Carnegie Mellon faculty and students will have access to Elsevier’s 3500 academic journals, and publish their work open access at no extra charge

Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania has reached a ‘read and publish’ deal with Dutch publishing giant Elsevier. The agreement is the first of its kind between the publisher and a US university, allowing Carnegie Mellon’s researchers to access the paywalled content of Elsevier’s academic journals, and also to publish open-access articles in Elsevier journals at no extra cost. The four-year pilot programme will give faculty and students at the university access to 3500 journal titles.

The agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate, will come into effect on 1 January, 2020. Elsevier made a similar agreement with a consortium of Norwegian research institutions earlier this year.

The new arrangement with Carnegie Mellon comes amid efforts by universities worldwide to move away from the traditional subscription system of scientific journal publishing and toward more contemporary open access publishing models. It follows an earlier agreement between Springer Nature and a consortium of nearly 700 German research universities in August, known as Project Deal. A couple of years ago, Elsevier tried and failed to clinch a similar deal with German universities.

More recently, negotiations for a similar deal between Elsevier and the University of California system broke down in February over a failure to agree on costs. Keith Webster, the Dean of Libraries at Carnegie Mellon, suggests that agreement’s collapse helped pave the way for his university to negotiate with Elsevier successfully.

‘Elsevier’s share price was hit and there was a fair amount of criticism of their approach, and my sense was that they were ready to find deals where they could experiment and learn a bit more,’ Webster says. ‘Working with a small [institute] like Carnegie Mellon, it is probably easier for them to agree to such a deal, versus one with a larger university publishing thousands of papers a year,’ he adds.

Carnegie Mellon aims to strike similar arrangements with other key publishers. ‘Our thought was that if we can start with one publisher that has a reputation of having refused similar deals elsewhere, if we can make progress there, it might send a signal to other publishers that we are serious about making such a deal,’ Webster tells Chemistry World. In fact, Carnegie Mellon is working with three other US universities to craft a comparable agreement with a society publisher. Those negotiations should be wrapped up before the end of the calendar year, Webster says.