ESAC Workflow Recommendations for Transformative and Open Access Agreements

These recommendations were developed in 2017, at the 2nd ESAC Offsetting Workshop attended by libraries, funders and publishers from seven European countries, the United States and Japan. They have also been published in UKSG Insights. To learn more, please read also an article by colleagues at the Vienna University Library about workflows for open access agreements.


A) Author & article identification & verification

The publisher, in collaboration with the paying institution, shall use reasonable efforts to develop an efficient and reliable author identification and verification process. The workflow process should be confirmed during the negotiation process.

Eligible authors

Institutions need to be able to define eligibility criteria due to different funder agreements.

The publisher shall check whether or not the underlying research published in an article was sponsored by a funding agency and if an agreement with one of the funding agencies mentioned in the acknowledgement section exists (see Funding acknowledgement, below). Publishers should support the following eligibility criteria:

  • Eligible authors must be corresponding author and must be affiliated with the paying institution, and the affiliation must be stated in the article.


  • In some case eligible authors may be co-authors in receipt of research funding. Affiliation for all authors must be stated in the article.

Author identification

The publisher shall be responsible for the identification of eligible authors as part of the submission and publication process.

Workflows should be designed to ensure, given identification and approval has occurred, articles are published open access in the first instance with the appropriate license, not published as closed access and retrospectively converted to open access. Institutions may agree with publishers to make retrospective conversions to OA on a case by case basis. Preferably, workflows should be automated using the parameters described below.

The publisher must take steps to ensure that any changes of the details of the affiliated institution (during correction of his/her proofs, or as a post-publication correction) come to the publisher’s notice.

The publisher must be able to accommodate different funder requirements. For example:

  • At the moment of publication (see metadata delivery below), the corresponding author’s affiliation must match the paying institution.
  • Publishers should be able to accommodate funder acknowledgement requirements (see Funding Acknowledgement and metadata below)

Parameters for author identification

Affiliation to the paying institution as stated in the paper to be published shall be the decisive parameter to determine eligibility.

  • In addition, the publisher shall identify eligible authors through at least one of the following parameters:
    1. Authors stating their affiliation(s) at article submission
    2. IP ranges specified by the paying institution and/or
    3. E-mail domain(s) defined by the paying institution
  • Identifiers, such as Ringgold, ORCID or other recognized institutional identifier as provided by the author and published in the article metadata should be integrated in the workflow and they should be provided to the paying institution.

Article verification

  • The paying institution will verify the eligibility of an article as quickly as possible to ensure the timely production and publication of the article.
  • In order to verify the author eligibility criteria noted above as quickly as possible at the paying institution, the publisher shall provide the institution with all author affiliations (if there are more than one) as stated by all authors as well as all necessary metadata.

Author involvement

  • The publisher shall inform authors about the availability of institutional agreements, which secure the coverage of open access publishing fees.
  • Open access publishing should be the default route for eligible authors under an agreement. Authors should not be required to take further action in order to publish open access (i.e. opt-out, opt-in, signing of open access licenses etc.)

B) Funding acknowledgement and metadata

Funding acknowledgement

It must be noted that a free text funding acknowledgement may make reference to either the research funding source or the funder of the APC for the article itself. For example, the statement ‘[author] acknowledges funding from the [funder] grant [grant number]’ does not indicate whether the funder supported the research, the APC or both.

  • The publisher shall label OA articles as funded by the paying institution or a respective associated institution in the paper itself. For example, the footnote of the OA article shall state the following ‘Open access funding provided by [name of paying institution/funding organisation]’
  • The funding note must appear in the article itself (e.g. PDF and Rich HTML and any future format). Additionally it could also be placed on either the CrossMark information or the article landing page
  • Ideally, this information should appear as part of the article metadata using Funder Registry.

Metadata delivery

NISO has a Recommended Practice on Access and Licensing Indicators (NISO RP-22-2015) at

  • Publishers should follow NISO guidance regarding free_to_read and license_reference metadata fields
  • Publishers should follow NISO recommendations for ‘Mechanisms for Distributing Metadata’, which includes delivering metadata to Crossref and other relevant third parties
  • It is desirable for publishers to include Funder Registry metadata.

