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The University of California has reached a landmark deal with the world’s second largest academic publisher, Springer Nature, that could get more journal articles out in front of paywalls — and set a precedent for how scientific research is paid for, published, and shared.

The four-year agreement, announced on Tuesday, ramps up pressure on the world’s largest scholarly publisher, Elsevier, to concede to the demands of a growing number of academic institutions over payments for so-called open access research, which is freely available to the public. After the UC system last year walked away from negotiations with Elsevier, a cascade of academic institutions — the SUNY system in New York, the University of North Carolina, and most recently, MIT — have ended their own negotiations with Elsevier or significantly scaled back on new contracts with the publisher.


Ivy Anderson, who helped lead the UC system’s side of the negotiations with Springer Nature, declined to speculate on whether Tuesday’s deal might spur more universities to defect from Elsevier. Still, Anderson said, “we certainly hope that Elsevier will be paying attention and following this development.”

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