Driving open access transformation: Insights from the Charleston Conference 2023

By: Saskia Hoving, Wed Dec 13 2023
Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

Open access (OA) is of keen interest to the US research community now as the initial 2026 deadline for the OSTP memo draws ever nearer. Across the world, more and more researchers are having their first experience of publishing under an OA agreement, in which the OA publishing costs for affiliated researchers are covered. 

Springer Nature offers different types of OA agreements covering hybrid and fully OA journal portfolios. The uniting principle of these agreements is that the publishing fees for authors from participating institutions are covered. This allows authors from all subject areas to publish OA, accelerating the pace of change from subscription models to OA. A transformative agreement (TA) is one example of these agreements, which combines reading and OA publication fees in hybrid journals into one single license.

Globally, many publishers and institutions are moving past the initial implementation stage and beginning to see the impact and necessity of TAs in terms of how many research articles are made freely available.

Springer Nature is working extensively with librarians, researchers, and OA advocates to explore:

  1. how transition can be achieved 
  2. what the impact will be 
  3. what challenges may appear

An important element of this work is to disseminate what early adopters have already discovered during their journey to OA.

How genuinely transformative are transformative agreements? Key takeaways from the Charleston Conference

At the 2023 Charleston Conference, the panel discussion “How Genuinely Transformative are Transformative Agreements?” gathered different experiences on making the transition to OA, from a varied panel of contributors.


  • Carrie Webster, Vice President Open Access, Springer Nature
  • Colleen Campbell, External Engagement OA, Max Planck Digital Library
  • Antonio Baines, Associate Professor, North Carolina Central University
  • Jason Price, Research and Scholarly Communication Director, SCELC Library Consortium
  • Miguel Peralta, Institutional Sales Manager, Rockefeller University Press
  • Brigitte Kromp, Head of Consortia Management, Vienna University Library

Speakers images © springernature 2023

OA agreements increase OA output

For Brigitte Kromp at Vienna University, OA is moving fast, driven in part by an Austrian national mandate in place since 2015. Articles published behind a paywall have fallen from 80% in 2015 to 15% in 2023. However, working towards OA still means constant advocacy for the model, especially convincing decision makers of its value.

Speaking for library consortium SCELC, Jason Price noted that data from the consortium demonstrated a substitution was happening; with the growth of OA articles matched by the decline of those published behind a paywall. However, a wider dataset taken from Dimensions didn't correspond with this, instead a large rise in OA publications has not yet been offset by a corresponding fall in subscription articles. He also demonstrated that author grants have a small but growing role to play in funding OA.

OA agreements are changing how researchers attract funding

Antonio Baines, Associate Professor at North Carolina Central University offered a valuable researcher perspective, emphasising that universities are different in their focus, the way they attract research grants and the funds they have available to cover publishing costs. These differences don’t necessarily mean one research paper is more valuable than another - all research is important. He suggested that smaller journals may need to come together and form alliances to successfully navigate the transition to OA.

Miguel Peralta of Rockefeller University Press reported that transformation was ultimately being driven by researchers, 80% of whom opted for OA when it was offered.

OA agreements simplify article processing and payment

Carrie Webster from Springer Nature shared that the number of TAs has changed significantly over the last few years; Springer Nature is now supporting TAs at scale. Building the digital infrastructure and IT investment has been an important part of this development.

TAs have gone from being focussed in the European region to being truly worldwide and this has brought complications, for instance in the way different tax regimes treat OA payments. Springer Nature now offers a variety of agreement models, targeted at supporting the varying priorities of different institutions. Agreements can offer partial or complete coverage or support multi-pay; an important model which Springer Nature has yet to see at scale.

In the US, institutions sometimes don't have a Head of OA or a research office with responsibilities that would naturally take on article approval, so automatic approval has been an important step.

How the cost of OA publishing will be divided among countries is another ongoing issue that was mentioned by several panellists.

Tips and advice from three high-profile US organizations

As well as speaking on the panel at the Charleston Conference, Jason Price was a key contributor to the recent case study A commitment to the global research community: Three US organisations reflect on their transition to open access, which offers insight into the practical issues librarians face when moving to TAs. Along with the conference discussion, the paper is part of Springer Nature’s commitment to gathering and disseminating experiences of the transition to OA that the scholarly community can learn from.

In the paper, the contributors; California Digital Library, Carnegie Mellon University and the SCELC Library Consortium, discussed how OA furthers the mission of the academic library. They explored how the transition to OA is impacting the global community, how it responds to the needs of library patrons and supports the evolution of libraries while widening the reach of research.

The contributors were also able to discuss the impact of TAs, as they were monitoring agreements that had been in place for a number of years.

When asked for practical advice to help librarians who might be signing their first TA and beginning to support their researchers to publish OA, the contributors to the paper emphasised:

  • the bedrock of negotiating: gathering the right data about your institution's current holdings and publishing activity
  • recognizing mutual value: understanding your own negotiating position, and that of the publisher
  • faculty are a key part of the institution-publisher relationship: faculty members serve on editorial boards and are actively involved in many ways.

For more hints and tips, download the case study A commitment to the global research community: Three US organisations reflect on their transition to open access

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Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the Dordrecht office, Marketing Manager Saskia Hoving produces The Link Newsletter for research communities. Focusing on the evolving role of libraries regarding SDGs, Open Science, and researcher support, she explores academia's intersection with societal progress. With a lifelong passion for sports and recent exploration into "Women’s inclusion in today’s science", Saskia brings dynamic insights to her work.