In order to assist customers with funder compliance, the following key dates are highly desirable:

  • Date of acceptance: The point at which all necessary changes have been made following peer review and the author is notified that their output will be published
  • Date of article verification: The point at which the paying institution can approve funding for an article
  • APC payment date: Date fee is paid to a publisher by the author’s institution for Gold open access
  • Date published online: The date on which the article first becomes available online at the publisher’s website, e.g. ‘early online’ or similar arrangements
  • Date of Publication: The date on which the article first becomes available to the journal’s general subscriber base, e.g. in a Volume/Issue (this may be the same as date published online).

See also the Casrai Open Access Glossary working group (

It is important that publishers refer to ‘Using Crossref metadata to enable auditing of conformance to funder mandates: a guide for publishers’ for further information (

C) Invoicing and reporting


Invoicing may not be appropriate to every form of current offsetting deal. However, in order to develop an article-based open access pay-as-you-publish business model, the following is recommended:

  • Publisher will not directly charge authors whose eligibility has been confirmed. The corresponding author shall not be involved in the invoicing process.
  • Publisher will only invoice for open access articles that have been accepted for publication (article acceptance) and have been confirmed as eligible by paying institution
  • Besides general invoice information (VAT, due date etc.), an APC invoice/pre-invoice statement shall include the following machine readable details:
    • Name and email address of the author who is affiliated to the paying institution (must be the corresponding author)
    • Complete statement of the author’s affiliation to the paying institution (e.g. university, institute, department)
    • Funding organisation (research funder and grant ID)
    • Date of acceptance
    • Date of publication
    • Journal title
    • ISSN
    • Article title
    • Article type
    • DOI and link to the published article
    • Amount due
    • Discounts and discount group (if applicable)
    • CC license


The publisher will enable a link on the invoice to verify this information.


  • The publisher shall provide reports to the paying institution on a monthly or quarterly basis. The delivery can also be done via a reporting tool to be developed by the publisher providing machine readable reporting data, including e.g. a list of eligible, rejected and opt-out articles.
  • Reports should include how many eligible articles have been published and APC payment dates.
  • Reports should include all necessary metadata.
  • It is desirable that this information is available as a dashboard with download option.

2021 Enhancement to the ESAC Workflow Recommendations

Experts from the international ESAC community came together in 2021 to review the current ESAC Workflow Recommendations (2017) and make enhancements based on their critical insights and experience accumulated through implementation of transformative and central open access publishing agreements at the forefront of the open access transition in scholarly publishing.

This 2021 enhancement to the ESAC Workflow Recommendations comprises an updated perspective on the responsibilities of the contractual partners and the metadata necessary to optimize workflows around open access publishing.

Contact ESAC if you would like to suggest additional enhancements to the ESAC Workflow Recommendations based on your own experiences.

Responsibilities of institutions/funders/consortia


  • Institutions/funders/consortia shall provide information to authors and publishers on whether license or OA policies or mandates exist (e.g. choice of license, repository deposit, etc.) and what the terms are
  • Institutions/funders/consortia provide standardized notes acknowledging funding, as applicable, to be inserted into articles by publishers
  • Institutions/funders/consortia provide agreement and eligibility information on a dedicated webpage that authors can consult and publishers can reference in their communication with authors
  • Institutions/funders/consortia provide dedicated contact points for queries by authors/publishers
  • Institutions/funders/consortia will give feedback on and provide wording to publishers’ communication with authors where the agreement is concerned


  • Institutions/funders/consortia will perform eligibility checks as soon as possible


  • If invoices are generated under the agreement, institutions/funders/consortia should provide standardized invoicing data to be used in all invoices

