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Elsevier this week began revoking the University of California system’s journal access -- more than six months after the two parties failed to reach agreement on a new bundled journal subscription deal. In December 2018, the university system announced that it would not renew its $10-million-a-year “big deal” with the publisher after negotiations broke down. UC had been seeking a new kind of deal that would reduce costs and include fees for publishing open-access articles.

Gemma Hersh, senior vice president for global research solutions at Elsevier, said in an emailed statement that the decision to pull the system’s access to the latest journal articles "was not made lightly … It saddens us, because we believe that it will have a negative impact on the UC’s renowned research community and because lack of our services will prevent UC students, faculty, researchers and medical professionals benefiting from reliable, real-time access to peer-reviewed, published research."

Hersh said the company had extended access at no charge in the “good-faith hope that UC negotiators would come back to the bargaining table and reach a mutually agreeable compromise.”

Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, university librarian at UC Berkeley and one of the lead negotiators for the Elsevier deal, said the publisher had informed the system about six weeks ago that it would be revoking access around the beginning of July. “They haven’t finished implementing the change, but I expect it to be completed by the end of today or tomorrow,” MacKie-Mason said in an interview.

The university system will continue to have instant access to most of Elsevier’s catalog, said MacKie-Mason, but content from 2019 and articles in some more obscure journals will now be accessed primarily through interlibrary loan systems. Libraries will also be able to make one-time purchases for academics who require immediate access to articles on request. For clinicians seeking access to research for patient care, Elsevier has offered to send articles at no cost. Many journal articles are also available as open-access preprints, he said.

So far the impact on the system has been negligible, said MacKie-Mason. The libraries will, however, be closely tracking the impact on academics and students in the coming months, he said.

The UC Academic Council issued a statement Wednesday in support of the UC Libraries and their ability to provide alternative access to Elsevier content. They encouraged academics to refrain from individually subscribing to journals so that the libraries can accurately measure the impact of losing instant access to some journals.