Tuesday, April 7, 2020
State University of New York Steps Away From the “Big Deal” with Elsevier
The State University of New York (SUNY) has opted not to renew its “big deal” with Elsevier for ScienceDirect in favor of a short list of titles to which campuses across the system will have access. SUNY is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, and its negotiation efforts were led by the SUNY Libraries Consortia (SLC) over a period of a year-and-a-half. While both parties negotiated in earnest and tried to come to acceptable terms for SUNY to maintain access to the full ScienceDirect package, in the end there was considerable disagreement around the value proposition of the “big deal”. While Elsevier did make some accommodations in recognition of our requirements, a vast difference remained between their proposed charges and our assessment of the value of the collection.
SUNY and the SLC have closely tracked the marketplace for the last two years, and we believe the price of scholarly journals has been profoundly inflated relative to their value. The journal marketplace is dynamic, and publishers no longer have the same monopolistic stranglehold they’ve had in the past over content. The negotiating team’s perspective was that Elsevier did not go far enough in recognizing that the marketplace has changed.
A significant driver in our decisions was a comprehensive data system and analytics service to better understand our ScienceDirect utilization and holdings. The not-for profit group, Our Research, through their service Unpaywall, spent considerable time helping us to access our usage, the impact of Open Access, and most importantly the value of the Elsevier journal offerings. Our internal analysis, coupled with the collaboration with Our Research was instrumental in reaching the decision on the titles most valuable to our university system. Rather than canceling access to all subscribed Elsevier ScienceDirect titles, the negotiating team worked with librarians around the system to develop a core list of 248 titles that we have subscribed to collectively. Our forecasting indicates that with this core set of titles and using our pre-negotiated perpetual access to ScienceDirect content for the period 2010-2019, along with Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery and a growing body of open access content, most needs for teaching, research, and scholarship should continue to be met.
The SUNY negotiating team decided that walking away from the “big deal” was the right choice for us. Individual SUNY campuses will have the flexibility, local resources permitting, to supplement titles on the core title list in order to better meet local needs. Depending on local selections, annual savings to SUNY as a whole are anticipated to be in the $5 -$7 million (50 – 70%) range. Access to the ScienceDirect “big deal” terminated on April 1, 2020. Throughout this process, Elsevier has reminded us continually that they value the relationship with SUNY.