Negotiations between Elsevier and universities failed

Negotiations between the Dutch universities and publishing company Elsevier on subscription fees and Open Access have ground to a halt. In line with the policy pursued by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the universities want academic publications to be freely accessible. To that end, agreements will have to be made with the publishers. The proposal presented by Elsevier last week totally fails to address this inevitable change. The universities hope that Elsevier will submit an amended proposal. ‘From now on we will inform our researchers about the consequences of this deadlock’, says Gerard Meijer, president of Radboud University Nijmegen and chief negotiator on behalf of the VSNU.


Agreements are made with individual academic publishers on subscription fees for academic journals for all Dutch research universities and universities of applied sciences, as well as for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and other research institutes. These agreements from part of what are known as the ‘Big Deal’ negotiations. The universities are only prepared to renew the agreements on subscriptions if the publishers take steps towards Open Access. Several publishers are not very keen to do so, given the drastic changes in their revenue model that this transition will cause. At the same time, negotiations with publishers other than Elsevier have shown that the parties do succeed in moving towards Open Access.

‘Open Access’ improves access to science
The Dutch universities and the Dutch government are very much in favour of opening access to academic publications. Open Access publications are easier to find, more frequently quoted and capable of reaching a larger audience – benefiting not only science, but society and the economy at large. According to targets set by State Secretary Dekker for Education, Culture and Science, five and ten years from now 60% and 100% of all Dutch academic publications, respectively, should be Open Access publications. A great deal of academic research depends on public funds, and the universities aim to prevent a situation in which users eventually have to pay twice for consulting Open Access publications.