News about the Elsevier agreement in Finland

ElsevierA few hours ago, Elsevier issued a press release on the agreement with the Finnish consortium FinElib that put an end to the #nodealnoreview boycott. Below you will find some information about it:
  • There is no comprehensive Open Access clause. Elsevier promises to provide „Finnish researches with incentives to publish open access if they so choose. (…) Elsevier and FinELib have initiated an Open Access pilot program that stimulates Finnish researchers to publish their articles open access in Elsevier journals.“
  • The three-year „contract applies to 13 Finnish universities, 11 research institutions and 11 universities of applied sciences“.
  • Researchers from these institutions will have „access to around 1,850 journals on Elsevier’s ScienceDirect e-platform“.

The press release quotes Keijo Hämäläinen, Rector at the University of Jyväskylä as follows: „We are pleased with Elsevier taking concrete steps to support our open access goals.“ Unfortunately, in this press release there is no information given on the costs of licensing Elsevier’s content and on the „concrete steps“ regarding Open Access.

FinELib gives a little more insight on his website: „The total value of the license agreement is slightly under 27 M euros. The agreement offers researchers a new opportunity to publish their articles open access with a 50 % discount on article processing charges (APC). This discount is available for all corresponding authors in organisations that are parties to the agreement. The discount is offered for articles published in over 1500 subscription journals and over 100 full open access journals.“ A page in the FinELib Wiki even offers more information:  The list of journals covered by this arrangement (see here) includes over 1.500 Elsevier owned  hybrid-journals and over 100 Full Open Access Journals. The society-owned titles (like CELL) published by Elsevier are not included. How this list was negotiated could be interesting . A similar list of journals, which was compiled in a comparable deal in the Netherlands, is said not to have been loaded with high-quality journals. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Elsevier will reduce the subscription costs of journals as their Open Access share increases. It should also be noted that Elsevier publishes almost twice as many journals, 2,969: Therefore, Finnish researchers can neither read all Elsevier journals nor publish Open Access in all of them at reduced prices.

Back to Elsevier’s presse release that makes clear how Elsevier wants to make such arrangements attractive: Firstly, it says „Based on Scopus and ScienceDirect data, Finnish research published by Elsevier increased by 37.5 percent between 2011 and 2015 while the total number of Finnish articles published grew by 15.8 percent during that the same period. These numbers demonstrate the value Finnish scientists attach to publishing in Elsevier’s high-quality journals.“ It could also be said that these growth rates are an expression of market concentration and are not owed to the fact that Elsevier is an unrivalled attractive publisher. On the other hand, Gino Ussi, Executive Vice President at Elsevier, is cited: „The average quality of Elsevier’s articles worldwide, as indicated by the citation impact, is 30 percent above market average. This makes publishing in Elsevier journals particularly attractive to Finnish researchers, with whom we’ve had a long-lasting relationship.“

Brief summary: Elsevier has a growing market share (generated by library funds) and highly cited journals (produced by scientists), so it is advisable to sign further contracts with Elsevier.

WordPress as a tool for the publication of scientific journals

Creator: Nate Steiner, picture available under CC0-Licence V 1.0 from

Yesterday, Piotr Otręba asked on the Radical Open Access mailing list for themes and plugins to use WordPress as an Open Access Repository. I also spent some time on this question and answered with this message: „I used annotum in the past to run journals as a test, but it is outdated, As far as I see, there are unfortunately only several plugins that simulate some repository functions in parts, e.g. ScholarPress Coins, Enhanced Publication, OAI-ORE Resource Map. However, these have very few users, so it is difficult to say how reliable and sustainable they are. Perhaps a crowd funding campaign for a wordpress-repository theme/plugin might be an option …“

This morning I read another answer (from Mathew Arthur, Co-Editor in chief and WordPress-publisher of the Open Access journal Capacious) which is a kind of late Christmas gift. Mathew describes in detail (and by using many screen shots) the necessary adaptations to run a scientific journal using WordPress, which fulfills expectations technically as well as organizationally (peer review) and is at the same time much more flexible than OJS. Here is a quote from Mathew’s message: „Using WordPress with only a few plugins (…) and filters in the theme functions.php file, the Capacious platform includes a robust online article submission, revision, and online publishing architecture. Each submission entity is tracked throughout review, editorial, and typesetting processes all the way through to publication and each article and all its associated blind review comments, edits, and assets are accessible from an intuitive administrative dashboard. Article pdfs are generated dynamically from the same submission entity and assigned a digital object identifier (DOI).“ The Google Scholar indexing also seems to run smoothly.

