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Elsevier Journal Negotiations for 2021 and Beyond

This guide serves as a repository of information for interested campus individuals to learn more about the current negotiations between the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries and Elsevier

Memo to UNC concerning negotiations for Elsevier Journal Content

Dear Deans, Faculty, and Staff

We are writing you today to update on the status of negotiations between the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries consortium, of which UNC is a member, and Elsevier, a major academic publisher. The current Elsevier contract ends December 31, 2020 and includes content from journals 1995 to the present. While negotiations are ongoing, current options being considered would reduce the number of titles available through our subscription. If this occurs, titles no longer in our subscription would still be available through interlibrary loan. While we cannot guarantee the specific titles, we will advocate to keep the most used titles by the UNC community.

For those unfamiliar with Elsevier, their business model rakes in huge profit margins and relies on the free labor of university faculty. Their reported profit margins in 2019 were 34%, which is more than most companies including Google. Elsevier’s regular price increases far outpace inflation and library budget increases. Their acquisition of SSRN, Mendeley, bepress, and Science-Metrix has increased their monopoly over the academic research lifecycle.

Over the last three years, libraries and library consortiums have made the news over their negotiations with Elsevier, with some institutions terminating their agreements. This has included the University of California, MIT, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Florida State University, Louisiana State University and many more.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing problem of journal inflationary price increases outstripping libraries budgets. Paying for the most recent journal content is taking increasingly more money every year, while budgets are not growing.

The Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries and Elsevier are negotiating for a decrease in total cost for fiscal year 2021. However, a decrease in cost will come with either a decrease in ownership of content, a decrease in access to content, or both.

Faculty and Administrators from University Libraries are working hard to minimize the impact these negotiations could have on campus. While UNC has access to 1800 Elsevier titles through the current package, half of the usage (measured by the number of article downloads) come from only 112 journals.

Pricing for the recent Elsevier journal content as a portion of University Libraries materials budget over the last five years is below:


Fiscal Year Total Learning Materials Budget Elsevier Package Costs Elsevier Cost as Percentage of Total

$  3,495,508.61

$242,261.66 6.9%
2019 $  3,650,053.22 $228,198.87 6.3%
2018 $  3,545,225.71 $213,894.66 6.0%
2017 $  3,398,655.60 $199,621.27 5.9%
2016 $  3,253,533.98 $185,349.37 5.7%


What you can do

Around the world, universities and governments are calling on researchers to boycott Elsevier and other for-profit publishers, opting instead to publish, peer review, and edit in open access journals. This movement is rooted in the belief that knowledge produced for the public good should be accessible to the widest number of people, especially in the Global South, which has been frequently shut out of the scholarly conversation due in part to for-profit publishing practices. Ensuring that academic research is available to the masses of humanity is an expression of our commitment as a public institution and to social justice.

In 2010, UNC’s faculty senate passed a resolution supporting open access to encourage faculty to consider seeking out open access journals that maintain rigorous peer review standards and publish online at no cost to users worldwide and to encourage the deposit of faculty journal articles in our institutional repository, Digital UNC.

More information on open access, including author’s rights, is available and liaison librarians are always available to assist in finding the right open access journal and talking through open access options.

For additional questions, please reach out to Dean of Libraries Jennifer Nutefall at or Associate Dean Jayne Blodgett at