Resources for Negotiating OA Agreements

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OA agreements with small independent publishers: a how-to guide with real, friendly publishers

We hope you find these resources for negotiating Open Access agreements helpful. There is a FAQ section that includes answers to questions librarians typically ask when negotiating and reviewing open access (OA) agreements with small, independent, society, and university presses. While the details of agreements vary between publishers, the answers to these common questions are a useful resource. There is also a resource section with links to handy tools and examples.






Q            My library has recently decided to begin negotiating OA agreements. Where do I start?

A             The starting point for your library’s transition to OA is collecting the data you need. Just as deciding on your subscription renewals involves collecting user metrics such as usage reports, you will need to consider:

* Which journals do researchers at your institution publish in?
*How often are they publishing?
*Who is funding their research?
*What is the article processing charge (APC) value of their articles?

These are data points you will need as you develop your plans. You can build on this by adding data on the models that different publishers offer. See the data sources section below for guidance on where you can retrieve this information.  

Collecting this data on a large scale will help you to craft a long-term plan and avoid agreements that overwhelm your budget. This data will also guide how your library can prioritize and approach negotiations, by focusing on agreements that best support your researchers.  

You may find it helpful to explore the ESAC registry, which compiles OA agreements across regions and countries in a standardized format. This will give you an idea of how other OA agreements are structured. There are often links to the OA license and comments from the library on the publisher’s workflow.  

Q            That’s a ton of data to collect! My library doesn’t have the resources to pull, clean, collect, and interpret data on this scale. Where can I start?  

A             You can always start with friendly publishers – these may be the small independent publishers with whom you already speak to in your renewals schedule. If you do not have the resources to collect data in bulk, these publishers should be able to provide it to you. As you expand the number of OA agreements you can request and collate more data on an ongoing basis.  

Taking this approach will mean that the data quality is dependent on the publisher, and we recommend that it is verified by a librarian.

  Q            What business models for OA agreements should my library adopt?  

* Will this model achieve my objectives?
* What is the pricing now?
* What is the pricing upon renewal?
* What might the pricing look like down the line?  

Particularly at this still early stage of the publishing industry’s transition to OA, most models are designed to be transitional i.e. models that will help the publisher move towards full OA in the future. Business models will evolve as publishers achieve full open access.    

Q            What are the benefits to negotiating with small and independent publishers?  

A Small, independent, and university press that focus on journals are particularly reliant on support from libraries to continue publishing research.  

Small independent publishers offer a scale which is generally more manageable for libraries that are new to OA agreements. Agreements with these publishers can be a great way for librarians to begin administering OA workflows, because they will include a smaller number of articles to manage and are a fantastic means to ‘onboard’ your library to the nuts and bolts of this transition.    

Q            I’m about to speak with a small publisher about an OA agreement. How should I approach this conversation?  

A             The best way to negotiate with small publishers is from a place of mutual honesty, with both the library and the publisher being upfront about their barriers and restrictions. Because small independent publishers have in many cases fewer revenue streams, you can expect these publishers will be upfront about this and forthright about the effects of transformative agreements on their overall budget and operations.  

However, sometimes a mutually beneficial agreement will be elusive; in this case, share as much feedback with the publisher as you feel comfortable with: i.e. my library cannot add cost for publishing, my library has concerns about your workflow, etc. This kind of community feedback is especially valuable for small independent publishers to organize their models and to sense check their own plans for becoming fully OA.  

Finally, since your library has decided to support OA agreements, you could consider the cOAlition S-approved Transformative Journals (TJs) as a starting point. These are journals that have committed to becoming fully OA and are publicly providing data on their progress in doing so.  

Q            I’m concerned that a small publisher will not have an effective or manageable workflow. How can I address this?  

A             We recommend requesting details on the workflow prior to the licensing process. There are a diverse number of workflows across these agreements, ranging from using institutional identifiers (GRID, ROR, Ringgold), email domains (, or even requiring authors to identify their own eligibility upon submission. Publishers should be able to provide documentation about their workflow as part of the negotiation process. We also encourage you to provide feedback and comments on the strengths and weakness of the workflows offered to you.  

You might also consider joining services such as the OA Switchboard, which provides standardized communication across participating libraries, funders, and publishers.  

Q            We have confirmed our first OA agreement with a small independent publisher for our library. What licenses can we use to sign our agreement?  

A Some small publishers have adopted the SPA-OPS model license, which is linked below under resources. This comprehensive license fully outlines necessary requirements of OA agreements, such as article and author eligibility, standardized reporting, and metadata requirements. The model licence can be adapted to suit your needs. By adopting this license for your agreements with small publishers, you will ensure that your agreements have standard terms and reporting requirements.    

Q            The license for our OA agreement is signed, and we are excited to start spreading the word! How can we make sure our researchers are aware of their ability to publish via this agreement?  

A             It is in the interest of both the library and the publisher to make sure that researchers are aware of and understand their ability to publish OA articles via the agreement. Once you have finalized the agreement, you should speak with the publisher’s marketing and communications about the support they can provide – for example, template internal announcements, website copy and tweets, and promotional resources such as web banners and flyers. Please see examples below in the Resources section.  

