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Ongoing Negotiations between Elsevier and German Universities and Scientific Organizations

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IRES 2012, November 12, 2012 | © Courtesy of EnergieAgentur.NRW.

Despite interim measures allowing for limited subscription journal access, a comprehensive agreement between Elsevier and German academic institutions remains elusive.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

In April 2017, an association of 15 leading German universities has reiterated its position in regard to the licensing agreement it would like to reach with Elsevier. The key point of the demands that these German universities articulate vis-à-vis Elsevier concerns their requirement that all publications authored by German scholars be automatically made openly accessible via the CC BY Creative Commons license, whether they are published in peer-reviewed journals or not. However, despite the widely-ranging local support of German universities and research institutions for sustainably ensuring their online access to academic journal publications that large publishers license, their negotiations continue to go into additional unsuccessful rounds.

Among the causes for this are continuously rising license fees that large journal publishers, such as Elsevier, charge that, as German universities argue, significantly exceed inflation rates. In other words, German academic institutions are seeking to curtail the market power of these publishers via the deployment of open access as a mechanism that can be expected to curb the license fees and ensure knowledge accessibility on a long-term basis. However, as of April 7, 2017, Elsevier has not made a proposition to German universities that met their requirements.

This indicates an escalation in this conflict between large journal publishers, such as Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley, and German universities and research institutions. In the case of Elsevier’s negotiations, their failure is reportedly due to its unwillingness to include open access into the framework agreement that these German universities, which would preclude charging access fees for articles that have initially appeared in Gold Open Access, when author fees are charged directly or reimbursed through scientific foundations. These institutions, thus, seek to weaken the hold that Elsevier has over the dissemination of new research in article and book form.

While an interim, stopgap solution for institutional access to journal articles published by Elsevier has been arrived at from January, 2017, a long-term resolution of the contrasting positions that Elsevier and German academic institutions take is not in sight, as university libraries consider it financially unsustainable that 60% of their budgets are allocated to licensing fees charged by Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley.

Absent a comprehensive agreement between Elsevier and German universities, further paywall-based contract cancellations and open access initiatives are likely to follow, in order to counteract the oligopolistic market power of largest academic journal publishers.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: IRES 2012, November 12, 2012 | © Courtesy of EnergieAgentur.NRW.

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