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Introducing new search features in the Journal Checker Tool for Transformative Agreements


The Journal Checker Tool (JCT) – a service developed by cOAlition S to help researchers identify Plan S-compliant publishing routes – has been further developed to provide users with the ability to search across all the ESAC-registered transformative agreements (TA’s).  

In this brief post, we will discuss the rationale for providing this new functionality, explain how it can be used, and highlight some challenges we faced while ensuring user-friendly access to this data.   

Why did we develop this new feature?  

The primary use case for this new feature was to support cOAlition S staff in reviewing applications to the Journal Comparison Service (JCS) by End Users (i.e. libraries, consortia and funders). Under our agreement with participating publishers, JCS access is limited to institutions actively involved in negotiating OA publishing agreements.   

To demonstrate this involvement, institutions can now easily reference transformative agreements they’re part of. This update ensures that cOAlition S staff have a streamlined way to verify that an institution applying for a JCS account actively participates in OA publishing agreements, facilitating the JCS account approval process. 

Search functionality 

The JCT TA search feature can be accessed at https://journalcheckertool.org/ta-search

The enhanced JCT supports the following scenarios: 

  • Which ESAC-registered TA’s are accessible to researchers at a specific institution 
  • Which ESAC-registered TA’s include a specific journal

For example, figure 1 shows all the TA’s accessible to researchers at the University of Oxford, whilst Figure 2 shows which TA’s include The Lancet journal. 

Figure 1: Screenshot showing a list of active TA’s accessible to researchers at the University of Oxford 
Figure 2: Screenshot showing a list of active TA’s which include The Lancet 

Combining searches – for example, “is The Lancet part of a TA available researchers at the University of Oxford” (yes) – is also supported. 

From the search results, the user can click through to the ESAC record and, perhaps more importantly, explore the JCT-created Google sheet which specifies which journals are covered by the agreement and which institutions have access to these titles. 

These features highlight how journal-specific TA’s can be.  For example, one might assume that a transformative agreement with a publisher like Springer Nature includes all of their titles.  However, the JCT TA search feature reveals that this isn’t always the case. While the Spinger Nature journal Neurogenetics is included in 22 TA’s, the flagship journal Nature is included in just six. 


Arguably the biggest challenge in providing access to this dataset is making it clear that there is not always a 1:1 relationship between a TA and the list of journals/institutions which are included. 

Take, for instance,  the single ESAC agreement between VSNU and publisher Emerald.  This agreement provides different institutions with access to a different set of journal titles, leading the JCT to create (and then index) 13 separate spreadsheets (see Figure 3). 

Figure  3: Screenshot showing how one TA between Emerald and VSNU results in 13 spreadsheets  

Using this example, one can determine that whereas researchers at Erasmus University (signified by the EUR label) can read and publish in all the journals in the VSNU/Emerald agreement, researchers at Wageningen University & Research (signified by the WUR label) do not have a read/publish agreement for the titles specified in this, this, or this Google sheet. 

In total, the 520 active TAs currently included in the ESAC database result in 626 separate Google sheets, which the JCT provides access to.  


We hope this development is of use and value to our stakeholder communities.  If you have any comments, please let us know either via using the feedback button or by contacting me directly.  

Robert Kiley 
Head of Strategy, cOAlition S  

Robert Kiley

Robert Kiley is Head of Strategy at cOAlition S, working to accelerate the transition to full and immediate Open Access. Prior to this, he was Head of Open Research at the Wellcome Trust, where he was responsible for developing and implementing their open research strategy. Over the past decade, Robert has played a leading role in the implementation of Wellcome's open access policy and overseeing the development of the Europe PubMed Central repository. He also led the development - in partnership with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society - of eLife, the open-access research journal, launched in 2012. More recently he championed the work to create a new open publishing platform for Wellcome researchers – Wellcome Open Research. Robert is a qualified librarian and an Associate Member of CILIP. He is a Board member of Open Research Central and served for 6 years on the ORCID Board of Directors.