There is almost always something to improve and maybe this also applies to these WordPress adaptations, but there may be interest in working together to address any improvements. In consideration of the frequent questions to me about using WordPress as a journal platform, I would be pleased.


Finnish consortium FinELib reaches agreement with Elsevier

ElsevierWhile in Germany the boycott of the publisher Elsevier which was initiated by the DEAL project continues, an agreement was reached in Finland between Elsevier and the FinElib consortium, but the details are still unclear. The Website states: „For the time being, the only thing we can say for sure is that Elsevier subscriptions will not be cancelled in the beginning of 2018. (…) We still do not know the exact details of the deal between FinELib and Elsevier have not been disclosed and therefore we cannot comment on whether the deal can be considered satisfactory or not. Ultimately, the decision is naturally up to your own discretion.“

The NoDealNoReview campaign tried to persuade scientists to stop being a reviewer for Elsevier in order to increase the pressure on the publisher and thus achieve a cost-effective consortium agreement. Although the initiative ends with the agreement, scientists are encouraged not to conduct reviews for Elsevier: „Stated aim of No deal, no review boycott was to support FinELib in its negotiations with Elsevier. Therefore the campaign has to end alongside the negotiations. Individual researchers are more than welcome to continue their boycotts. There is ample justification for doing so, as Elsevier remains the leading force of resistance in terms of openness and fair costs.“

With regard to Germany, it would be extremely interesting to know the precise conditions under which the agreement was reached: Did the publisher really give a significant price drop? Did Elsevier enforce his price expectations? Or did FinELib and the publisher simply agree on a armistice where both sides could keep face?

Richard Poynder’s Preface of „Open Divide? Critical Studies on Open Access“ is available online

As mentioned earlier in this blog, Joachim Schöpfel and I will publish the anthology „Open Divide? Critical Studies on Open Access“ in Spring 2018.  The book itself will not be published in Gold Open Access, but all authors retain the right to make their contribution openly available on a repository (or elsewhere).

Here is the bibliographic information on Open Divide:
Open Divide? Critical Studies on Open Access
Editors: Ulrich Herb and Joachim Schöpfel
Price: $35.00
Expected: Spring 2018
Publisher: Litwin Books
ISBN: 978-1-63400-029-1

Richard Poynder has already published his contribution, the preface to Open Divide, in his blog:

Joachim Schöpfel and I encourage all authors to publish their texts Open Access and in this blog I will provide a list of links to theses full texts.

An important topic in Open Divide is the ongoing commercialisation of Open Access. In Germany, the DEAL project is trying to promote Open  Access and in particular to counteract this commercialisation by setting up Open Access consortia with major scientific publishers. However, it is sometimes feared that DEAL can intensify precisely this commercialization. Here are two hints that may be useful in this context:

Björn Brembs & Alex Holcombe (2017). Open access in Germany : the best DEAL is no deal with Elsevier. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from

Ulrich Herb, „Ist Open Access an ein Ende gelangt? Ein Interview“. LIBREAS. Library Ideas, 32 (2017).

Concentration in Commercial Open Access: Data from the University of Stockholm

Open Access buttons photo
Photo by h_pampel

Stockholm University Library  has monitored gold and hybrid publication charges (or Article Processing Charges APCs) for Open Access publishing at Stockholm University. The results are published on in a short posting  by Lisa Lovén and
Liisa Hänninen.

The University of Stockholm has spent 2.967.093 Swedish Krona (SEK) between January and August 2017 for APCs.  Of this total, 60% were paid for Hybrid Open Access APCs and 40% were paid for Gold Open Access APCs. The data show that these four publishers have received more than half of all paid APCs, 1.662.896 SEK:

  • Elsevier: 639.054 SEK
  • Wiley: 583.826 SEK
  • Frontiers: 234.672 SEK
  • Nature Publishing Group: 205.344 SEK
Illustration by Lisa Lovén and Liisa Hänninen, taken from, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License

By the way, Springer ranks eleventh with 67.857 SEK, behind BioMed Central (74.535 SEK).

Lisa Lovén and Liisa Hänninen comment this as follows (translated by the author of this article): „The results reinforce the image that has been reported so far, both nationally and internationally, and show that the commercial approach of Elsevier and Wiley is top of the league, long before anyone else“

Similar concentration effects can also be found in Germany (see slides 9 to 13 of this presentation), where in 2016 49.59% of the APC payments reported by the OpenAPC project went to Springer Nature, Elsevier, and Wiley. If one considers frontiers as part of Springer Nature, the share increases to 55.5%.



Springer Nature acquires E-Learning Platform Iversity

sold photo
Photo by afunkydamsel

After Iversity’s insolvency in 2016 the Holtzbrinck Group invested in Iversity. Some days ago Springer Nature’s acquisition of the e-learning startup was reported.

Iversity’s news on the acquisition (in German language) provides some more information, here is a translated piece of it: „For the free of charge course offers (MOOCs) currently offered on the platform, iversity provides a guarantee of existence for the foreseeable future. Discussions are currently underway with various partners on how these digital academic courses can be expanded and financed sustainably in the future.

Part of the new strategy is an exclusive cooperation with the international science publisher Springer Nature, which belongs to Holtzbrinck. In cooperation with Springer Nature, iversity is now planning further steps towards digital study programmes. In the future, both existing and new distance learning courses as well as new courses offered by Springer Nature in the area of continuing vocational education and training will be offered in digital form via iversity. In addition, Springer Nature and iversity intend to jointly test new formats for the further development of classical textbooks.“


Does the success of Sci-Hub and Guerilla Access prove that Open Access has failed?

open access buttons photo
Photo by h_pampel

Toby Green published an article dealing with new impulses for Open Access. The starting point is the success of Sci-Hub. First, he explains his key points:

  • „Sci-Hub has made nearly all articles freely available using a black open access model, leaving green and gold models in its dust“
  • „Why, after 20 years of effort, have green and gold open access not achieved more? Do we need ‘tae think again’?“
  • „If human nature is to postpone change for as long as possible, are green and gold open access fundamentally flawed?“
  • „Open and closed publishing models depend on bundle pricing paid by one stake-holder, the others getting a free ride. Is unbundling a fairer model?“
  • „If publishers changed course and unbundled their product, would this open a legal, fairer route to 100% open access and see off the pirates?“

He notes that the success of Sci-Hub and Guerilla Open Access proves that Open Access Gold and Green Open Access failed. According to Green, the unbundling known from aviation could strengthen Open Access: „In the traditional airline industry model, to get to B from A, one used to purchase a ticket, which covered the cost of a travel bundle: you were carried, fed, watered, entertained, and could take as much or as little baggage as you wanted. Today, led by low-cost airlines, the product has been unbundled: food, drinks, seat allocation, baggage, changing tickets, and even the way you pay are now being priced as extras to the core service of getting you to B from A.“

From the conclusion: „I suggest that we might be encouraged by the airline industry and unbundle the product. This would make all content free to read, answering the plea that the results of publicly funded research be available to the public, reveal the true values for the existing bundle’s component parts, and lead to a situation where each stakeholder has the choice to pay for the particular benefit they get from the scholarly communication process. This might prove to be a fairer, cheaper, more sustainable, and less controversial model in the long run.“

This is the bibliographical information for Toby Green’s article:

Green, T. (2017). We’ve failed: Pirate black open access is trumping green and gold and we must change our approach. Learned Publishing, 30(4). DOI:10.1002/leap.1116,

Bundesverfassungsgericht muss die Zulässigkeit der Konstanzer Open-Access-Satzung klären

open access buttons photo
Photo by h_pampel

Vor knapp einem Jahr klagten Wissenschaftler der Universität Konstanz gegen die Open-Access-Satzung ihrer Hochschule. Seit der kürzlichen Beschlussfassung des Verwaltungsgerichtshofs Baden-Württemberg in Mannheim steht fest, dass der Konflikt nationale Reichweite hat.

Die Auseinandersetzung entzündete sich an der im Dezember 2015 erlassenen „Satzung zur Ausübung des wissenschaftlichen Zweitveröffentlichungsrechts“.  Diese Satzung bezieht sich auf §38 (4) des Urheberrechtsgesetzes (UrhG), in dem es heißt:

„Der Urheber eines wissenschaftlichen Beitrags, der im Rahmen einer mindestens zur Hälfte mit öffentlichen Mitteln geförderten Forschungstätigkeit entstanden und in einer periodisch mindestens zweimal jährlich erscheinenden Sammlung erschienen ist, hat auch dann, wenn er dem Verleger oder Herausgeber ein ausschließliches Nutzungsrecht eingeräumt hat, das Recht, den Beitrag nach Ablauf von zwölf Monaten seit der Erstveröffentlichung in der akzeptierten Manuskriptversion öffentlich zugänglich zu machen, soweit dies keinem gewerblichen Zweck dient.“ Sind diese Bedingungen erfüllt und, so die Satzung der Universität, „sind die wissenschaftlichen Beiträge im Rahmen der Dienstaufgaben entstanden, sind diese zwölf Monate nach Erstpublikation auf dem hochschuleigenen Repositorium öffentlich zugänglich zu machen.“

Die rechtliche Norm, auf der die Satzung beruht ist, ist jedoch nicht das UrhG, sondern §44 (6) des Landeshochschulgesetzes (LHG)  Baden-Württemberg, der die Hochschulen zum Erlass entsprechender Satzungen ermuntert:

„Die Hochschulen sollen die Angehörigen ihres wissenschaftlichen Personals durch Satzung verpflichten, das Recht auf nichtkommerzielle Zweitveröffentlichung nach einer Frist von einem Jahr nach Erstveröffentlichung für wissenschaftliche Beiträge wahrzunehmen, die im Rahmen der Dienstaufgaben entstanden und in einer periodisch mindestens zweimal jährlich erscheinenden Sammlung erschienen sind.“

Gegen die Vorgaben der Satzung erhoben siebzehn Wissenschaftler der Universität 2016 Normenkontrollklage beim Verwaltungsgerichtshof Mannheim, da sie darin einen Verstoß gegen das Grundrecht der Wissenschaftsfreiheit nach Artikel 5 Abs. 3 ausmachten.

Nun hat der Verwaltungsgerichtshof aufgrund der mündlichen Verhandlung vom 26. September beschlossen, das Verfahren über den Normenkontrollantrag gegen die Satzung der Universität Konstanz auszusetzen: Die Rechtsnorm des §44 Abs. 6 des LHG  sei eine Regelung des Urheberrechts – womit der Bund für eine diesbezügliche gesetzliche Klärung zuständig sei. Die Folge: Die Rechtswirksamkeit der Satzung, die auf Basis des Paragraphen erlassen wurde, hängt nach Ansicht des Verwaltungsgerichtshofs von der Verfassungskonformität der gesetzlichen Regelung im LHG ab – ob dies der Fall ist, muss vom Bundesverfassungsgericht geklärt werden. Der Verwaltungsgerichtshof formuliert seine Einschätzung folgendermaßen: „§ 44 Abs. 6 LHG ist nach der Überzeugung des 9. Senats mit dem Grundgesetz unvereinbar, weil dem Landesgesetzgeber insoweit die Gesetzgebungskompetenz gefehlt habe.“

Das Bundesverfassungsgericht wird nun in einem Zwischenverfahren prüfen, ob §44 Absatz 6 des LHG, der die Hochschulen dazu auffordert, ihre Wissenschaftlerinnen und  Wissenschaftler zur Wahrnehmung ihres Rechts auf nichtkommerzielle Zweitveröffentlichung zu  verpflichten, mit dem Grundgesetz vereinbar ist: Ist dies der Fall, stünde die Tür zu analogen Regelungen auch in anderen Ländern offen.

„The Future of Scholarly Publishing: Open Access and the Economics of Digitisation“

science photo
Photo by nblumhardt

Here is a short publication notice: One year after publication in German, an anthology edited by Peter Weingart and Niels Taubert has now also been published in English – „The Future of Scholarly Publishing: Open Access and the Economics of Digitisation“.


The bibliographic data of the book which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence are:

Weingart, P., & Taubert. N. (Eds.). (2017). The Future of Scholarly Publishing: Open Access and the Economics of Digitisation. Capetown / South Africa: African Minds. Retrieved from

Here is a longer piece from the intodruction (written by the editors) to outline the scope of the book:

„The formal scientific communication system is currently undergoing significant change.  This is due to four intertwined developments: the digitisation of formal science communication; the increasing relevance of profit-making on the part of many academic  publishers and other providers of information (in short: ‘economisation’); an increase in the self-observation of science by means of publication, citation and utility-based indicators; and an intensified observation of science by the mass media (‘medialisation’). Previously, these developments have only been dealt with individually in the literature and by science-policy actors. In fact, they not only affect the scientific communication system in the form of simple, individual causal chains but also in the form of long feedback loops and partly intertwined processes.

