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EUA and a coalition of 25 organisations representing national rectors' conferences, national negotiating consortia and libraries supported a study investigating the implications of so-called “Read & Publish” agreements.

Several European countries have recently concluded such deals, which combine reading access to publishers' collections with provisions for publishing research outputs in Open Access.

The project sought to support national negotiating consortia in developing better value for such agreements with publishers. It also intended to inform the dialogue between universities, research organisations, publishers and stakeholders within the EU, as well as worldwide.

The Technopolis Group carried out the work for EUA between May 2019 and June 2020, resulting in the report “Read & Publish contracts in the context of a dynamic scholarly publishing system”. The Technopolis Group is a consultancy specialised in science and technology policy.

Universities, negotiating consortia and publishers are increasingly making new types of Big Deal agreements that include subscriptions and publishing services in different formulas. Often called “transformative agreements”, they seek to increase the number of Open Access outputs compared to traditional subscription contracts. Their long-term implications for the publishing market are contested. Scholarly publishing has long been marked by oligopolistic markets with little transparency, vendor lock-ins and price hikes. Whether new, emerging models of scholarly publishing such as transformative agreements will fix these shortcomings is uncertain.

The report approaches the future of scholarly publishing via a set of four scenarios representing the scholarly publishing system’s “dominant” business models. These are broadly modelled after traditional subscription agreements (reference scenario), Read & Publish agreements, pure Open Access publishing by commercial actors, and community-ran, non-commercial publishing. Through expert interviews, desk research, and a two-round Delphi survey, the potential effects of each scenario across a range of stakeholder groups and structural aspects were investigated.

The findings highlight that traditional subscription publishing is largely seen as undesirable. Moreover, Read & Publish agreements are clearly perceived as transitional arrangements which stresses the “transformative” nature of these contracts.

A majority of survey respondents indicated that two future scenarios – pure Open Access publishing by commercial actors, and community-ran, non-commercial publishing – are most desirable. However, building community-led, non-commercial publishing services as systemic substitutes for commercial publishers is seen as more challenging due to the complexity to build and grow such services to become the dominant model.

The report recommends to proactively explore implications and characteristics of the two most desired scenarios, publisher-owned and community-owned platforms, and continuous monitoring of developments in the publishing landscape. Universities and consortia should also improve and strengthen their position through the sharing of negotiation expertise and approaches. Finally, the report suggests more European-level support to sustain new Open Access strategies.

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