Transformative publishing agreements


L. Stoy

Technopologis Group


Version Revision date Revision Author
1.1 2023-06-30 Added OpenAPC; minor revisions to rest L. Stoy
1.0 2023-03-01 First draft L. Stoy


Transformative publishing agreements are a catch-all term for different types of Open Access contracts that aim to facilitate Open Access publishing at national level. Usually, a transformative agreement is concluded between a publisher and a consortium of research organisations and/or their libraries. Single research institutions may conclude transformative agreements, too. Information on transformative agreements is collected by the ESAC initiative (

The ‘transformative’ meaning stems from the objective of these type of agreements to steer the payment modalities for scholarly publishing from pay-to-read (subscriptions to electronic resources) to pay-to-publish or similar models. This includes so called offsetting agreements, read-and-publish agreements, and publish-and-read agreements. Authors affiliated to the institutions can then publish their articles in Open Access. The exact model and modalities vary with publisher and agreement.

The power of transformative agreements lies in ‘flipping’ the entire publishing output of a consortium/institution from closed to open. Especially when large publishers are concerned, this can have strong effects on the absolute and relative amount of Open Access articles published in a given country.

Transformative agreements also touch upon the financial flows taking place in the research system. This concerns e.g., the allocation of costs between institutions to participate in the transformative agreement, the allocation of costs within libraries (from collections to publishing) and the costs the individual authors may face eventually. This can have structuring effects on both the academic sector and the scholarly publishing industry, and in particular the financial flows between actors.


Transformative agreements

Considering that transformative agreements usually take place between a publisher and a national consortium, a basic metric is the existence of an agreement which could be coded as a binary yes-no indicator for a country-publisher pair.

A challenge is the fact that many publishers exist, and each might be of different relevance for a given country. In other words, the impact of a transformative agreement is only directly related to the Open Access-status of publications with this publisher – and this part might be of little overall impact to a country’s or institution’s overall publishing output. Measuring this impact over time, e.g., affiliated authors choosing to publish through the transformative agreement, might be an interesting case to study as well.


The basic measurement is the existence of a national level agreement between a consortium and a publisher. This can be done using a binary variable (yes/no). However, more detailed information might be needed, depending on the type of analysis. Of major interest would likely be to capture the overall amount of Open Access publications, the share of OA publications published through this transformative agreement, and other information that yields insights into the impact of the agreement.

This information may include:

  • The overall coverage of a country’s publishing output by transformative agreements with various publishers
  • The amount of transformative agreements concluded in a given country
  • The start and end date of an agreement
  • The type(s) of articles covered by the agreement(s)
  • The size and membership of the consortium (i.e., not all consortia cover all research organisations from a country; some cover other institutions; some consortia function differently depending on the publisher)
  • The relevance (market share) of the publisher for the consortium
  • The cost per article
  • Other contract elements (archiving, workflows)
  • The functioning of the consortium (e.g., opt-in or opt-out)

These are measurements which are generally feasible but may require more in-depth study, for instance using bibliometric research, desk research into contracts and other methods and sources.

ESAC Registry of Transformative Agreements

The ESAC Registry of Transformative Agreements ( is a community-organised database of transformative agreements. As of writing, the database contains 662 ongoing or past agreements. These agreements can be done through national agreements or individual institutions.

The database is available for download and online use. Structural information for each entry includes:

  • Publisher
  • Country / countries
  • Organisation (consortium/university)
  • Annual publishing output
  • Start date
  • End date
  • ID = unique identifier given by ESAC to each agreement
  • URL = unique website with more detailed information

More detailed information for each transformative agreement includes:

  • Impact of costs / costs development
  • Financial shift
  • Risk sharing
  • OA coverage
  • OA license
  • Article types
  • Access types
  • Access costs
  • Access coverage
  • Perpetual access rights
  • Workflow assessment
  • Overall assessment and comments

Notably, the total cost of an agreement and per-article costs is not available through the ESAC Registry. This information is often publicly available but must be found individually for each agreement through the respective consortium or research conducted elsewhere.

ESAC Market Watch

A sister service of the ESAC Registry, the ESAC Market Watch ( is provides information about the market share of publishers and the role of transformative agreements.

Information available online entails

  • Global and national market share of publishers
  • Amount of articles published through transformative agreements (cumulative/by year)
  • The number of transformative agreements per country and per publisher
  • A country overview of publishing outputs divided by transformative deals, other OA, and hybrid/closed
  • Overviews over publisher journal portfolios
  • Article processing charges
  • Market positions

It should be noted that the data is not fully available for download.

The limitations disclaimer should also be consulted before using the ESAC Market Watch information.


The OpenAPC initiative provides some statistical information about transformative agreements. Data is available for the number of publications published through a transformative agreement for 12 countries. The data can be filtered by publisher, institution, hybrid status, country, journal, year, and agreement.


Data is available via the GitHub repository, which includes a more detailed description of the dataset:

Specific further analyses are provided for:

In all cases, the data is not necessarily complete and should be used with care.


Hinchliffe, Lisa Janicke. ‘Read-and-Publish? Publish-and-Read? A Primer on Transformative Agreements by @lisalibrarian.’ The Scholarly Kitchen, 23 April 2019.