Published: April 9, 2024

The University Libraries has signed a new contract with the academic publisher Elsevier that achieves a 30 percent cost reduction from the current contract along with changes in how users will access some journal articles.

Agreement on the new contract (2024-27) was reached after more than six months of negotiations by a coalition of 15 research universities in Colorado and Wyoming. For the first time, members of the group known as the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries will have different levels of access and publishing services within the master agreement.

For CU Boulder, the new contract means a more flexible arrangement with Elsevier for what is called a Shared Title List (STL). This allows campus affiliates continued full-text access to the most frequently used titles contained in the Elsevier “Freedom Collection.” For titles not included in this new STL agreement, researchers will be able to request the articles they need from Interlibrary Loan (ILL). 

“I’m pleased with the outcome of the negotiations because I believe this agreement moves us closer to addressing the exorbitant cost of purchasing read access to academic journals whose content is created and edited by our own faculty,” said Dean of Libraries and Senior Vice Provost for Online and Extended Education Robert H. McDonald. “This agreement gives many more flexible options for members of our library alliance.”

Traditionally, the University Libraries purchased access to academic journals using a model similar to purchasing cable television at home where users pay a fee for access to a package that includes some premium channels and a lot of other channels. The University Libraries were paying a high price to Elsevier for access to a large package, often called a “big deal,” containing thousands of journals the campus wanted and many more it did not need.

“The new agreement brings the University Libraries spend on read access with Elsevier publishing more in line with what we pay other academic publishers such as Wiley and Springer,” McDonald said.

The STL is carefully curated by an expert team of librarians and includes access to more than 500 journals with consistently high use and/or CU authorship. The libraries will continue to purchase titles based on suggestions from library liaisons to academic departments and it will also broker access to individual articles requested through ILL. 

The agreement also extends a 10% discount on article processing charges (APCs) for corresponding authors from CU Boulder and Alliance member institutions. CU Boulder authors publish approximately 500 articles in Elsevier journals each year. The university will save more than $100,000 annually with this discounted APC rate.

“This is a good agreement in that it balances fiscal responsibility to the university while providing access to journal articles that are critical to our roles as researchers, scholars and students,” said Boulder Faculty Assembly President Shelly Miller. “This was a long and challenging negotiation and I am glad to have this outcome.”

Contract negotiations with Elsevier started last summer and concluded this month. The negotiating team from CU Boulder included representatives from the University Libraries, Boulder Faculty Assembly representatives Shelly Miller (BFA President), Kevin Stenson (BFA-Physics), Jin-Hyuk Kim (BFA-Economics), and faculty at large from other member campuses. 

“I want to thank the Boulder Faculty Assembly for their support and standing with us throughout this nearly year long negotiation with Elsevier,” McDonald said. “We were heartened by the BFA resolution last October supporting the Libraries’ mission to provide equitable access to information and preserve author’s rights. I know we will continue this collaboration with BFA in the future to create a more equitable environment for sharing and exchanging knowledge in the form of academic publishing.”