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  The book itself will not be published in Gold Open Access, but all authors retain the right to make their contribution openly available on a repository (or elsewhere).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:

The list of all articles in the anthology with links to texts available as Open Access publications can be found here. 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).

The next Elsevier boycott: News on DEAL, Springer Nature & Elsevier

Project DEALAs mentioned several times in this blog the German project DEAL aims to conclude nationwide licensing agreements for the entire portfolio of electronic journals from major academic publishers.  DEAL has two distinctive goals: on the one hand, cost savings and, on the other hand, the extension of contracts to include Open Access components that allow scientists at German institutions to publish Open Access in journals of contract partners at no extra charge.

Yesterday DEAL published two interesting press releases:

  • Progress is reported in the negotiations with Springer Nature: „In order to gain the necessary time for further negotiations on this very complex matter, the two sides agreed a cost-neutral extension of the existing Springer contracts by one year for those organisations whose contracts end on 31 December 2017.“ In other words, DEAL and Springer Nature agreed on a kind of moratorium to continue negotiations on a national consortium. Contracts ending in 2017 will continue to run at no additional cost until an agreement between DEAL and the publisher is reached.
  • Negotiations with Elsevier, on the other hand, are escalating. As DEAL announced well-known scientists and academics resigned from publishing activities for the publisher and thus support the negotiation goals of the DEAL project:
    – Prof. Dr. -Ing. Wolfgang Marquardt (Jülich Research Center)
    – Prof. Dr. Kurt Mehlhorn (Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, Saarbrücken)
    – Prof. Dr. -Ing. Jörg Raisch (Department of Control Systems, TU Berlin)
    – Prof. Dr. Marino Zerial (Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden)
    – Prof. Dr. Anton Möslang (Institute for Applied Materials, KIT)

    The German Rector’s Conference cites some of the scientists on its website (translated by the author of this posting):

    Wolfgang Marquardt: „More and more scientists around the world are working for open access and fair cost models. The arbitrarily high prices put a strain on the acceptance of the division of labour between science and publishing. The academic libraries are increasingly forced to restrict their services. This results in a growing danger for the scientific discourse in the specialist disciplines.“

    Kurt Melhorn: „For science, an unrestricted Open Access component is indispensable. This is the only way to ensure that current research results are fully accessible. Publishers must adapt their business models to these possibilities of digital publishing.“

    A similar boycott, led by recognized mathematicians, was launched as early as 2012. If one ignores the damage to the publisher’s image caused, however, it did not have any consequences.

And one more thing about Elsevier: Penn Libraries started the operation beprexit and are documenting their migration planning from Bepress to an open source option for hosting Penn’s institutional repository. The migration is motivated by the acquisition of Bepress by Elsevier. Here is a statement from the beprexit website:  „In August, bepress sold their company to Elsevier, a business with a history of aggressive confidentiality agreements, steep price increases, and opaque data mining practices. In their acquisition of bepress and other companies like SSRN and Mendeley, Elsevier demonstrates a move toward the consolidation and monopolization of products and services impacting all areas of the research lifecycle. We are worried about the long-term impacts from these acquisitions and are concerned that such changes are not in the best interests of the library community. Therefore, we feel obligated to begin exploring alternatives.“


16 Helmholtz Centers cancel Elsevier contracts

ElsevierIn the context of the DEAL negotiations, 16 of the 18 centers of the Helmholtz Association decided not to sign new contracts with Elsevier beyond the current year. The two remaining Helmholtz centers have contracts with Elsevier that reach beyond the end of the year 2017. You may read the press release here. DEAL aims to conclude nationwide licensing agreements for the entire portfolio of electronic journals from major academic publishers including clauses that allow scientists to publish Open Access in these journals.

Elsevier gegen die Schattenbibliotheken

sci-hub photo
Photo by DustMoon.Com

Elsevier und die American Chemical Society verklagen die Schattenbibliothek Sci-Hub, die unter Ignoranz des Copyrights wissenschaftliche Publikationen en masse kostenlos anbietet. Derweil stocken die Verhandlungen der Hochschulrektorenkonferenz mit Elsevier im Projekt DEAL, das ein landesweites Konsortium zum Bezug von Literatur aus dem Portfolio des Verlages inklusive Optionen zum Open-Access-Publizieren für deutsche Wissenschaftler anstrebt. Eine Stimmungslage dazu in Telepolis – mit Verweis auf Überlegungen zu einem legalen Sci-Hub, mit dem Elsevier gut leben könnte, das Bibliotheken aber noch obsoleter machen würde als die illegale Variante: Sieg ohne Wert gegen die Schattenbibliotheken?

