German scientists take fight to Elsevier

Four more German scientists have resigned from the editorial boards of Elsevier journals in response to an ongoing deadlock over a national open-access publishing deal with the company.


A total of nine scientists have now resigned in protest against Elsevier. More are expected to follow, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) has said.

The scientists stepped down voluntarily after negotiations with the Dutch scientific publisher failed to secure German national demands for an open-access publishing contract. A consortium of German research institutions and universities, called Projekt DEAL, wants a nationwide pay-per-publish model with free reading instead of subscription fees for individual journals.

Horst Hippler, president of the HRK, is conducting negotiations on behalf of Projekt DEAL. He said that the discussions were at stalemate. “Talks with Elsevier are in a state of deadlock. Elsevier doesn’t come round to our point of view. It insists on the old model of providing licenses for reading, instead of adopting the paradigm publish to be read.”

Hippler said that Projekt DEAL had started talks with Springer Nature, which he described as “successful”.

Responding to the resignations, Elsevier said it respected the decision of the scientists to step down from the editorial boards. However, Alicia Wise, senior vice-president of global strategic networks at Elsevier, said German institutions would still have to pay for content from countries without an open-access deal. “If everybody thought like Germany and was publishing under the open-access model there would be no issue,” she told Research Europe.

The European Commission has said that all scientific papers published in Europe should be freely available by 2020. However, publishers say that gold open access—paying on publication—might turn out to be more expensive for countries with higher research intensity unless flat-rate deals are agreed.

Hippler said that countries would no longer have to pay subscriptions if their institutions have already paid for open access. “That is just the point. If gold open access becomes the generally accepted standard there will be no reason to pay for reading. Instead, all publications will be openly accessible.”

Lidia Borrell-Damian, director of research at the European University Association, said the actions by German scientists were being closely watched by many in Europe.

Story published on Research Europe, October 26 2017


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