscription titles to OA

3. Aid compliance with funder mandate

The agreement must enable institutions and their authors to comply with funder mandates by:

  • Supporting open access via the green route by making the "version of record" first made publicly available (such as on the publisher’s website) or the author’s accepted manuscript (AAM) openly available immediately in repositories in full alignment with funder policies including the application of CC-BY licensing terms
  • Allowing the author or the author's institution to retain their copyright and the rights necessary to make a version of the article immediately available under a compliant open licence
  • Implementing processes that assign the specific licensing terms, such as CC-BY, that make clear to the author that the application of the licensing terms is a requirement of funding
  • Provide the systematic transfer of metadata and deposit of full-text articles into repositories through Jisc's Publications Router
  • Depositing articles into PubMed Central (PMC) and Europe PMC by the first publication of the version of record, where applicable, and no more than three months after the date of acceptance
  • The sector’s negotiations seek to democratise access to knowledge, further discovery, and to increase the return on investment in research and education. The agreement will not apply any condition that risks the open sharing of research outputs, data or educational materials, or that limits interoperability and reproducibility
  • The agreement will allow an annual opt out with no penalty

4. Transparency - build confidence that the charges for the next Springer agreement are fair and reasonable

It is in the public interest, not only that publicly funded research has the widest possible reach, but that the costs, progress and details of the transition to open access are openly available. This allows the sector to benchmark, improve processes and better understand where investment or divestment is required.

The goal is the implementation of fair, transparent, affordable and sustainable pricing for Springer Nature’s services and greater transparency of costs both for the next agreement and its component parts.

Springer Nature will be required to provide data on the transition of their portfolio, business models and charges to the transitional agreements oversight group. It will be a requirement of the next agreement that Springer Nature enters open and transparent discussions with the sector and Jisc on the transition of their portfolio, business models and underlying financial accounting.

This will be monitored by the transitional agreements oversight group and support the Plan S transparency framework. This includes the supply of data in accordance with the cOAlition S Price transparency frameworks.

Throughout the agreement, to monitor performance and return on investment, Springer Nature will be required to provide the following:

  • The number and details of all articles published in fully open access and subscriptions journals in each journal included and outside the agreement (UK and global) by year
  • Article level data for all articles published by UK authors, including details of which titles have “flipped to OA” that were previously paid for through subscriptions

5. Deliver improvements in service, workflows and discovery

Given the volume of articles published by UK authors in Springer Nature journals, it is critical that the workflows associated with managing open access OA publishing is efficient for authors and staff costs in the implementation and management of the agreement are reduced.

Springer will be required to:

  • Adhere to the service and performance levels in the Jisc model licence and provide a compensation mechanism should the agreed service levels not be met
  • Commit to improving submission, approval and publication workflows to accurately identify eligible articles, eligible authors and their funders to deliver greater efficiencies and discovery of open access material

Institutions and Jisc will receive timely, accurate and verifiable data including:

  • The number of articles published by each UK institution in all the publisher’s journals including, on an article basis, details of article processing fee charges and corresponding author information
  • All available information that identifies whether the research was funded by UK research funders and whether the applicable article processing fee charges was supported by UK research funders

How the negotiations will be governed

They are sector owned - these are the sector’s negotiations, led by the sector.

Universities are negotiating with Springer through two representative groups – representatives from each group will sit on the official negotiation team:

  • The UUK/Jisc content negotiation strategy group comprises senior university leaders, they drive the overarching objectives and strategy for the sector’s negotiations
  • The content expert group represents expert practitioners and will work with the content negotiation strategy group and negotiation team to help set the detailed tactics and ensure alignment between strategy and implementation at the national and institutional level

Find out more about Jisc's negotiation and licensing strategic groups.

Negotiation team members

The negotiation team are:

  • Professor Paul Boyle, vice-chancellor, Swansea University (chair of UUK Research and Innovation Network)
  • Professor Stephen Decent, provost and deputy vice-chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University (chair of the UUK/Jisc content negotiation strategy group)
  • Professor Sue Hartley, vice-president for research, University of Sheffield
  • Chris Banks, assistant provost (space) and director of library service, Imperial College London (chair of the Jisc content expert group)
  • Liam Earney, executive director, digital resources, Jisc
  • Caren Milloy, director of licensing, Jisc
  • Anna Vernon, head of portfolio: content licensing, Jisc
  • Sarah Roughley Barake, licensing portfolio specialist, Jisc
  • Marie Moment, licensing manager, Jisc