A year ago, Elsevier and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began to discuss the possibility of a transformative agreement, similar in spirit to a dozen agreements we have successfully forged with institutions and university consortia in the US and elsewhere.
When Elsevier and MIT began to discuss the possibility of a transformative agreement a year ago, MIT’s framework for publisher contracts was still being finalized, so we agreed to focus on one element of the framework Elsevier did not currently meet and work towards achieving that in our new contract. Together, we spent many productive months designing a pilot that would include automated deposit in MIT’s repository (a first for Elsevier with an institutional site) and that would also include Elsevier underwriting article publishing charges (APCs) for MIT authors. It was anticipated that through a combination of green and gold open access, we would work towards full open access over the course of a 4-year agreement, while MIT researchers would continue to read our journals as they can today.
We came very close to an agreement at the end of 2019; however, MIT’s thinking also evolved in the course of finalizing its framework. MIT asked Elsevier to meet all the requirements in its new framework, including a zero-embargo period for green open access articles, and not just one of the key requirements as previously indicated. While this set a higher bar for Elsevier than for other publishers, we were keen to find a solution and jointly agreed an extension through the end of June 2020.
Over the past six months, Elsevier and MIT have been exploring a “read and publish” model focusing on gold open access, to meet MIT’s request for immediacy and for more liberal copyright terms. Elsevier envisaged that this pilot would incentivize researchers to fund APCs from their grants, while we underwrite charges for those with no access to grant funds. While the proposed pilot provided for the possibility of all MIT articles to be published open access, it would allow both parties to see how many of MIT’s articles would actually be published in this way, as that depends on the preference of authors. Additionally, MIT researchers would continue to have access to our journals as they do today, while we jointly build a sustainable path to full open access through the pilot. However, MIT rejected this proposal because they felt it did not sufficiently meet all their framework requirements.
Ultimately, at Elsevier, we see MIT’s framework as a strong roadmap for progress of science and the public good. We share and support this end goal. The challenge is how to get from where we are today to what the framework outlines. We appreciated our collegial dialogue with the MIT negotiating team in exploring novel approaches and pilot constructs to meet the faculty’s needs.
We regret that MIT has decided to end our negotiations at this stage but hope to find the path forward together in the interests of the research communities we both serve and the important work they do.
Supporting open access
At Elsevier, we believe in open and frictionless access to knowledge by everyone. Almost all our journals already offer immediate open access options and we are working to find a sustainable path for extending this to all our titles. We offer a mix of publishing models to reflect the different ways authors choose to publish articles and the different needs of institutions. Here you can find out more about how we support open access.
Our recent transformative agreements to progress open science
Over the past 18 months, Elsevier has formed numerous pilot agreements around the world that support the open science and open access research ambitions of institutions and university consortia.
Each of these agreements is tailored to the specific needs of our partners, ranging from reading and publishing services, to broader areas such as reproducibility, transparency and collaboration in research. Our aim is to test and learn, to better understand how we can support all our customers’ differing needs.
We may not have all the answers from “day one,” but where we are united in our goal, we aim to test, learn and progress in partnership with the communities we serve.
You can read more about our recent agreements here: