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VSNU-Wiley: Not such a big deal for open access


Hybrid animals: butterphant (

Dutch universities have taken significant steps in the direction of open access publishing of academic work. At the close of 2013, state secretary (deputy minister) Sander Dekker of Education, Culture and Science took everybody in Dutch academia by surprise in announcing he would change the law in case the big science publishers wouldn’t co-operate in the transition to open access (OA).
Since long, the university libraries (together with the Royal Library) have negotiated with scientific publishers on a national level in the so-called UKB consortium. Until recently a delegation of library directors went to the negotiation table. Dekker’s announcement triggered university rectors to declare the big deal negotiations Chefsache, as the former German Chancellor Schröder used to call it, and to take over the lead. The seat of the library consortium was taken over by university rectors representing the Association of Dutch Universities (VSNU). Library directors were still involved, functioning as linking pin between the negotiators and the needs of professors, researchers and students.

Four big deals

And not without success. Quite progressive deals were closed with Springer and SAGE. Scholars working in Dutch universities can now publish their work in gold open access in all journals of these publishers without extra costs. In these two deals, a solution was found for the pressing problem of the financial burden in the transition phase. After all, having to pay article processing charges (APCs) alongside licence fees to continuing access to the non-OA articles by researchers from outside the Netherlands wasn’t too appealing. Springer and SAGE agreed to open up their subscription journals and their open access platforms for scholars working at Dutch universities and research institutions. The latter can publish their papers in open access without paying additional APCs while the license fees for the – now hybrid – subscription journals remains roughly the same.

A somewhat less rosy picture emerged from the deal that VSNU and Elsevier announced in December 2015. Basically, the contours of the ‘agreement in principle’, the details of which are yet to be unveiled, are in the same vein as those of the Springer and SAGE deals. Publishing in open access will be without extra costs for researchers with a Dutch affiliation. However, Elsevier negotiated out a ceiling percentage of 30% open access articles in 2018 that are to be published in a selection of journals both parties still have to agree upon. Whether this will be hybrid journals only, or also open access journals (Elsevier has quite a list of such journals, as well as a megajournal open to all scientific disciplines called Heliyon) is still uncertain. Regardless, the agreement leaves it up to the universities to decide which papers of which scholars are eligible for publication in open access and which are not. (There are more pleasant tasks for university administrators.) In 2018, a reassessment of the situation will be made by both parties to see which further steps toward OA – if at all – will be taken.

What surprises most is that the agreement is completely at odds with NWO’s new open access policy.

A few weeks ago, another deal was announced, now with John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Compared with the Elsevier deal, the conditions of this one are more favourable from the universities’ point of view. From 2016-2019 – one year longer than with Elsevier – researchers at Dutch universities and affiliated research institutions will have continued access to all Wiley subscription content. Also, the deal enables publishing 100% of the Dutch papers in open access in Wiley’s hybrid journals, the number of which will increase to around 1,400 titles. But here’s the catch: in Wiley’s hybrid journals only. Wiley does have a portfolio of full OA titles. However, these are not included in the arrangement. If authors with a Dutch affiliation insist on publishing their work in one of these titles, they will have to pay APCs like everyone else. What surprises most is that this agreement is completely at odds with the new open access policy of NWO. This organization, the most important Dutch science funder, discourages hybrid open access by actually stating that this form of OA publishing will not be supported with its funds. As for VSNU itself, its web pages about its open access policy do not even mention the hybrid option.

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Posted by Frank Huysmans on 1 maart 2016 | Posted in beleid, English, essay, onderzoek, opinie, vakpublicaties, WareKennis | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments