Guest post: The Fully OA agreement – an essential component of a diverse open access world

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This is a guest post by the OASPA Fully OA Journal Publishers Interest Group. The views of this group do not represent the views of the OASPA membership as a whole.

Much of the recent effort to transition scholarly publishing to open access1 (OA) has focused on ‘Transformative Agreements’2 that incentivize change among subscription or mixed-model publishers3. Supporting such publishers to transition to OA is important to transform the system of scholarly publishing. However, it is equally important to support existing fully OA publishers – who already deliver open content by default in ways that comply with Plan S and fulfill its original principles and spirit – and to recognize the centrality of their role in normalizing OA and bringing it to the mainstream. 

As fully OA publishers, we welcome the pivotal role institutions and libraries are playing in supporting open access, and we look forward to co-creating the systems and publishing agreements that will enable them to support their authors in publishing OA. 

Most fully OA publishers have published open access since their founding. While we have costs associated with developing new OA models, we do not have costs or issues related to transitioning from subscription publishing to a new publishing model. Moreover, we are confident in the efficiencies that our full focus on OA allows, and in the transparency of our finances. While Article Processing Charges (APCs) still dominate the OA business model, we have been instrumental in developing and experimenting with a myriad of other potential ways to support OA, including institutional agreements and membership-style models. We have also pioneered many of the important innovations in scholarly publishing that have developed alongside OA, such as article-level metrics, preprint facilitation, open data facilitation, peer review innovations, rapid publication, and waiver programs. We have also helped focus attention on the methodological and ethical rigor of research. In short, fully OA publishers are an instrumental and essential component of the scholarly publishing landscape. We add diversity and author choice and publish OA to serve our research communities without being compelled by a changing scholarly publishing landscape.

In this light, we encourage and propose a greater focus on “Fully OA” publishing agreements (sometimes referred to as “Pure Publish” agreements). While much time and energy is by necessity devoted to Transformative Agreements and transforming subscription models, we propose a balanced approach whereby institutions also partner with fully OA publishers to fulfill their open research strategies and serve the needs of their research and teaching communities. We are certain that libraries do not want authors to be forced (or simply habituated) into NOT choosing a fully OA publisher simply because institutional agreements exist only with transitioning subscription or mixed-model publishers. 

Well-designed agreements with fully OA publishers can also act as a powerful incentive for publishers that have yet to make the full transition away from subscription or hybrid models. Seeing that institutions are prepared to support fully OA publishers and their agreements could speed up open access to research as publishers need not remain in transition in order to secure institutional support.

1. Meaning full and immediate online access to published results, as defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative:
2. For the purposes here this definition includes Publish and Read agreements, Transformative Agreements, and Transformative Journals, among other arrangements.
3. Data from ESAC show a steep rise in the number of articles covered by transformative agreements [OA2020/ESAC data and also] as well as the growing number of Transformative Agreements in 22 countries [].


Benefits of a Fully OA Agreement

This is a summary of the basics and benefits of a fully OA Agreement. In such an agreement an institution (or a group of institutions) and a publisher collaborate to address the administration necessary for authors from those institutions to publish with that publisher. These agreements simplify communications and workflows (for submission, invoicing, reporting, etc.), significantly reduce (or even eliminate) the administration of micro-transactions per published article, and minimize the burden for authors looking to publish in their preferred OA venues.

  • Simplified workflows (including centralised invoicing, cross-publication reporting, annualised budgets, etc).
  • Stable view of financial commitments and greater ability to plan budgets.
  • More choice for authors who are now equally incentivized to publish with any OA publisher (fully OA, transitioning, or otherwise)
  • The confidence of unconditional OA without complications inherent in a transition to OA. For example:


    • Immediate, full and unambiguous compliance with Plan S and other funder OA mandates
    • Immediate open access to all content
    • Author copyright retention 
    • Greater transparency around cost, price, and conditions
    • Lower per-article price in a single, transparently structured fee

Call to Action

A fully OA agreement is just one way to collaborate with and support fully OA publishers. We invite our colleagues at institutions and libraries worldwide to contact us and explore the available opportunities. More generally, we encourage our institutional colleagues and stakeholders to:

  1. Include arrangements with fully OA publishers in their policy recommendations or guidelines
  2. Pursue agreements with fully OA publishers as part of partnership and negotiation programs and strategies
  3. Reserve adequate budgets for publishing with fully OA publishers. (See the original ‘compact for publishing equity’ at as an example of how this was approached in 2009)
  4. Create Institutional OA Funds that enable faculty and students to publish in fully OA journals meeting specific quality criteria (e.g. OASPA memberDOAJ-listed), whether or not individual publisher agreements are in place. 


Examples of Fully OA agreements in action

Many libraries and fully OA publishers have already started down this path together. The following is a non-exhaustive snapshot of existing types of activities and agreements between libraries and fully OA publishers. Please reach out to the contacts listed on these pages to learn more!


This message is supported by the following fully Open Access publishers

About the OASPA Fully OA Journal Publishers Interest Group

During the 2019 OASPA Conference in Copenhagen a group of publishers who publish exclusively Open Access content met for an informal exchange of views on the state of the transition to Open Access in scholarly communications. They identified a common set of values and a shared view of how to support communities in progressing towards a fully Open Access world. They agreed to continue having joint discussions and set up an OASPA Interest Group in 2020. The purpose of the group is to discuss and represent the interests of fully Open Access journal publishers. It will on occasion – such as in this guest blog post – issue public commentaries or positions on behalf of interest group members. In such cases it will always add a list of signatories for full transparency of which organisations did or did not sign up to a common point of view. 

Membership is based only on the organisation’s publishing model (i.e. Open Access) and is independent of the organisation’s business model, e.g. whether commercial or non-profit, using APCs, or otherwise.

The group is open to any organisations that are OASPA members whose journal content is fully open access and published under the Definition of an Open Access Contribution of the Berlin Declaration. Organisations interested in joining the group should contact the chair of the group ( ) or OASPA


It is important to note that the views of this group do not represent the views of the OASPA membership as a whole. 

Please see this post outlining our wish for the OASPA Blog to be a platform for open access discussions fostering a transparent exchange of views, experiences and ideas between all those working in the open access ecosystem to ultimately further our mission to advance open access and ensure a diverse, vibrant, and healthy open access community.


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