Responsibilities of publishers


  • Publishers should provide information on the respective agreement on a dedicated webpage
  • Publishers should proactively inform authors on the relevant date that an agreement is available that they can use and what the terms are (referring to information provided by institutions/funders/consortia)
  • Publishers should provide author workflow screenshots and update them if necessary on a dedicated agreement webpage
  • Publishers should provide regularly updated lists of journals included in the agreement (see also relevant metadata) on a dedicated agreement webpage – ideally this information would also be available via API or as a download in a machine-readable format
  • Publishers should provide a dedicated contact point for support regarding the agreement (especially in case workflows do not work as expected e.g. when authors are not recognized)
  • Publishers should involve institutions/funders/consortia in the wording of their communication to authors where the agreement is concerned; ideally templates can be customized
  • Publishers should continue to provide institutions/funders/consortia with information for the contract period even if no APCs are left


  • Reliable automatic eligibility checks are preferred but institutions/funders/consortia would ideally be given a choice whether they want to be involved in determining eligibility; if articles have to be checked, publishers should notify participating institutions/funders/consortia of relevant articles via e-mail or other viable solutions so they can do so (see also relevant metadata)
  • It should be easy for authors to switch from OA publication to subscription in case they are not eligible for an agreement or wish to opt out and the other way around
  • If license or OA mandates or policies exist (as provided by the institutions/funders/consortia), publishers should make authors aware or, ideally, offer only those choices that are compliant (e.g. for the license)
  • Ideally notes acknowledging funding as provided by institutions/funders/consortia are automatically inserted into articles by the publisher
  • Publishers should accommodate the use of non-personalized (i.e. shared) dashboard accounts for institutions/funders/consortia
  • It must be easy to transfer funding requests from one institution/funder/consortium to another if necessary, ideally without the need to involve support – transfer workflows based on article rejection or e-mail correspondence are not ideal
  • Eligibility checks are ideally processed in a dedicated dashboard provided by publishers or technology providers; only eligible article types should be added to the dashboard
  • For hybrid agreements: Journals that flip to fully OA during the agreement period should remain eligible for publishing under the agreement for the duration of the agreement
  • If the eligibility is checked by institutions/funders/consortia, the date agreement eligibility is based on has to be included in the publisher-provided metadata for that purpose
  • If the workflow takes too long, an author doesn’t finish the OA ‘journey’ or approval takes too much time, the system should signal this and show issues on a quality dashboard


  • If desired by institutions/funders/consortia, it should be possible to keep authors out of any invoicing process or include them where information on costs should be conveyed
  • Both bulk invoicing and per-article invoicing should be possible

Relevant metadata

* means mandatory

For title lists

01 Publisher name*

02 Customer name (if OA publishing rights differs among consortia members)*

03 Journal title*

04 Journal ID (publisher)

05 Print ISSN

06 Online ISSN*

07 Journal access type (e.g. hybrid, gold, subscription)*

08 Journal level agreement type (e.g. transformative/publish, subscription/read, excluded)*

09 APC list price (where relevant)*

10 Subscription list price (where relevant)

11 Journal URL

12 Date active

13 Changes made*

14 Licenses offered (where relevant)*

15 Standard/non-standard workflow (where relevant)*

16 Imprint (where relevant)*

For the eligibility check

01 Publisher name*

02 Publication date (online or first) (where relevant)*

03 Acceptance date*

04 Article type (e.g. original paper, review article, etc.)*

05 Article peer-reviewed (yes/no)

06 DOI*

07 Article title*

08 Journal title*

09 Journal ID (publisher)

10 Print ISSN

11 Online ISSN*

12 Journal access type (e.g. hybrid, subscription, gold)*

13 Article Open Access type (e.g. hybrid, gold, closed)*

14 Currency (where relevant)*

15 APC Price (where relevant)*

16 Invoice Amount (where relevant)*

17 Article License (where relevant)*

18 Corresponding author name*

19 Corresponding author email*

20 Corresponding author ORCID

21 Corresponding author institution name*

22 Funder ID (where relevant)

23 Funder name (where relevant)*

24 Grant ID (where relevant)*

25 Submission date (where relevant)*

26 Approval request date