Guidelines for Transformative Agreements

Below are some of the fundamental guidelines of transformative agreements, as defined by the ESAC Initiative community; a listing of the specific requirements that have been adopted by national consortia and other organizations can be found here


Transformative agreements are temporary and transitional.

Transformative agreements are meant to enable a swift and irreversible shift away from the subscription model on a global scale, affecting the financial and operational changes required for a fully open access publishing paradigm. While individual transformative agreements have the potential to convert 100% of a given institution or consortium’s output to open access publishing, it is the sum of many agreements together that will induce the transition at scale. Naturally, wherein public funds and collective effort have assisted the transformation of a publisher’s portfolio to open access, this should remain open access and not revert to paywall access under subscription models.

Sample agreement language: The current agreement is a mechanism for transition with the aim of shifting to full open access over time.

Authors retain copyright.

In order to respond to the needs of scholarship in the digital era, authors must retain full use and re-use rights of their works.

Sample agreement language: Eligible authors under the agreement retain copyright and the publisher licenses these articles under the Creative Commons Attribution license CC BY (

In cases where authors choose licenses that restrict commercial and/or derivative uses of the articles (e.g., CC BY-NC, CC BY-ND, CC BY-NC-ND), ‘license to publish’ agreements should ensure that the authors retain all rights, with the publisher being granted ‘limited’ or ‘non-exclusive’ use to the article contents.

Agreements must be transparent.

It is in the public interest, not only that publicly funded research has the widest possible reach but that the costs and details of the transition to open access and its progress be openly available, so the sector can benchmark and better understand where investment or divestment is required and improve processes.

Sample agreement language: Under the current agreement details of all costs, pricing models and terms may be made publically available online.

Transformative agreements aim to constrain costs of scholarly communication and foster equity in scholarly publishing.

The spending level involved in the transition phase characterized by transformative agreements should be on the same level of current subscription spending, reining in the expenditures for open access publishing that have, previously, come on top of subscription fees (i.e., double-dipping). The community holds the expectation that cost-neutral transformative agreements should be available to all institutions globally, fully recognizing that institutions are diverse and need different options that reflect differing levels of publishing output, and that economic adjustments in the pricing of publishing services will follow as transparent costs enable market pressure to contain costs and as new forms of dissemination evolve.

Transformative agreements should govern service and workflow requirements for publishers to ensure that the needs of authors and administrators are addressed.

Please refer to the section on open access workflows here