No Deal, no review: Elsevierboykott in Finnland

ElsevierDer Wissenschaftsverlag Elsevier wird sich bereits seit längerer Zeit nicht mehr mit wissenschaftlichen Bibliotheken über tragfähige finanzielle Konditionen zum Bezug von Elseviertiteln einig. Die Konflikte in zahlreichen Ländern, darunter neben anderen auch Deutschland und Finnland, schwelen.

Forscher in Finnland haben nun einen neuen Elsevierboykott gestartet. Wer den Aufruf via unterzeichnet, bekundet damit nicht mehr für Elsevier-Publikationen als Herausgeber oder Reviewer tätig zu sein: „I will recuse myself from all editorial and referee duties for all Elsevier journals, until a satisfactory deal has been reached between Elsevier and my country’s / my institutions negotiators.“

Bereits im Jahr 2012 startete ein ähnlicher Boykott, getragen von anerkannten Mathematikern. Lässt man den medialen Imageschaden für den Verlag außer Acht,  verpuffte er jedoch relativ folgenlos.

Elsevier: Konflikte in Taiwan, Finnland, Peru und Deutschland

ElsevierEnde 2016 berichtete ich in Telepolis über die geplatzten Verhandlungen des Projekts DEAL mit dem Wissenschaftsverlag Elsevier, deren Ziel es war – unter für Bibliotheken akzeptablen finanziellen Bedingungen – ein nationales Konsortium zum Bezug von Closed-Access-Zeitschriften des Verlages inklusive Open-Access-Optionen zu verhandeln. Auch in Finnland stand eine landesweite Einigung mit Elsevier vor dem Scheitern. Während deutsche Bibliotheken, die in der Hoffnung auf eine Einigung zwischen DEAL und Elsevier ihre Verträge mit dem Verlag für 2017 kündigten bzw. nicht verlängerten, nun auf Fernleihe, ähnliche Dokumentlieferdienste oder andere Alternativen setzen, einigte man sich in Finnland auf ein einjähriges Moratorium, während dessen Wissenschaftler weiter Zugriff auf Elsevier-Journale haben und die Konditionen einer landesweiten Abmachung neu verhandelt werden sollen.

In Taiwan, so berichtete Nature, scheiterte ebenfalls der Abschluss eines nationalen Elsevier-Konsortium, woraufhin der Verlag Verhandlungen mit einzelnen Universitäten startete, die von den Hochschulen jedoch offensichtlich abgelehnt werden. Ziel war auch hier eine Reduktion der hohen Preise für Elsevier-Zeitschriften. Zur Schließung der Versorgungslücke setzt man in Taiwan vor allem auf einen internationalen Dokumentlieferdienst der Colorado State University Libraries. Auch in Peru haben Wissenschaftler seit dem ersten Januar dieses Jahres keinen Zugang mehr zu Elsevier-Inhalten. Bis zum Jahr 2012 konnte Peru durch das von der World Health Organization WHO betriebene Projekt HINARI, das finanzschwachen Ländern vergünstigten Zugang zu wissenschaftlicher Literatur sichert, auf Publikationen des Verlages zu greifen. Diese Option entfiel jedoch angesichts der positiven wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung des Landes. Ab 2013 ging man einen dreijährigen Vertrag mit Elsevier ein, der das Land zehn Millionen US-Dollar kostete, und dessen Fortführung inklusive einer nicht bezifferten Preissteigerung man ab 2017 nicht zu finanzieren in der Lage war.

Academic journals: boycotts, negotiations and allegation of abuse of market power

ElsevierOriginally published as: Ulrich Herb (2016). Wissenschaftsjournale: Boykott, Verhandlungen und Vorwurf des Missbrauchs der Marktmacht. In: telepolis, 13.12.2016

Academics and libraries grapple with Elsevier – a never-ending story

For years, academic publisher Elsevier has been strongly criticised for its business strategies: Nationwide licensing negotiations are presently faltering in Germany and Finland, while in Great Britain the publisher is facing difficulties over abuse of its market power.

Elsevier is seen as contentious – the publishing house regularly generates profits of between 30% and 40%, and in 2015 profits amounted to 36.71%, or 760 million British pounds. Such margins can only be achieved by pursuing extremely aggressive pricing policies, however.

