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Elsevier Subscription Renewal

The sector's negotiations for an open access agreement with Elsevier commenced in March. The negotiations are led by the sector and facilitated by Jisc.

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As you may be aware, the current 5-year agreement with Elsevier will come to an end on the 31st December 2021. A negotiation team led by Universities UK (UUK) & Jisc, on behalf of the UK Higher Education community, are currently meeting regularly with Elsevier to try and reach agreement over the shape of a new deal for the UK from January 2022. The Elsevier negotiations are extremely important as they are the most prominent publisher the University of Edinburgh engages with, and receive by far the largest proportion of our subscription expenditure. In 2020, the annual subscription costs with Elsevier were around £50 million for the whole of the UK.

UPDATE: January 2022

After their last offer was rejected by the UK HE sector, Elsevier submitted a 7th proposal for a read-and-publish deal to the national negotiation team. The latest proposal meets many of the original negotiation objectives by providing unlimited publishing in eligible journals, including Cell Press and the Lancet, at a reduced overall cost. Universities are reviewing the offer and will advise the negotiating team on the suitability of the offer by the end of the month. Whilst negotiations are continuing, Elsevier have agreed to maintain our current read-access to journals beyond the current subscription’s expiry date of 31 December 2021.


2020 Publishing statistics

In 2020, researchers from UoE wrote 6,622 journal articles, of which, 1,065 papers were published in Elsevier-owned journals*, so around one in six (16%) of research articles written by UoE academics are published by Elsevier. 

(*Data from Scopus)

Subscription costs are only part of the picture as increasingly many researchers are required by their funders to make their research outputs open access. In 2020, the University of Edinburgh, via UKRI and Wellcome Trust block grants, paid for 73 Elsevier papers to be made open access at a cost of £246,439 (inc. VAT), which works out to be an average of £3,375 per paper.  This average figure is higher than what other institutions have reported as many UOE articles are published in journal titles that demand a higher Article Processing Charge (APC), for example the flagship title Cell charges £7,800 (plus VAT).

In 2020 the Library spent  a total of £1,241,490 on journal subscriptions and open access publishing with Elsevier. The figure for the whole University of Edinburgh is likely to be higher with individual departments paying open access fees that we are not aware of.

Negotiation objectives 

The total costs of publication are rising and Universities are seeking an agreement that will reduce and constrain costs to levels universities can sustain, and to support full and immediate open access to research with an integrated contract covering access and open access publishing. Elsevier is the only major publisher that doesn't currently offer the UK a transformative 'Read & Publish' style agreement.

The main priorities established at the start of the sector’s negotiations with Elsevier are:

  1. Support full and immediate open access to research
  2. Reduce and constrain costs
  3. Build confidence that the charges for the Elsevier agreement are fair and reasonable
  4. Deliver full compliance with funder policies and improvements in service


'Read & Publish' transformative agreements

A Read & Publish agreement is where institutions pay one fee to read paywalled content and to enable their authors to publish OA in a journal or group of journals. Typically, the "read" element of the fee is based on current subscription spend and the "publish" element of the fee is based on recent APC spend or recent published output. The Library has signed up to 20 agreements with publishers which enables reseachers to seamlessly publish their work open access in over 8,000 journals. A full list can be consulted in the link below:

Read & Publish journals

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of open research, but at the same time university leaders and academics are under exceptional pressure to support students and researchers and guarantee access, thus making it more difficult to walk away from unacceptable terms. 

The Library is currently gathering data about journal usage and costs that will inform our institutional response to proposals. Alongside this exercise we would like to hear from our community. Please contact the Scholarly Communications Team ( if you have any questions about the Elsevier negotiations. We'd like to hear from you whether you wish to register your support in backing the University’s position in negotiations, or even raise any concerns about potential journal cancellations in your subject area. We are committed to keeping our University community informed with any developments and will give regular updates throughout the year via online meetings, newsletters and emails.


Statement on negotiations between HE sector and Elsevier (

Jisc-Elsevier ScienceDirect journals agreement negotiations (

Scholarly Communications Team

Contact details



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  • You can book a one-to one video consultation with an expert from our team. If you want to find out more about open access (journals, funding, policies etc ), Copyright & Intellectual Property, General publishing activities (request an ISBN or DOI), or research metrics (using Web Of Science or Scopus) please contact our team via email to book a session at a time that suits you.