The University of Liverpool and Springer Nature

The contract between the academic publisher Springer Nature and UK universities is due for renewal in December 2022. Find out what's happening with negotiations.

Use this link to see the latest updates from the national negotiations.

Update: 3rd May 2023 – agreement is reached

UK institutions were consulted in April 2023 on the fifth proposal submitted by Springer Nature for a new Read and Publish agreement. A total of 110 institutions responded to the consultation survey, all of whom accepted the proposal. This means that our previous Springer Compact deal has been expanded to include Palgrave and Nature titles.

The agreement permits unlimited open access publishing in Springer Compact and Palgrave hybrid titles for University of Liverpool Corresponding Authors, with a sector article cap on open access publishing with Nature research titles.

Whilst the expanded OA publishing the deal enables is welcome, 43 institutions accepted ‘with serious reservations’ as concerns remain around the high cost of publishing OA outside the agreement and the continued lack of transparency around how these fees are calculated. There is also dissatisfaction with Springer Nature’s resistance to rights retention and OA publishing via the deposit route.

The sector will now move to implement the agreement, subject to successful contract discussions. Given the complexity of the proposed agreement, the agreement will not go live before June 2023.

The negotiations have prompted valuable discussion on the future of scholarly communications as we transition to Open Research, particularly on the sector’s relationship with commercial publishers such as Springer Nature. This will feed into the critical review of read and publish agreements undertaken by Jisc. Our university working alongside the sector will now work to agree the requirements for future negotiations and open science more generally.

Why these negotiations are important

Springer Nature is one of the largest academic publishers in the world and accounts for an increasing proportion of library subscription and publishing expenditure. Total expenditure with Springer Nature by UK universities now exceeds £30 million . Uncontrolled spend with Springer Nature has seen SN recently overtake Wiley to become the second largest recipient of subscription and APC expenditure.

The current national deal with Springer Nature comes to an end 31 December 2022. Negotiations by the academic sector are now underway with the aim of reaching an acceptable agreement that encompasses all the Springer Nature portfolio - Springer Compact, Nature journals, Palgrave journals, and their fully open access journals - to reduce and constrain total spend. The agreement should allow UK authors to publish open access in Springer Nature titles for no additional cost to themselves or their departments, as well as provide access to all research within the portfolio. An agreement such as this is known as a transitional Read and Publish agreement.

Why we seek a transitional deal

Transitional agreements are important for several reasons:

  • Many research funders, such as UKRI and the Wellcome Trust, will only allow their open access funding to be used to publish in journals that are part of a transitional agreement, and so achieving an agreement is important for ensuring we do not breach our agreements with our funders.
  • They aim to transition academic publishing from a model where institutions and individuals must pay to access research to one where access is free and unrestricted, and instead any payment made is for publishing services.
  • They support the global shift to open access which is an important part of publishers’ broader support for Open Science including research integrity, reproducibility and culture.
Article Processing Charges in Nature-brand journals

It is very important to note that UKRI- and Wellcome-funded researchers do not have to pay for open access in Nature-brand journals in order to meet their funder requirements. Springer Nature have confirmed that at least until the end of 2022, articles reporting on UKRI-funded work that are accepted for publications can be made open access immediately, with a CC-BY licence, by depositing their Author Accepted Manuscript into the Repository via Liverpool Elements.

The article processing charges in Nature-brand journals are extremely high, being nearly the same as a year’s tuition fees for students, higher than some publishers charge for making whole books open access, and being over four times the average such charge. Such costs are unsustainable. Though if accepted by a Nature-brand journal we are allowed to use our UKRI and Wellcome funds to pay an open access charge, we strongly encourage price restraint to aid the current negotiations, and advise instead that authors deposit their Author Accepted Manuscripts, which complies with your funder policy for open access, at zero charge.

December 2022 update - what to do if submitting to a Springer Nature journal

The sector is waiting for the outcome of a consultation on the latest proposal from Springer Nature. The consultation will end in mid-January. As the current deal ends December 2022, Springer Nature have confirmed there will be a grace period of access into February 2023.

When submitting articles to Springer journals during this grace period, we strongly urge authors to include the following rights retention statement in their cover letter and acknowledgements section to enable open access via self-archiving of the accepted manuscript via Liverpool Elements:

"For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript arising from this submission."

It should also be noted that if you are submitting a manuscript to a Nature Research or Palgrave Macmillan hybrid journal title, Springer Nature have said they will guarantee UKRI funded authors can publish their work to be compliant with the UKRI Open Access policy: Upon acceptance, UKRI funded authors can request a UKRI exceptional publishing agreement from the journal, enabling you to permanently deposit the AM in your funder or institutional repositories, for immediate release under a CC BY licence upon publication of the version of record.

January 2023 update

The sector aims to negotiate a satisfactory deal with Springer Nature. However, there is a possibility that UK universities may need to walk away without an agreement. As with the Elsevier negotiations from a year ago, there are robust plans in progress to ensure that our researchers still have access to the articles they need to read in the event that an agreement can't be reached.

February 2023 update

The N8 has issued the following statement:

"The N8 universities are fully committed to fostering open research in an equitable and financially sustainable way. We support the approach being taken by the UK’s Springer Negotiation Team and the recommendation to reject the most recent proposal from Springer on the basis it does not yet fully meet the core objectives of the negotiation.

We welcome the progress made so far and hope both parties can continue to work together to achieve an agreement which meets the core negotiation objectives and provides support for a sector-wide transition to open access."

We are currently in a grace period where read access to Springer Nature journals, and open access publishing in Springer Compact titles, are both currently still available.

What if no agreement is reached?

How would I access Springer Nature content? Most of the research published by Springer Nature will still be accessed the same way via Library search. You won’t see much change and will still use the same search tools you’re familiar with. For the rest of the items you need, you can request these via the library and the material will be supplied as quickly as possible.

Could I still publish in Springer Nature journals? Yes – authors would still be able to publish in Springer Nature journals under a subscription publishing model.

How about publishing on an open access basis? Authors would comply with funder open access policies by using a rights retention statement in their article submission. You can find out more on the Research Publications and Copyright Policy web page.

For how long might we be without an agreement? It is difficult to know for sure. The time would depend on how quickly Springer Nature offered a deal that meets the sector’s requirements.

If you would like to provide any thoughts on the negotiations, please use this feedback form.

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