It is precisely these business practices that prompted mathematician Timothy Gowers, 1998 winner of the Fields Medal, the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in mathematics, and Tyler Neylon, to call for a boycott of Elsevier in 2012. Those who joined the campaign on website The Cost of Knowledge declared their commitment to neither submitting articles to the publisher’s journals, nor reviewing them or acting as an editor for Elsevier magazines.

Although the campaign attracted more than 16,000 signatories and found great resonance in the media, it had little influence on the business practices of the publisher. This explains why German scientific institutions came together in the guise of Project DEAL to persuade Elsevier to back down on the pricing of its publications.

DEAL was initiated by the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, however the German Rectors‘ Conference (HRK) is taking the lead role. The goal is to achieve national licensing agreements for the entire programme of electronic magazines from the major academic publishers, namely Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley. The organisations joined forces in order to strengthen the negotiating power of the scientific institutions and the universities and their libraries, and in the anticipation of making savings in the licensing of scientific journals.

Profit margin of 40 per cent

The prices of these journals rise each year by around 5 to 7%, which results in such dramatic funding shortfalls in the acquisition of academic literature that a phrase has been coined to describe the situation: the Serials Crisis. Elsevier was agreed on as the pilot partner for these negotiations; the stated goal was aiming to achieve “a significant change compared to the present situation in negotiations, contents and pricing structure”. In particular, the initiative was designed to provide financial relief and encourage consideration of an open access component intended to make it easier for academics to provide the public with open access to articles in Elsevier journals.

Last Friday the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany published a press release which gives some indication that Elsevier is not to be messed with when it comes to money. The Alliance criticised the publisher’s contract offer as follows: „This offer does not comply with the principles of open access and fair pricing. Despite its current profit margin of 40 percent, the publisher is still intent on pursuing price increases that are higher than the licence fees paid until now. The publisher rejects more transparent business models that are based on the publication service and would make publications more openly accessible.“ The Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany goes on to state that it rejects Elsevier’s offer, and calls on the publisher to submit an new proposal.

Numerous libraries, such as the Berlin State Library, for example, have terminated their own contracts with Elsevier as far as possible in the past in order to lend more emphasis to the action by the consortium, and are now faced with the choice of either relying on progress in the DEAL negotiations or once again entering into their own agreements with Elsevier. Gaps in acquisitions that occur in the interim must be filled – for better or worse – by interlibrary loans or other document delivery services.

Just how hard it is to negotiate with major academic publishers is no secret in Finland either, where universities and scientific bodies had to pay a hefty 27 million euros for subscriptions to academic journals in 2015. As a result, the attempt was also made in Finland to persuade major academic publishers to enter into nationwide consortia using open access options.

The result was similar to that for the DEAL project – currently it seems extremely unlikely that agreement will be reached by the deadline for negotiations on 31.12.2016, after which the supply of the publishers’ titles will end. In order to put pressure on the publishing houses, the attempt – similar to the Elsevier boycott mentioned above – is being made to convince academics to no longer work as reviewers or editors for journals whose publishers cannot reach agreement with the FinElib Consortium which is conducting the negotiations. It seems doubtful whether this campaign will be successful, given Elsevier’s obduracy.

Market monopoly and abuse of power

What might create more of a headache for the publisher is a move by Martin Paul Eves, Professor at the University of London, Dr John Tennant, Imperial College London and Stuart Dawson, doctoral candidate at the University of London. The three academics are applying for an investigation into Elsevier for abuse of market power by the Competition and Market Authority. The basis for their action includes scholarly proofs of concentrations in the academic publications market, where, according to an investigation by Vincent Larivière, Stefanie Haustein and Philippe Mongeon, Elsevier, Springer and Wiley shared almost 50% of the market in 2013 – and rising.

Furthermore, in the view of Eve, Tennant and Lawson, market rules have been breached due to lack of price transparency, because contractual agreements between publishers and universities usually included strict confidentiality clauses that prevent any price competition. In addition, they say that academic journals are not substitutable, meaning that a university cannot simply unsubscribe from an Elsevier journal and replace it with a cheaper journal from another supplier – the contents are too different, even in the case of journals in the same sub-discipline.

This aspect, the non-substitutable nature of academic content, is precisely the card that Elsevier is playing in its negotiations with DEAL and the FinElib consortium – abstaining from the core journals in their discipline is impossible for any academic, even though – and this is the crux of the matter – it is not the publisher that produces the indispensable content, but the authors, reviewers and editors. The publisher only sells this content – and does so, furthermore, without rewarding those who create it and whose institutions can no longer afford it.