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Dutch Universities reach agreement with Elsevier

Dutch Universities reach agreement with Elsevier
The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and scientific information provider Elsevier have reached an agreement in principle  that continues to provide academics at Dutch universities with access to all Elsevier journals and allows them to publish through gold OA in a selection of Elsevier journals at no additional cost to the corresponding author.  The Dutch universities aim to make 30% of their researchers’ publications Open Access (OA) by 2018. For the first time in history the negotiations, which started 18 months ago, were handled by university presidents, with libraries acting as facilitators.

“We are pleased about this agreement as it facilitates a sustainable transition to Open Access,” said Prof. Gerard Meijer, chief negotiator for the VSNU and Chairman of Radboud University Nijmegen. “It gives academics at Dutch universities subscription access to Elsevier journals and allows them to publish Open Access in a selection of these journals. It’s genuinely good news for Open Access in the Netherlands."

Philippe Terheggen, Elsevier Managing Director of Journals, said: “We welcome the agreement as the continued subscription access to a substantial part of the world’s highest-quality, peer-reviewed research is essential to the Netherlands maintaining its position as one of the world’s most impactful research nations. In addition, increased OA publishing options will be available to Dutch researchers to globally share their work.”

The agreement is in line with the objective of Sander Dekker, State Secretary at the Ministry for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, to transition Dutch scientific output towards an OA publishing model.

In the coming period a committee from the academic libraries will select a package of journal titles where researchers can publish their articles in OA and a dedicated workflow will be established in the first quarter of 2016.

The current agreement is indeed a step forward however, there are some downsides. Unfortunately no financial details are available because of non-disclosure agreements.  The initial hope of the VSNU that the outcomes of the negotiations would be open, including the financial sections, has not been fulfilled.  VSNU speaks of ‘sensitive competitive information’.  But “Price is only sensitive competitive information for Elsevier, not the universities” says Peter Suber rightly in his comment on the deal. So there will be no information exchange with other consortia wishing to make similar agreements with Elsevier.

Another issue is the lack of scalability of the number of titles, which makes the big deal dominant for some time and denies other models of collection management.

The expectation is that a similar construction will also take place with multidisciplinary publisher Wiley in the first quarter of 2016. As negotiations are not finished with this publisher yet and the current agreement ends at the end of the year a grace-period for Wiley will be in force for some time. A customized workflow for the Springer deal (2015-2016) earlier this year was designed to manage such a deal in the right direction. Up to now (December 2015) 2.000 open access articles with a Dutch author affiliation are available on the Springer platform.
We, the OA community, must be careful that these deals do not mean a loss of emphasis on green OA. At a time when a new generation of Current Research Information Systems, important for uniform OA monitoring purposes, is being implemented in The Netherlands, a sustained focus on green OA remains essential for the higher purpose of maximizing the number of publications in the public domain.

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