What is a big deal?

In the print era, a Library would traditionally purchase journal titles as individual subscriptions. As journals moved online, this allowed for a new business model called the "Big Deal". This is where a publisher, instead of selling journal titles individually, would bundle many titles together and sell those as a package called the ‘Big Deal’.  This allowed a Library to provide access to a wider range of titles outside the main core subscriptions that they would have purchased individually.  There was an additional cost for this, but it was seen as being good value for money due to the large number of journal titles that could now be read by our researchers.

Why do big deals need to change?

There are three main issues with traditional big deals:

  • Once institutions became "dependent" on their content it has been common for publishers to increase the annual cost at above inflation rates, putting extreme stress on library budgets
  • They only provide read access to content. As authors have increasingly sought to publish open access, this has come at an additional cost via Article Processing Charges (APCs). Despite increased open access revenue and more content being openly available, our experience has continued to be that both subscription and APC costs increase at above inflation rates year on year, leading to accusations of double-dipping.
  • Administering APC payments at a per article level has created substantial administrative overhead and makes it almost impossible to predict spending year on year.

These issues have led libraries and research funders to seek to negotiate new models for the access to and publishing of journal articles which are equitable and sustainable in a world where open access, open research and global partnerships are becoming the norm.

What does a good big deal look like?

A good big deal needs to be packaged to give read access for all University staff and students to the titles they need, as well as allowing researchers to publish on an open access basis immediately and at no extra charge. Many such deals take a "read and publish" approach whereby the fee paid by library services is split into a "read" and "publish" fee. In some cases, we may now just pay a publishing fee and receive read access at no additional cost. Where such deals seek to increase the proportion of UK papers made open access, they are regularly referred to as "transitional". At a minimum the publisher must offer a cost-effective and transparent deal that also allows our publishing researchers to comply with funder requirements. We would also expect to maintain access to the journal issues published while we are subscribing, even if we later decide to leave the deal (post-cancellation access).

Read and publish is not the only suitable big deal model. Deals which offer a traditional subscription model but also allow immediate open access deposit of author accepted manuscripts in PURE are also suitable, as are those following a "subscribe to open model" (S2O). Under S2O, a publisher agrees to open the entire contents of a journal on publication as long as they meet a certain threshold of subscriptions, while offering a self-deposit route to open access if this is not achieved.

How do we negotiate a big deal?

Jisc negotiate Big Deals nationally on behalf of the HE education sector. Universities UK has convened the UUK/ Jisc Content Negotiation Strategy Group to support and enhance Jisc's mandate in negotiating these publisher agreements. Jisc shares publisher proposals and consults with all the institutions they negotiate on behalf of before accepting or declining a new deal. 

Who at the University is involved in the big deal negotiations? 

Library Services has a big deals group chaired by the Assistant Director for Collection Management and Development, involving specialists in e-resources and serials management, scholarly communications, and academic engagement. The group reviews publisher renewal proposals, brand-new deal offers, and responds to national consultations on behalf of the University. In addition, they consider the budgetary implications of entering the deals and ensure key information is communicated to the wider University. Input from senior university officers, e.g., the VC, PVC Research, and PVC Education, and the academy is sought when appropriate.

How many big deals does the University have? 

We currently have around 50 big deals that require regular review. Of these, over half are now Transitional Agreements


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