This book documents the materials and results of an interdisciplinary working group (IWG) commissioned by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) to analyse the future of scholarly publishing and to develop recommendations on how to respond to the challenges posed by these developments. The IWG served a three-fold purpose: first, the connections between the abovementioned developments were described; second, further relevant research on understanding recent developments was undertaken; and third, recommendations on the design of a future scholarly publicationsystem were formulated.

Aside from the analysis of these interactions, the IWG also set out to take diverse framework conditions, standards and perspectives from different scientific fields into consideration, the goal being to formulate recommendations in the name of science as a whole and for science as a whole. Thus, in addition to the factors of influence, the heterogeneity of the publication cultures in different disciplines and fields of research was to be taken into account. In order to become familiar with these conditions and to be able to develop this mass of information into a concise format, interviews with members of the BBAW were conducted. These provided valuable information on the communication habits of different disciplines and fields of research, and revealed significant differences in these habits. Given the limitations of this approach and of the information gained in this process, an online dialogue was conducted which invited all German-speaking scientists and academics to participate in the development of the recommendations. Almost 700 participants responded with great interest and provided the IWG with important information about current problems and challenges in the formal communication system. Moreover, this procedure helped in identifying a normative consensus on what constitutes
a good communication system. In addition to the views of the scientists, perspectives of experts from publishing companies and libraries were surveyed in order to gain a multi-layered and more complete picture of the publication landscape. Finally, three expert reports on central issues were commissioned.

By means of a multi-level evaluation and decision-making process, the Academy adopts recommendations of working groups so that – in cases of approval – they are published in its name. In spite of efforts to involve scientists early on in the development of recommendations in order to learn about their perspectives, standards and interests, protests emerged during the final process of acceptance. Several Academy members from the humanities called the recommendations unbalanced insofar as the role of digital publication was overly emphasised while that of printed publications was neglected. These
arguments were taken into consideration in a revised version. In our opinion, the debates during the course of acceptance indicate one thing in particular: there is a need for further extensive discussion about how to deal with the current challenges in the scientific communication system. This issue will continue to occupy science within and outside the Academy.

As per the IWG’s intention, the focus was mainly on the sciences and humanities in Germany. However, in the course of the work it became clear that the issues discussed by the group are also relevant for academic publishing in other countries. This was corroborated by the fact that when presenting some of the findings at a conference at Stellenbosch University in September 2016, interest was expressed by the director of Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Professor Johann Mouton, to publish an English translation. This interest is based on two grounds: first, the
academic publishing system is at the base of CREST’s core activity, especially bibliometric studies of world-wide scholarly publishing, and second, Professor Mouton’s role at the South African Academy of Science in reporting on the state of scholarly publishing in South Africa.“


Radical Open Access Website Officially Launched!

Taken from the Radical Open Access Website

Today the Radical Open Access Website was launched, the initiative aims to promote non-for-profit Open Access and focuses especially on humanities and social sciences. The following text is taken from a posting  by Samuel Moore on the Radical Open Access mailing list.

„We’d like to share with you the new Radical Open Access Collective website, which has been launched this week:

Formed in 2015, the Radical OA Collective is a community of scholar-led, not-for-profit presses, journals and other open access projects in the humanities and social sciences. We represent an alternative open access ecosystem and seek to create a different future for open access, one based on experimenting with not-for-profit, scholar-led approaches to publishing. You can read more about the philosophy behind the collective here:

As a collective, we offer mutual reliance and support for each other’s projects by sharing the knowledge and resources we have acquired. Through our projects we also aim to provide advice, support and encouragement to academics and other not-for-profit entities interested in setting up their own publishing initiatives. The current website contains a Directory of academic-led presses, which showcases the breadth and rich diversity in scholar-led presses currently operating in an international context and across numerous fields, and an Information Portal with links to resources on funding opportunities for open access books, open source publishing tools, guidelines on editing standards, ethical publishing and diversity in publishing, and OA literature useful to not-for-profit publishing endeavours. We will be further developing this into a toolkit for open access publishing in order to encourage and support others to start their own publishing projects. If you run a not-for-profit OA publishing initiative or are interested in starting your own scholar-led publishing project, we encourage you to join the Radical OA mailing list and get involved with the discussion!

Please do get in touch if you would like further information on the project or would like your publishing project to be involved.“

Here is an impressive list of the collective’s members: