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German Academic and Research Institutions Increasingly Make Open Access their Default Option

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ETH Zürich, Switzerland, June 10, 2014 | © Courtesy of Shepard4711.

Over 140 German university and institute consortia members cancel their subscription contracts with Elsevier, while making publishing in Open Access a requirement for German researchers.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


In Germany, universities and research institutions spearhead the transition to Open Access in the framework of the Projekt DEAL consortium tasked with negotiating the terms of subscription contracts with large journal publishers. By August 2017, in Germany 50 universities, 50 research organizations, 34 higher education institutions and 3 regional libraries do not have contracts with Elsevier for the coming year, while either interim journal access arrangements or no access to pay-wall protected journals are in place, as a recent article by Leonhard Dobusch states. Though among the large-scale scientific societies, the Max Planck Society and Fraunhofer Society are not directly involved in this initiative that has been gathering momentum in Germany, they provide indirect support to the demands of the Projekt DEAL via the Alliance of Scientific Organizations.

As a consequence of this, a transition to Open Access may take place since, as Christian Gutknecht’s blog post on a Swiss survey conducted by ETH Zürich in March 2017 indicates, up to 72% of scholars are likely to be willing to forgo consulting subscription-based journals, especially if their publishers apply access pricing approaches that may be deemed unacceptable. Around 91%-93% of researchers participating in this study have indicated that they do not object to the prospect of not serving on an editorial board or acting as a reviewer for journals belonging to publishers demanding unjustifiably high subscription fees. In other words, in Switzerland not only 90% of surveyed scholars express stable levels of support for Open Access, as compared to a 2011 survey by the SOAP project that have demonstrated that 89% of sampled scientific community members are in favour of Open Access, but also that high levels of readiness to apply negative sanctions, such as resigning from editorial boards, exist, which under auspicious circumstances can translate into a wide-spread adoption of Open Access in the journal publishing sector.

However, as this study has also demonstrated low levels of awareness hovering at 26% about institutional Open Access policies, such as obligatory, university-level policies for manuscript publishing in Open Access exist. Likewise, institutional repositories meet with insufficient awareness among scholars they are aimed to serve. Furthermore, in many cases institutional inertia prevents scholars from considering Open Access publication options, especially if existing arrangements that substitute subscription fees for article processing charges (APCs) amount to acceptable arrangements for individual researchers. The need to command funds to cover APCs in conjunction with lower impact factors that Open Access journals may have in comparison to their toll-based counterparts in approximately 28% of cases can lead to unwillingness to adopt Open Access. Incidentally, this also indicates that for 72% of sampled Swiss researchers neither APCs nor journal-level impact indicators represent significant barriers to their possible transition to Open Access in terms of their manuscript publication practices.

Should these tendencies be transposed into the German context, it can be expected that in view of the growing resistance in the German scientific community to the pricing practices of large publishers, a transition to Open Access is highly likely.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: ETH Zürich, Switzerland, June 10, 2014 | © Courtesy of Shepard4711.

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