VSNU and Elsevier Reach Agreement on Dutch Open Access
The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers in the world, have finally agreed on a new deal to promote open access to Dutch research. The agreement, announced on November 22, 2019, after years of negotiations and disputes, aims to accelerate the transition to full and immediate open access and to support sustainable publishing practices.
The VSNU represents 14 Dutch universities that together account for about 50% of the research output of the country. Elsevier publishes over 16% of the world`s research articles, including many by Dutch scientists. The previous contract between the two parties, which expired in 2018, had been criticized for being too expensive, restrictive, and favoring the interests of publishers over those of researchers and taxpayers. The VSNU had started a national boycott of Elsevier, supported by thousands of researchers and editors, to pressure the company to change its policies and prices.
The new agreement, according to the VSNU press release, includes several important improvements and innovations that address some of the main concerns of the Dutch academic community. These are:
– Open access to 30% of Elsevier`s Dutch scholarly articles in 2019, rising to 100% by 2024, without additional costs to Dutch universities and their researchers. This means that Dutch scholars will have immediate and unrestricted access to their own and each other`s research, as well as to the global readership and impact of their work, without having to pay article processing charges (APCs) or subscription fees.
– A more transparent and fair pricing model that reduces the average cost per article by 10-15%, compared to the previous agreement, and that is based on the actual costs of publishing, reviewing, and disseminating research. The VSNU claims that this model will save several million euros per year for Dutch universities and will prevent double dipping, i.e., charging both authors and readers for the same content.
– Support for open science and innovation, including the development of new services and tools for researchers, such as preprints, data sharing, and metrics, that enhance the visibility, quality, and reproducibility of research. Elsevier commits to work with the VSNU on advancing open access and open science policies, and to engage with the Dutch academic community on a regular basis.
– Recognition of the societal value of research and the responsibilities of publishers, universities, and governments to promote and protect it. The VSNU and Elsevier acknowledge the need to balance the economic and social aspects of scholarly communication, and to foster a sustainable and diverse publishing landscape that fosters collaboration, innovation, and quality.
The VSNU and Elsevier have also agreed to establish a joint task force that will monitor and evaluate the implementation and impact of the new deal, and that will suggest improvements and adjustments as needed. The task force will consist of representatives from both parties and will report annually to the VSNU and the Dutch government.
The VSNU and Elsevier hope that the new agreement will serve as a model for other countries and publishers, and that it will contribute to the global shift towards open access and open science. They claim that it is a win-win solution that benefits both Dutch scholars and international readers, while maintaining a sustainable and competitive publishing industry. However, some critics have argued that the agreement still leaves many issues unresolved, such as the high prices of Elsevier`s books, the lack of a clear pathway for green open access, and the power imbalances between publishers and universities. They call for more radical and transformative changes in the scholarly communication system, such as the establishment of community-owned and operated platforms, or the adoption of open science principles by researchers and institutions.
In conclusion, the VSNU-Elsevier agreement on Dutch open access represents a significant step forward in the evolution of scholarly communication, and a significant achievement of collective action and negotiation by the academic community. It reflects the growing awareness and demand for more open and inclusive forms of knowledge production and dissemination, and the willingness of some publishers to adapt to these changes. However, it is also a reminder of the complexity and challenges of the transition to open access and open science, and the need for continuous dialogue and experimentation to achieve a more equitable and effective system. As the VSNU states: “Open access is not a destination, but a journey.”