THE NETHERLANDS/MAASTRICHT. Dutch scientists are soon to lose access to Oxford University Press journals, now that the negotiations with the association of universities VSNU on open access have failed.
Old articles will remain available and publication will also be possible, but as of 1 May, there is no longer an agreement between Dutch universities and Oxford University Press (OUP), the largest university publisher in the world. “The offer [content of which has not been made known] by OUP is a step backwards instead of a step forward towards 100 per cent open access in 2020,” states Maastricht University's Executive Board in an e-mail to employees. Dutch universities are aiming to make all their scientific publications freely accessible to everyone from 2020.
Open access requires a financial turnabout. In the old model, universities paid very expensive subscriptions, while publication for scientists was free. In the new model, scientists pay to publish and everyone (from scientists to hobbyists) can read their articles free of charge. On their website, OUP actually declared its support for open access. Presumably, the conflict is mainly about money, and not about the principle. Publishers will have to adopt a new business model.
OUP is a smaller publisher (three hundred titles) than Elsevier (more than two thousand titles) and Springer (approximately 1,800). According to Ingrid Wijk, director of the Maastricht university library, who arranges the subscriptions for scientific journals, the mostly medical publications of OUP are “well read. The number of downloads exceeds a hundred thousand every year.”
UM scientists will now have to approach their contacts or find other ways to read OUP's latest publications. Through social media, digital platforms, their network, or for example Unpaywall, an extension in Internet browsers Chrome and Firefox that automatically searches for open access versions of articles that are behind paywalls. Wijk: “But the same applies to all these solutions: they are not ideal and they cost a lot of time and energy.”
VSNU would like to continue negotiations. “Other publishers are prepared to take steps”, said a spokesperson. “We understand that you are not going to jump straight into open access, but steps will have to be taken.”
It came very close to there not being a deal between VSNU and Elsevier last year. Many universities had even taken precautionary measures in the event of a bad outcome. Eventually Elsevier agreed to make substantial steps in the direction of open access.
In the Online Library, a web page has been set up in English with an overview of the options for continued access to the latest OUP articles