What are transformative agreements?

Transformative agreements are those contracts negotiated between institutions (libraries, national and regional consortia) and publishers that transform the business model underlying scholarly journals from subscription to open access. As the vast majority of scholarly publishing and expenditure of any given institution tends to be concentrated in journals produced by a relatively small number of publishers, implementing transformative agreements with these publishers constitutes a high-impact strategy: many institutions and consortia find that by negotiating such agreements with fewer than 10 publishers, they can achieve immediate open access for the vast majority of their outputs.

They have a variety of configurations that reflect the diverse and fluid landscape of scholarly communication, starting with “offsetting” through to the recent “Publish & Read, or PAR” model, and more.

Agreements continue to evolve as they are increasingly adopted around the world and the body of evidence on their impact grows.

Put into practice, instead of paying fees for access to journals behind subscription paywalls, funds are repurposed to remunerate publishers for their editorial services associated with the open access publication of accepted articles.

In most models, fees are articulated at the article level or in proportion to the number of articles published, disbanding the lump-sums fees of subscriptions that are largely based on legacy print expenditures. The fundamental principles of transformative agreements include that they are temporary and transitional meaning that they are no end in itself but rather provide a framework in which a swift and irreversible shift away from the subscription model can be organized, affecting the financial and operational changes required for a fully open access publishing paradigm.

Requirements and guiding principles for the negotiations of transformative agreements have been published by libraries and library consortia around the world which demonstrates the ongoing effort of the comunity to shape the new busisness model and to improve transparency and efficiency. With our ESAC registry, we want to contribute to that process.