Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
THE NETHERLANDS. The Association of Universities (VSNU) and publisher Reed Elsevier have reached an agreement in principle. At the very last minute. Because if no agreement had been reached by 31 December on the renewal of subscriptions and open access – free access to articles written on the basis of research financed by public funding – then scientists would no longer have access to new Elsevier publications. Elsevier is the largest publisher of scientific journals (more than 2,000 titles, including Cell and The Lancet).
Many universities took preventive measures in the past few weeks, in case the outcome was negative. The Maastricht university library promised staff assistance in looking for alternatives to gain access to articles, for example via digital platforms or social media.
However, it seems as if emergency scenario’s need not be implemented, because after more than a year of difficult negotiations the universities struck a deal this week. Open access was the most important obstacle – although earlier this year agreements were made with other publishers, such as the German Springer concern (1,500 titles).
Dutch universities and the government want publishers to make the transition to an open access system, in which articles are freely available to everyone (researchers paying for publication). With the traditional subscription model, the universities pay a huge amount to the publisher in order to be allowed to read the journals – while their own academic staff provides, reviews or edits these very articles.
The agreement in principle with Elsevier means that subscription fees are being paid, but that researchers also have the possibility to publish open access articles in some journals without additional payments. Gerard Meijer, head negotiator on behalf of VSNU and President of the Executive Board of Radboud University Nijmegen: “The universities are striving towards 30 per cent of the Elsevier articles by Dutch authors being made available through open access in the third year of the agreement, so in 2018.” Exactly which journals Maastricht researchers are allowed to publish in, is not yet known. The agreement runs until 1 January 2019.