*UNDER CONSTRUCTION* Assessing transformative agreements

Transformative agreements are conceived as a practical and scalable approach to break away from the terms and conditions that have characterized library-publisher subscription agreements for decades. Rejecting the inequities and inefficiencies of subscription-based publishing, while acknowledging the value researchers place on the journals and services provided by commercial publishers, the overarching objective of TAs is to plot practical steps toward a new balance in the academy’s contractual relationships with publishers, establishing standards grounded in the values and principles of open science.

Because subscription agreements have long been hidden behind non-disclosure clauses, and the transactions around author-pays hybrid open access publishing have occurred outside of institutional oversight, libraries and consortia may have widely different starting points and short-term objectives for their open access negotiations. There are, however, shared core principles, or ‘transformation drivers’, that the community has embraced to guide the process of transformation in their dealings with commercial publishers.

For the negotiating libraries and institutions, application of the transformation drivers in the terms and conditions negotiated in TAs helps to guide the development of institutional strategies around open scholarship, prompting adaptions in institutional workflows, data streams, administrative processes, organizational structures and budget lines. At scale, the transformation drivers applied in the growing number of TAs negotiated around the world, introduce operational measures against which the research community can hold global publishers accountable as open access becomes the standard in scholarly publishing.

To help the community assess the progress TAs in prompting these improvements and adaptations, ESAC has developed two tools based on an initial set of transformation drivers defined by the research community negotiating TAs.

The ESAC Spectrum of Transformation Drivers: How transformative is it? articulates the range of incremental improvements that can be introduced in new and successive agreements, plotting a clear path from the current conditions of subscription-based agreements and uncontrolled hybrid OA publishing to the envisioned scenario based on open access.

ESAC spectrum of transformation drivers: How transformative is it?

The ESAC spectrum: How transformative is it? introduces an initial set of six key transformation drivers and articulates in detail how they can be applied in transformative agreements to prompt a progression of improvements and advancements:

  • Open access publishing: Empower authors with the means and opportunity to publish 100% of their research articles, accepted for publication in all journals of the relative publisher, open access.
  • Organize investments around open access instead of paywalls: Rein in and re-engineer the parallel financial streams of the subscription + hybrid paradigm, and orient institutional investments in scholarly publishing around open access.
  • Sustainable transition: Establish mechanisms to ensure sustainability and mitigate potential financial risks as the scope of agreements evolves from the static lock-in of subscriptions to the dynamic nature of (open access) publishing.
  • Optimize processes for open access: Establish accountability for continued optimization of processes around OA publishing.
  • Price transparency: Articulate the service levels, terms, conditions and pricing of the agreement openly and transparently to enable community benchmarking and cost comparisons.
  • Commit to an open paradigm: Garner publisher commitment to a sustainable, equitable and irreversible transition to open access.

For each transformation driver, the ESAC Spectrum: How Transformative Is It? articulates practical and incremental improvements that can be introduced in transformative agreements, plotting a feasible pathway from the current conditions of subscription-based agreements to the envisioned scenario based on open access.
Recognizing that libraries and library consortia will all have unique starting points and negotiation priorities, the spectrum constitutes an orientation that can be used to evaluate publisher proposals of different varieties of TAs (Read & Publish, etc.) or to map out your own negotiation objectives.

Download the complete ESAC Spectrum: How Transformative Is It? here.

Further transformation drivers and their practical implementations are currently under development, based on the progress made to date and the consensus voiced in the Final Statement of the 16th Berlin Open Access Conference. Please check back for more news soon!

The ESAC Assessment Tool for TAs gives the community a uniform way to measure and visualize the progress made with TAs along key transformation drivers with the aim of exposing areas where publishers are not performing to the community’s expectations for transformation.

How transformative is it? Assessment Tool for TAs

To help libraries and consortia assess the progress and performance of TAs in a transparent and uniform way, the ESAC community of practice has developed a survey based on an initial set of six transformation drivers.

Negotiating libraries and consortia are invited to rate the publisher’s performance, or responsiveness in negotiations, with respect to each of the drivers, in the agreements they have concluded with different publishers. Adopting a scale of 0 (zero = not transformative/subscription-based) to 4 (four = fully transformative/open publishing), the survey responses are then aggregated in the Assessment Tool for TAs to present composite views of publisher performance. The assessment visualizations are intended to foster transparency, enable comparisons of publisher performance along key transformation drivers, and support community-wide conversations on the progress and impact of TAs, to ensure publisher negotiations continue to prompt the desired advancements.

As an essential complement to the ESAC Registry, libraries and consortia are invited to contribute their own assessments in the survey here. Sharing your insights will not only help gain an understanding of your own agreements, but will contribute to a broader understanding of the impact of transformative agreements across the academic community.

TA Assessment Tool Visualizations

Each radar (or spider web) chart below represents the composite, or average score of a given publisher, based on the sum of the assessments contributed. Survey responses are plotted on axes for each transformation driver, radiating outward from an average score of 0 (zero = not transformative/subscription-based) to 4 (four = fully transformative/open publishing).

By comparing the shapes and sizes of each chart, one can quickly assess which publisher is performing better in a given area:

  1. Round, circular shapes indicate a more consistent performance across all of the drivers, while irregular, spiky outlines indicate variations in performance.
  2. A larger area generally indicates stronger performance across the all of the drivers.


Customize your view

provide comprehensive insights, gain a deeper understanding

flexibility to compare various levels

you can select publishers or institutions on both sides of the page.


A few brief paragraphs of discussion [headings tbd] including:

  • What can libraries and consortia do with this information
  • What should the community, as a collective, do with this information
  • Perspective on progress so far (train has left the station, what comes next, etc.)
  • Caveats and limitations
  • Next steps (price transparency, equity…)
  • Further resources (coalition S price transparency framework, for example? Anything else)
  • Acknowledgements of OA2020 TA Assessment WG

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