Major German Universities Cancel Elsevier Contracts | The Scientist

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These institutions join around 60 others that hope to put increasing pressure on the publishing giant in ongoing negotiations for a new nationwide licensing agreement.


In Germany, the fight for open access and favorable pricing for journals is getting heated. At the end of last month (June 30), four major academic institutions in Berlin announced that they would not renew their subscriptions with the Dutch publishing giant Elsevier once they end this December. Then on July 7, nine universities in Baden-Württemberg, another large German state, also declared their intention to cancel their contracts with the publisher at the end of 2017.

These institutions join around 60 others across the country that allowed their contracts to expire last year.

The decision to cancel subscriptions was made in order to put pressure on Elsevier during ongoing negotiations. “Nobody wants Elsevier to starve—they should be paid fairly for their good service,” says Ursula Flitner, the head of the medical library at Charité–Berlin University of Medicine. “The problem is, we no longer see what their good service is.”

Charité–Berlin University of Medicine is joined by Humboldt University of Berlin, Free University of Berlin, and Technical University of Berlin in letting its Elsevier subscriptions lapse.

“The general issue is that large parts of the research done is publicly funded, the type setting and quality control [peer review] is done by people who are paid by the public, [and] the purchase of the journals is also paid by the public,” says Christian Thomsen, the president of the Technical University of Berlin. “So it’s a bit too much payment.”

Project DEAL, an alliance of German institutions led by the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (German Rectors’ Conference), has been working to establish a new nationwide licensing agreement with three major scientific publishers, Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley, since 2016. “The ‘big three’ cover up to 50 to 60 percent of many library budgets in Germany,” says Andreas Degkwitz, the director of the library at Humboldt University, which is among those represented by DEAL. “Elsevier is the biggest of these.”

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Diana KwonComment