15. October 2021


15th Berlin Open Access Conference

Plenary 1
Open access and cost reduction: Competing priorities? Transformative agreements in the context of heightened budget pressure worldwide

Participants in the 14th Berlin Open Access Conference validated transformative agreements as a cost-neutral approach for transitioning scholarly journal publishing to open access with the expectation that economic adjustments would follow in the longer term as the market evolves. Many agreements negotiated since then have delivered not only open access to a vast proportion of new research but also savings and cost avoidance, as former spending on APCs “in the wild” is reined in and removed from the equation. Yet unrelenting and increasing budget pressures worldwide are forcing institutions and library consortia to move beyond their baseline expectations of a cost-neutral transition and more stringently and rapidly adhere to the objective of cost reduction. How can the immediate need to reduce costs be reconciled with the broader mission to advance the open access transition?

Contrasting the experiences of two nationwide library consortia — one an early adopter of transformative agreements in a northern EU country and the other, a southern BRICS-member, that is evaluating such a strategy — the session explored the unique challenges and commonalities of advancing on the pathway of publisher open access negotiations in the current economic climate of each context. (BRICS refers to the five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.)

Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, University Librarian and Professor, University of California Berkeley

Ahmed Bawa, CEO, Universities South Africa
Anna Lundén, Head of National Coordination of Libraries, National Library of Sweden
Astrid Söderbergh Widding, President, Stockholm University
Ellen Tise, Senior Director, Library and Information Services, Stellenbosch University

Recording Plenary 1
Transcript Plenary 1

Plenary 2
Equitable opportunity to publish open access: strategies, principles and partnerships to steer the open access transition in scholarly journal publishing toward conditions that are fair and equitable for researchers everywhere

As transformative agreements drive scholarly journal publishing toward a flip to open access, the community has the opportunity and responsibility to explore potential strategies, principles and partnerships among institutions and their libraries, funders and publishers to ensure that researchers everywhere are able to publish their peer-reviewed research articles openly in the journals of their choice and under economic conditions that are fair and equitable.

By bringing the two financial streams of scholarly publishing under central oversight, transformative agreements are helping to uncover the gross financial inequities that characterize the current subscription system. The process of repurposing subscription funds to cover open access publishing services brings to light just how unreasonable former subscription fees were — based on “what the market can bear” rather than on a fair and transparent cost structure. Tracking and documenting expenditures on open access publishing fees of hybrid journals (APCs) gives negotiating institutions greater awareness of the total costs of scholarly journal publishing and how APCs are often beyond the reach of authors — especially in low- and middle-income countries.

In this plenary, representatives of library consortia in low- and middle- income countries shared insights into how investments in subscriptions and OA publishing currently flow in their local contexts, reflected on the inequities of the subscription-based system, and discussed impacts and expectations as transformative agreements drive the OA transition in scholarly journal publishing.


Colleen Campbell, OA2020 Partner Development, Max Planck Digital Library

Jagadish Aryal, Librarian, Social Science Baha Library, Nepal Library and Information Consortium, Nepal
Romy Beard, Licensing Programme Manager, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL)
Rachel Bruce, Head of Open Research, UK Research and Innovation Strategy, UK
Nicolás Duque, Library Director, Universidad de Caldas, Colombia
Arnold Mwanzu, Regional Librarian, East Africa at Aga Khan University, Kenya Libraries and Information Services Consortium (KLISC), Kenya

Recording Plenary 2
Transcript Plenary 2

Plenary 3
From scholarly societies to high-rejection rate/editorial content journals: a range of open access transition models

Large commercial publishers may be able to leverage their size and consortium-level agreements to mitigate some of the financial risks associated with transitioning their scholarly journals from subscription to open access business models, but smaller publishers — particularly not-for-profit scholarly societies — and publishers of journals with high rejection rates have a unique set of challenges to address. Whether to cover the Society’s activities or the exceptional editorial investment, both are characterized by high costs that are not easily translated into fees for open access publishing.

At the same time, through transformative models that enable a gradual transition or immediate flips to a fully open access model, an increasing number of scholarly publishers, large and small, are responding to the research community’s demand for open access. In this session, a panel of publishers from a variety of perspectives shared their experiences in developing open access business models that fit the specific nature of their journals and editorial activity and reflected on how the unique challenges of scalability, sustainability, and fair and equitable costs can be met in order to transition the journals valued by authors to open access.

See examples:

Rich Schneider, Professor, University of California San Francisco

Mandy Hill, Managing Director of Academic Publishing, Cambridge University Press
Susan King, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press
Ruth Wilson, Publishing Director of the Nature Research Journals

Recording Plenary 3
Transcript Plenary 3

Plenary 4
The B15 Journey: Insights from throughout the conference

In the closing plenary discussion, Conference Co-Chairs Günter Waibel and Gerard Meijer exchanged their observations and key insights in a cross-pollination of ideas arising from the two conference tracks and engaged B15 participants in a discussion to highlight how their local communities and the B15 cohort as a global community might adapt strategies, based on the understanding gained in the conference, in order to advance toward the shared vision of large-scale open access to scholarly knowledge.

Track A
Günter Waibel, Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director, California Digital Library, University of California, Track A Conference Chair

Gerard Meijer, Director and Scientific Member at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Track B Conference Chair
Catherine Foley, Chief Scientist of Australia, Australian Government
Keith Webster, Dean of University Libraries, Carnegie Mellon University
Elaine Westbrooks, Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Recording Plenary 4 Track A
Transcript Plenary 4 Track A

Track B
Gerard Meijer, Director and Scientific Member at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Track B Conference Chair

Günter Waibel, Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director, California Digital Library, University of California, Track A Conference Chair
Jun Adachi, Digital Content and Media Sciences Research Division Professor/Deputy Director General, Japan Alliance of University Library Consortia for E-Resources (JUSTICE)
Joana Novais, Manager, Biblioteca do Conhecimento Online (b-on), FCCN, Portugal

Recording Plenary 4 Track B
Transcript Plenary 4 Track B