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German Editors-In-Chief and Editorial Board Members Resign from Subscription-Based Elsevier-Owned Journals

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Max-Planck-Institut für die Physik des Lichts, Germany, June 24, 2017 | © Courtesy of Christoph Settgast.

First eight German researchers and scientists have announced their resignation from editorial duties at Elsevier-supported journals on the background of the ongoing efforts of Germany-based universities and research institutes to switch to Open Access.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


As the negotiations over subscription contracts between Elsevier, a large journal publisher, and Germany-based scientific and academic institutions continue to bear no fruits, a growing number of leading German editors and editorial board members at paywall-based journals associated with this publisher announce resignations from their positions. Multiple other German scientists and researchers are reportedly ready to follow suit, in their effort to create a momentum for the switch-over to Open Access as the default option for scientific article publication. Germany-wide associations, such as the Project DEAL, are willing to support the transition to the Open Access model by offering Elsevier and other large publishers lump-sum payments that will cover the article processing charges of German scientific authors in exchange for access to their journal and article collections.

However, Elsevier keeps rejecting this deal, since its profit performance is closely related to the subscription payments from universities and institutions around the world. Allowing for Open Access provisions for German academic and scientific organizations in circumvention of traditional subscription contracts could create an international precedent with possible negative effects for Elsevier’s revenues. Thus, German scientists, such as Kurt Mehlhorn from Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik, Saarbrücken, who has resigned from Computational Geometry: Theory and Applications, may have little choice but to launch rival Open Access journals, to maintain their involvement in their research fields.

The example of German scholars either resigning from Elsevier-related journals or transitioning to Open Access journals is likely to be met with replication by their international counterparts, such as other editorial members of Computational Geometry journal some of whom have also submitted their resignation in solidarity with Germany’s efforts to make Open Access publishing into a nation-wide organizational policy approach. However, whether the ripple effect of these resignations of Elsevier-supported will also include a large number of toll-based journals being flipped into Open Access remains an open question.

At the same time, in Germany Open Access-oriented initiatives, e.g., Hamburg Open Science that aims to increase the visibility and discoverability of Open Access publications, seeking to harness digital technologies to enhance access to subscription-free scientific results continue to be launched. For this reason, the attendance of Open Access Week events, such as De Gruyter’s webinar on the transition to the Open Access model, receives additional importance, since Open Access journals demand either external funding or article processing charges, to be sustainable in the long term, due to the limited mandate of Open Access initiatives.

As Open Access promotion initiatives, such as Project DEAL or Hamburg Open Science, show, in Germany Open Access is far from being a universally accessible option for German scientists and institutions, despite the growing support it receives.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Max-Planck-Institut für die Physik des Lichts, Germany, June 24, 2017 | © Courtesy of Christoph Settgast.

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