In 2014, Springer Nature began pioneering transformative agreements with our customers. Since then we have established strong partnerships and a clear workflow and as of October 2020, now have 12 Transformative Agreements in place, with many more to come. Our ‘Read and Publish’ (Springer Compact) agreements comprise of over 2,200 hybrid journals and are supported by Plan S. These agreements support the transition to a transparent and sustainable OA publishing environment, enabling partners to combine journal subscription access along with OA article processing charges (APCs).
We talked to Natalia Timiraos, Director, Partner Engagement OA and Chris Pym, Senior Institutional Engagement Manager at Springer Nature about the benefits of Transformative Agreements for librarians, and the workflow to transition to them.
How would you explain Transformative Agreements and their benefits?
At it’s most fundamental, transformative agreements shift the contracted payment away from subscription-based reading and towards open access publishing. The end result is that all research published under the agreement benefits from being publishing open access.
One of the side benefits beyond the core goal of transitioning to open access publishing is the workflow that we have in order to manage the transition. Classically, open access moves away from having a single annual payment that is managed by an acquisitions librarian through to lots and lots of relatively small micro-payments over the course of the year. Our Read and Publish (Springer Compact) agreement allows you to consolidate that all into one, having the benefits in terms of managing the payment through a single payment as far as possible. But also then having a workflow that allows, that approval to be done on this basis. Max Planck institute described our workflow as the best in class.
What does transparent OA publishing environment mean? How does it work in practice at Springer Nature?
SN Compact partners benefit from a clear simple Read & Publish model, based on the publishing output, behaviour and trends of the particular institution(s), the read fee is then heavily offset against the publishing fee. We are transparent with the model and data used, and work collaboratively with our partners on this.
Could you please explain how the implementation process and APC support work in practice?
We provide some tools, but the payment of those article processing charges is essentially made as a component of the license fee. So probably the easiest way to imagine it, is that the license fee is made up of two pots of money. There is a small pot of money that covers the reading fee for all of the non-open access content in those journals. Then there is another larger pot that is used to pay for everything that's published open access. The combined size of the two pots is, ideally, related to what they would have paid historically for access and APCs. We work out an APC for use under our Read and Publish agreement and deploy some of the money that they historically would have spent to licensing towards supporting that. We're allowing them, within the constraints of current budgets, to move away from being only paid subscribers, to being able to publish in an open access manner while operating in a cost neutral manner.
We only offer transformative agreement on a consortium level and not on an individual basis. Once the commercial and workflow terms have been agreed and the agreement has been signed, then we work with the consortium to gather a variety of identifying data for all of the institutions that make up the consortium. That would be IP range, e-mail domains and the names of the institutions. We use those as criteria for identifying papers that are affiliated with a participating institution. Then we need eight weeks prior to commencing the agreement so we can build out all of the services that we need on our systems.
At the start of the term for the publishing components of the arrangements, any papers from within the institutions that have received an editorial acceptance, will then be published open access unless the author specifically opts out of the process.
So the implementation process is no more difficult than it would be for a standard licensing agreements in most cases. The only additional information, they need to provide us a list of e-mail domains and the names of their institution, in case they have multiple names for institutions.
The implementation process is quite straightforward once everything's been agreed, however a lot of thought comes before that point. There are a number of important factors that need to be considered throughout the journey, for example deciding which stakeholders are involved, how are the costs going to be shared, who's going to be approving articles, and other practical decisions.
The institutions also need to identify someone who is going to have the ability to either approve open access funding or not. If the institution for example doesn't want to cover the APCs for visiting professors, then there needs to be someone that makes that decision and implements it in the dashboard and says, “Yes, we approve this” or “No, we do not approve those articles”.
That is something that an institution needs to think about during the implementation process. Do they already have a team that is doing this and, if not, they need to assign someone to have that responsibility. The decision whether to publish open access or not is ultimately up to the corresponding author; but the funding decision lies with the institution itself.
Tell us about the work of the OA team you are part of? How has it changed since you started out?
It has become much broader, more so with transformative agreements coming into the mix from 2014. The largest part of our OA institutional business was with the fully OA journals. Now, what we're seeing is that as Springer Nature has made the strategic decision to support a transition to “Open Research” as a whole, such as encouraging the gold route to open access, through more and more transformative agreements, through the transformative journals model, and through open research data services and peer review. The way that we work with open research as a whole is much broader across the business.
So previously, open access was a small but quickly growing part of the business. Now it touches everything and is the direction of travel that we're taking.
Can you tell us a little about the evolution of the Transformative Agreement at Springer Nature – from the early adopters to how it’s developing now?
So, we're no longer in a pilot phase. The first agreements that we launched were very much pilots and we along with our partners learned a lot from those. The early adopter agreements that have gone through renewal look very different from the first one to the next. It's a constantly changing landscape,and every agreement is different; it's defined by that particular region and the funders and policies that are involved.
So, what we’ve learned and how we develop them, is very specific.
Really, we have a core model which is Read and Publish. But from that, they are individual to each of our partners.
To keep up to date on current Springer Nature’s open access agreements and find further information around our open access models, click here.