German and Swedish academic institutions lose access to Elsevier publications

German and Swedish academic institutions lose access to Elsevier publications

This month, German and Swedish academic institutions lost access to the latest Elsevier publications after the negotiations over high subscription fees and an open access agreement came to a standstill. Over 300 institutions were affected as a result of this standoff. These institutions have now lost access to more than 2,500 journals that Elsevier publishes.

German institutions and Elsevier had been at loggerheads since the end of 2017 when German research institutions and universities refused to renew their contract individually. Instead, they formed a consortium seeking a collective, nationwide deal. Elsevier continued to provide access despite the end of the subscriptions, as the negotiations were on-going, earlier this month they cut off the access. Incidentally, the Sweden consortium’s subscription lapsed on July 1, and since then Elsevier’s publications are no longer accessible to Swedish researchers as well.

The German and Swedish consortia are persuading publishers to adopt the read-and-publish models wherein libraries are charged to access publisher content and viewing paywalled articles and publishing open-access reports is combined into one fee. While they have seen success with publishers such as Springer Nature and Oxford University Press, Elsevier has not agreed to such an arrangement.

One of the major roadblocks in the negotiations between Elsevier and the German consortium is that the German negotiators want to conduct this deal publicly. Therefore, “any deal Elsevier does with them becomes the de facto deal for the entire world," says Joseph Esposito, a U.S. publishing consultant.

Currently, both Swedish and German institutions do not have access mostly to Elsevier publications from 2017 and 2018. They are, therefore, forced to access published literature using other ways, such as buying papers individually, contacting authors to get a copy of papers, and even using Sci-Hub (the website that offers pirated copies of research papers).

The standoff has sparked discussions among academics, most of whom are supportive of the stance the consortia have taken. According to an article in The Scientist, Christopher Kyba, a postdoc at the German Research Center for Geosciences, has decided to display his support by refusing to peer review any papers from Elsevier’s journals. Some researchers have even indicated that they may prefer to submit their papers to journals that are not owned by Elsevier.

The relationship between publishers and academic institutions has remained strained over the past few years. The depleting library budgets have forced academic institutions to strike deals with publishers to access published literature at an affordable cost.


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