As you start to build on your agreements, you could consider creating a central resource for your researchers on your library homepage where you can collate your different agreements and provide instructions and advice to your authors. This will help them to understand and navigate the different routes available to them. You may also include links to your own institutional repository, where your authors can upload their green OA articles.  

You should also consider uploading the details of your transformative agreement to the ESAC registry, which will allow other librarians to see the details of your agreement and will contribute to the overall transition to OA.  

Q            I am receiving regular reports about our library’s article production from the publisher. What should I be aware of in collating, analyzing, and evaluating this data?  

A             You will want to ensure that the publisher’s workflow is working as expected and that articles from eligible authors are being immediately published OA under an open license. As mentioned earlier, small publishers include the benefits of a more manageable scale, but there is always the possibility that publishers can miss reporting OA articles, or mistakenly publish an article by an eligible author behind the paywall.  

You will also want to collate the data you are receiving from different publishers so that you can understand the efficacy of your different agreements and report on them to your stakeholders. You could consider requesting additional metrics (such as global usage of OA articles, citations, etc.) that can evidence your library’s effect on the global research community.  

Q            If the workflow is not identifying eligible articles, what actions can I take to address this problem?  

A             The first step will be alerting your publisher to this flaw in their workflow. Particularly if your agreement is a multi-year arrangement, you will want to catch this as early as possible. Because publishers will be reporting only on articles published as OA, you should consider implementing your own workflow to cross-check that the publisher is including all articles, either using your own internal data, or data from resources such as Dimensions.  

Q            My agreement is now up for renewal. How should I approach this?  

A             If you’ve had a multi-year OA agreement, you should have plenty of data to assess. You will want to look at the quantitative data first e.g. how many articles have been published in the journals from eligible authors from your institution, what the usage statistics are and how they compare with other journals in the same discipline.  

You may also want to model how much it would have cost your institution to maintain the previous subscription model and pay APCs for all the articles published. Of course, authors may have published more in the journal because of your agreement, but that aside, has the agreement proved good value for money?

In addition, you might want to gather some qualitative data from researchers in your institution e.g. whether the agreement has saved them time and enabled them to publish OA when otherwise it would have been impossible.      

Data Sources

What journals do my researchers publish in?Your institution might already be collecting this data. If not, you can find authorship in a variety of resources online, with Dimensions becoming increasingly popular for both libraries and publishers. You can also reach out to the publishers directly to provide this data, on a publisher-by-publisher basis.
How frequently do my researchers publish in each journal?You will want to expand your analysis to as many years possible. By using an average of article counts, you can avoid fluctuations and anchor your OA agreements. Many agreements, including the SPA-OPS negotiation toolkit, use an average of the last three complete years i.e. 2018-2020 for negotiations for agreements beginning in 2022.
Who is funding the research published by my institution?This data is also available through Dimensions, Crossref, and potentially your own internal systems. Having funding data can inform which articles by your researchers are subject to OA policies that prevent publication in hybrid journals or require publication in Transformative Journals. While this is less common in the US, funder policies are rapidly changing and, as ever with data, it is better to be predictive than reactive in collecting the data you need.
What is the OA APC value of the articles my researchers publish?This data is challenging to pull since you need to obtain it from each publisher’s website. It will be useful for you to have the list price gold APC, since publishers frequently use this as the basis of their ‘publish’ pricing. This will also allow you to model how much the cost of publishing of your institution’s authors.
Of the journals in which my researchers publish in, what OA models are available?You can find this information on publishers’ websites and collecting it will be invaluable for organizing your initial agreements and their renewals, as well as analyzing your own budget (i.e. 15% of my budget is towards subscribe to open).


Example of library Open Access page

This University of Florida page outlines the various agreements the library has made, and provides a summary of different Open Access models:

Examples of publishers’ OA pages

These pages show two examples of how publishers present information about OA agreements with libraries:

The Company of Biologists:

               Rockefeller University Press:

Examples of how publishers can support libraries with raising awareness

These pages show the kind of publicity and communications support publishers can provide to libraries to announce their agreements and encourage uptake:

The Company of Biologists:

               Rockefeller University Press:

Example of an OA submission guide for authors

The Company of Biologists:

ESAC Registry

This is a database of current agreements globally, librarians who have negotiated OA agreements can upload them here. In addition to the agreement registry, ESAC also offers workflow recommendations and analytics:

OA Switchboard
independent intermediary, connecting parties and systems, streamlining communication and the neutral exchange of OA related publication-level information, and ensuring a financial settlement can be done:

cOAlition S Transformative Journals

These journals have committed to transitioning to full OA by a set date and to publicly report on their KPIs on increasing the proportion of their content that is OA:

SPA-OPS Transformative Agreement Toolkit

Developed by Alicia Wise and Lorraine Estelle from Information Power this toolkit was developed as part of the Society Publishers Accelerating Open access and Plan S (SPA-OPS) project. It provides a handful of resources for libraries and small publishers to negotiate transformative agreements:

The toolkit includes a data template, guidance on negotiating, and a template license/contract that also includes sections for workflow and reporting requirements.

Many thanks to Miguel Peralta from Rockefeller University Press for compiling this document.