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Landmark agreement with Elsevier ensures open access publishing for African researchers

- Wits University

The South African National Library and Information Consortium (SANLiC) has signed a landmark transformational open access agreement with Elsevier.

Elsevier is a global information analytics business with roots in publishing, including seminal publications such as The Lancet and Cell, some 2 800 digitized journals, and over 46 000 eBook titles.

The landmark agreement, signed in Cape Town on 27 February 2023, supports authors in South Africa who wish to publish open access.

The cost of publishing open access is covered under the terms of this agreement. When publishing open access in hybrid journals, eligible corresponding authors do not have to pay an article publishing charge (APC). When publishing in fully gold open access journals, authors will receive a discount on the APC.

The three-year agreement (2023-2025) combines reading and publishing services in ScienceDirect Freedom Collection journals, in a single agreement for participating SANLiC institutions, of which Wits University is one.

The following five read and publish agreements were finalised in 2022 for the three-year period:

  • American Chemical Society
  • IOPscience Extra
  • Oxford Journals
  • ScienceDirect
  • Springer

Dr Daisy Selematsela, Director of Wits Libraries, says “The Elsevier transformational agreement ensures that the libraries in the Global South are not disadvantaged by being subsumed with the Global North payment models, which impact the library funding and exchange rates. The narrative for social justice is the beginning in addressing issues of access as attested in the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Selematsela serves on the SANLiC Board and contributed to the draft Elsevier announcement and negotiations for the deal.

Before this agreement, Elsevier consumed the largest share of South African subscription expenditure (read access) and is currently South Africa’s largest venue for subscription-based publishing behind a paywall

Open access to ±16% more SA research

This cost-neutral agreement enables participating institutions to repurpose subscription expenditure to finance the cost of open access publishing in hybrid journals on behalf of their researchers. In so doing, the agreement enables a flip of an estimated 16% of annual South African research from behind the paywall to open access.

Given that research published in open access enjoys far more usage and citations than in the subscription publishing model, the benefits for the advancement and distribution of South African scholarship are spectacular. The deal guarantees prior reading access to closed and more than 1 660 hybrid journals.

No APCs, more development

In addition, authors in participating institutions will be able to publish accepted articles open access in Elsevier’s hybrid journals without article processing charges (APCs).

While the number of articles published annually are capped in this agreement, the cap matches the current and forecasted hybrid article output.

Furthermore, authors from participating institutions will also enjoy a discount on APCs in Elsevier’s more than 570 fully Open Access (gold) journals.

Elsevier has also agreed to a developmental programme to support growth and development in the South African researcher community.

The agreement ensures no disruption for authors to the normal article submission workflow for hybrid journals; they need only confirm acceptance of the OA entitlement under this agreement at the point when their article is accepted for publication.

Once the author accepts, the article will automatically be published under a CC BY or CC BY-NC-ND license as determined by the corresponding author, subject to conditions (and certain society journals excepted). There will be no APCs. South Africa’s research will become more visible as Elsevier’s hybrid journals transition toward full open access.

Do you know about the Wits Libraries facilities and resources?

  • 11 physical libraries across three campuses
  • 5 electronic class rooms (ECRs)
  • 2 Knowledge Commons (KCs) – student computer access labs providing access to electronic subscriptions that the Library provides
  • 1 Research Commons (RC) – providing postgraduates with access to laptops and reference services
  • A multimedia centre (2nd Floor Wartenweiler Library)
  • The Clare M Walker Open Learning Area (in the Wartenweiler Library) – provides access to tutorial rooms, moveable furniture, access to audio and visual services (projection, recording). The venue can provide laptops, access to a recording studio, as well as other digital equipment including virtual reality tech, digital cameras and recorders)
  • The Wits Digitization Centre (William Cullen Library)
  • Wits staff and students have access to 1 263 698 book volumes, 263 946 print and electronic journal titles, and 241 online databases

 About SANLiC

The South African National Library and Information Consortium (SANLiC) is a non-profit organisation that represents the interests of 26 public higher education and six national research council libraries in South Africa. SANLiC's mission is to facilitate affordable access to scholarly electronic information in support of the learning, teaching, and research activities of its members.