Library consortium and Thieme embark on collaboration

The Thieme Group has signed a transformation agreement with ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences, the Forschungszentrum Jülich, and thirteen additional specialist libraries. In doing so, the project partners have demonstrated that it is possible to conclude forward-looking agreements that benefit all parties involved, even beyond major projects such as DEAL. As part of an initial pilot project, authors at participating institutions will first be given the opportunity to publish original papers in Hormone and Metabolic Research, an international journal published by Thieme, on an open access basis at no extra cost. The license fee paid by libraries to the publisher for access to the journal is increasingly being converted into a publication fee on the basis of the five-year contract. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project as part of the Licences for Digital Content programme, which will potentially also include other titles.

Appropriate business models for open access are currently being discussed in detail and a number of wide-ranging agreements have already been reached. The Thieme Group’s current contract with the fifteen members of the potentially expandable library consortium sets forth the gradual transformation of an existing subscription model to open-access financing. “We have worked with representatives from the specialist libraries to develop a very fair and, in our view, pioneering business model, which we would now like to test together,” explains Thieme publisher Dr. h.c. Albrecht Hauff. “We definitely see an opportunity to expand this project on both a national and international level.”

Under the new business model, ZB MED, the Forschungszentrum Jülich, and the thirteen other specialist libraries pay a fee to access Hormone and Metabolic Research based on a license for reading access and a publication fee to allow open access publishing by authors attached to these institutions. There is no limit on the number of open access publications this could be extended to. Those involved specifically selected Hormone and Metabolic Research as a suitable pilot. The journal covers a very research-intensive field in which German scientists and researchers are known to publish extensively. Around half-way through the term of the contract, the partners will together review their experiences with open access submissions. Step-by-step, the licensing fee will be transformed into a publication fee. “We can very well envisage incorporating additional titles into this collaboration and converting these into open access titles in an according way,” says Thieme publisher Hauff.

“ZB MED has been a supporter and driver of open access for many years,” notes Dr. Ursula Arning, who heads up open access activities at ZB MED. “The DFG’s decision to financially support the transformation of subscription journals into open access journals is a commendable step for Germany, as a center of science – a step towards more openness in science,” Arning continues. “In the Thieme Group, the libraries have found a reliable partner with whom they can break new ground in scientific publishing,” adds business lawyer Beate Brüggemann-Hasler, Head of Licensing and Law at ZB MED. “This willingness to develop innovative publication models is truly trendsetting. We’re really looking forward to our long-term collaboration.” 

Dr. Bernhard Mittermaier, Head of the Central Library at Forschungszentrum Jülich and participant in the DEAL negotiations, emphasizes the significance of the agreement to science policy worldwide: “In addition to the DEAL negotiations with the three largest publishers in the world, it is important that we also promote the transition to open access among small and medium-sized publishers.  We are happy to be able to pursue this path with Thieme, with support from the DFG.”

Quality assurance for the publications was a critical concern for all parties involved. The Thieme Group’s services are just as comprehensive for open access publications as they are for traditional journal articles: “All work is examined and reviewed with equal care – a discerning peer review by leading international experts as well as professional editing are a matter of course, and open access articles are no exception,” explains Dr. Regina Wenzel, program planner at Thieme.