German Universities Reject Elsevier Offer

In a stand for open access, a consortium of more than 60 major German research institutions has rejected an offer from Elsevier for a nationwide license to access scientific publications. As a consequence, the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany anticipates that current access to Elsevier journals will end on December 31.

Members of the Alliance and its DEAL project canceled contracts with Elsevier in October 2016 and turned to Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK), a voluntary association of state and state-recognized universities and colleges in Germany, to handle negotiations with the publishing giant. “Elsevier is trying to use its dominant market position and threatens all scientific institutions whose contracts expire at the end of 2016 with a shutdown of all accesses,” said Dr. Horst Hippler, president of the HRK.

In a statement issued after talks fell through, the Alliance says Elsevier’s offer did not comply with the principles of open access and fair pricing. “In spite of the current revenue rate of 40 percent, the publisher continues to rely on price increases beyond the hitherto paid license sums…(and it) rejects more transparent business models, which are based on the publication performance and make publications more accessible.”

Universities in Germany are already taking steps to provide professors and students with access to journals through inter-library loan or other procurement methods. At Göttingen University, for example, this will mean navigating access to some 440 journals. In a statement issued from its library, university officials said that “all participants in this process are aware of the imminent effects this has on research and teaching. However, they share the firm conviction that, for the present, the pressure built up by the joint action of many research institutions is the only way to reach an outcome advantageous for the German scientific community.”

The Alliance is calling on Elsevier to submit “a transparent and sustainable offer” before negotiations resume. “It is the scientists who, with their mostly free work, contribute decisively to the reputation of the publishing house,” the Alliance says. “This fact should also be taken into account in the business relations.”