UM professor: open access is the way of the future
NETHERLANDS. Negotiations between the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and publishing company Elsevier about subscription fees have failed. If the conflict remains unresolved, students and researchers can no longer view new articles as of next year.
The VSNU and Elsevier have failed to reach agreement on the publisher’s Open Access policy, the Association of Universities reported this week. The universities and the Ministry of Education believe that academic publications by Dutch researchers should be freely accessible as soon as possible. The VSNU only wants to extend agreements about the subscription fees if publishers are willing to work towards achieving this aim.
According to the universities, Elsevier came with a proposal last week that “totally fails to address this inevitable change”. Negotiations were abandoned last Friday. “We will now inform our researchers of the consequences of this stalemate,” said Gerard Meijer, chairman of Radboud University Nijmegen and chief negotiator on behalf of the VSNU.
If we cannot iron out these creases, it is quite possible that from 1 January our students and lecturers will no longer be able to read new articles through the university Library.
“That would be quite bad,” said Nanne de Vries, vice dean of the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences and interim director of research institute Caphri. “You are no longer up to date and can no longer browse through the journals. You will have to contact the author and ask if the article can be e-mailed to you. Sometimes publishers allow them to send it, sometimes they don’t.” De Vries himself regularly receives requests to send a paper or an essay of which he was a co-author. “They always come from researchers in countries such as India, Georgia, from universities that cannot afford very much.”
He is part of a “UM-wide club, which recently discussed the desirability of Open Access journals”. Their conclusion was that Open Access is the way of the future. “A very sympathetic idea. I do research funded by the community and I have to ensure that everybody can get at the results. This rule already exists in the UK: everything that you produce, must be publically accessible. All universities have a kind of public library, a university repository, the journals have agreed to this.”
He feels that the VSNU should “stick to their guns. It worked with Springer and other publishers.” There are a number of possible scenarios: either the publisher makes everyone who publishes pay an amount (“Sometimes this is high, 1,500 euro per publication. If a department has twenty to thirty publications a year, it can add up to quite a sum. ZON and NWO therefore have a budget for Open Access publications for research that they have funded”), or the publisher decides that for a certain period, for example the first six months, the articles are only accessible for subscribers, and after that they are open to everyone.
Agreements are made with separate scientific publishers about the subscription fees of scientific journals for all Dutch universities: the so-called ‘Big Deal’ negotiations. This way, students and lecturers can read academic articles through the universities free of charge.
But the universities want to take it a step further. Everyone should have access to scientific research, even the CEO of a large company or an interested hobbyist. To make this possible, the VSNU says that it has proposed a one-time transaction through which they will buy access to all articles in Elsevier journals.
Dutch universities and the Dutch government have been arguing for some time now for free access to academic publications. According to State Secretary Dekker for Education, anything paid for with tax money, will be freely accessible for everyone in ten years’ time.
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), which funds research, put on extra pressure in October: researchers with an NWO grant must publish in a completely Open Access journal in the future. Anyone who wishes to publish in a leading journal that does not have an Open Access policy, must deposit the article (or a fairly final version of the article) in a freely accessible database.
Elsevier publishers informed the Volkskrant that they are supporters of Open Access: “We entered into discussions with the VSNU with good intentions and look forward to a constructive continuation,” said a spokesperson.