Germans lose access to Elsevier as talks stall

lterrat's bookmarks 2017-01-15


"Research organisations in Germany have had their direct access to Elsevier journals cut off after negotiations on a nationwide deal with the company stalled.

Access for many organisations was suspended this month because they terminated their contracts with Elsevier during negotiations last year. A spokeswoman for the HRK, Germany’s association of rectors, which is leading the negotiations for the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, told Research Europe that about a dozen organisations had lost access by 5 January, with 50 more likely to be affected. The alliance includes the DFG, Germany’s largest public research funder, and the Leopoldina national academy.

The alliance rejected a first offer from Elsevier in December, saying the offer '[did] not comply with the principles of open access and fair pricing'.

'Despite its current profit margin of 40 per cent, [Elsevier] is still intent on pursuing price increases. The publisher rejects more transparent business models that […] would make publications more openly accessible,' the alliance said in a statement.

Researchers in the institutions that have terminated their contracts, including the universities of Aachen, Munich and Göttingen and 10 Leibniz research centres, would not be left entirely without Elsevier content, the HRK spokeswoman said. This is because the alliance 'arranged a kind of emergency supply, consisting of interlibrary loan and document delivery'. However, a spokeswoman for Göttingen University said that it could take seven days to deliver a request under this loan service.

Elsevier is negotiating contract renewals with individual institutions, some of which are already in place, a spokesman for the company said. These would allow 'a seamless transition to a national license if and when such a license will be in place', he said.

Martin Eve, a researcher at Birkbeck, University of London and co-founder of the Open Library of Humanities publishing platform, said that the German organisations’ termination of their contracts sends a 'powerful message'.

“There is potential that, if a group of European countries take this on as a strategy, Elsevier’s shareholders get nervous. That would engender change in their company’s behaviour towards negotiation,” he said.

Negotiations between the alliance and Elsevier are expected to restart at the end of this month, the HRK’s spokesperson said. They were unable to estimate when the negotiations would be concluded, but said that they felt the alliance’s position was 'quite strong'.

Research organisations in the UK are also considering an offer that Elsevier negotiated with Jisc, which provides ICT services to higher education institutions. Jisc said in November that the offer caps price rises at lower levels than existing arrangements, and that separate agreements relating to open access would be offered.

Eve, a researcher at Birkbeck University of London and co-founder of the Open Library of Humanities publishing platform, is one of three researchers who have made a personal complaint about Elsevier to the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK over the company’s refusal to disclose the terms of the deal on offer. The use of non-disclosure agreements by Elsevier prevents institutions negotiating competitive prices for journal access, Eve told Research Europe.

'Institutions have no way to individually know what others are paying. The point of an effective market is to get competitive price pressure, and it's clear that Elsevier wants to avoid that,' he said. Ultimately academic publishing should not even be considered in market terms, he added, because individual papers are unique products.

In response, the spokesman for Elsevier said that keeping parts of contracts confidential allows them to 'arrive at fairly negotiated, competitively priced and customised pricing options for every individual customer and therefore is to each customer’s advantage'.


A shorter version of this article also appeared in Research Europe."


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Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) » lterrat's bookmarks

Tags: oa.germany oa.elsevier oa.universities oa.access oa.journals oa.publishers oa.negotiations oa.negative oa.economics_of oa.debates oa.cancellations


01/15/2017, 14:17