Bibsam takes a stand for open access – cancels Elsevier deal

As we wrote earlier this week, the pressure is mounting on the world’s largest scientific publisher Elseviers. Countries that have set goals for open access to scientific papers see Elsevier as an obstacle, as the publisher won’t allow agree to terms for increased open access. Now the Swedish Bibsam consortium is taking the step to cancel their deal with Elsevier, as the publisher would not agree to the following terms:

  • Immediate open access to all articles published in Elsevier journals by researchers affiliated to participating organisations
  • Reading access for participating organisations to all articles in Elsevier’s 1,900 journals
  • A sustainable price model that enables a transition to open access

The reason that Bibsam has taken this line is that it has become incredibly expensive for higher education institutions to access scientific information generated by tax funded research. At the same time big publishers like Elsevier are making huge profits. Now the aim is to change the scientific communication model, and make more research accessible to a greater number of people at a lower cost rather than subsidize big publishers’ profits. (Elsevier’s profit margin was 36% in 2010, which was higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year. In 2017 their parent company presented an operating profit of 31.1%.)

 “We need to monitor the total cost of publication as we see a tendency towards a rapid increase of costs for both reading and publishing. The current system for scholarly communication must change and our only option is to cancel deals when they don’t meet our demands for a sustainable transition to open access.”

– Astrid Söderbergh Widding, President of Stockholm University & Chairman of the Bibsam consortium steering committee 

Other countries including Germany have already cancelled their deals with Elsevier. The current Swedish deal will be cancelled effective June 30th 2018. After that everyone who was part of the deal will still have access to all papers published between January 1st 1995 and July 1st 2018. Access to material published from July 1st 2018 onwards might however be restricted by Elsevier. It is worth noting that they still have not stopped access to new publications in Germany, despite the German deal being cancelled at the beginning of the year. It might still be worth leaving a brief guide to alternative routes of finding scientific papers here.

Sources and further reading:

Text: Signe Wulund

Scientific publishers facing increasing pressure

The last couple of weeks there has been a lot of news regarding open access. There are developments in the negotiations with the major scientific publisher Elsevier and European plants for an international open access strategy both.

May 4th the first ever international meeting of open access negotiators took place in Berlin. Previously all negotiations took place on a national level, but now a joint European initiative is being discussed. This would mean EU countries would be able to benefit from the pooled experience of all negotiators, as well as set joint negotiating targets. This would increase the influence of higher education institutions with the publishers.

Around Europe universities are already taking a harder line against what they perceive as unreasonably high fees from the publishers. In Germany, for example, a majority of universities are boycotting Elsevier since the beginning of the year. And in Sweden the negotiations between Bibsam and Elsevier have entered a critical phase.

Bibsam is a part of the National Library of Sweden. They sign deals for electronic journals and databases at all Swedish higher education institutions, government organisations and research institutions. In 2017 they spent 353 million SEK. (Source:

Bibsam is waiting for Elsevier’s response to their offer by May 15th. As part of the negotiation tactics, the current deal is up for renewal by June 30th, and if no agreement is reached it would expire then. If Elsevier refuse Bibsam’s terms, the risk is that Elsevier will turn off read-access for new articles published after July 1st 2018. (Access to older publications would still be available.)

That the open access to scientific publications controlled by major publishers is an important question right now is something you can see in an editorial in DN Debatt published May 8th. Erik Fichtelius, national coordinator for the National Library, writes:

The dissemination of research results through university libraries to students, researchers and the public is hindered by a global publisher oligopoly that make millions in profit on publicly funded research. Doctors, health care staff, engineers and journalists who lack logins through universities are unable to access current research literature. Students at small universities can only access a fraction of what is available at larger universities.

The EU has decided that 100% of all scientific publications should be made open access by 2020. In the current system it’s hard to imagine that goal could ever be reached. With that in mind the EU has nominated Robert-Jan Smits, one of the key figures behind Horizon 2020, as a special envoy för open access. He is due to present his findings this summer, and it might include a completely new strategy for scientific publication – possibly even one that breaks the traditional hold of academic publishers.

Sources and further reading:

”Stärk biblioteken och bygg nationella digitala bibliotek”- Erik Fichtelius

Science Guide 4/5/2018. Open Access negotiators prepare for a future without publishers

Science Guide 28/2/2018. Robert-Jan Smits to become special envoy open access of EU

Indicators to measure Swedish research

The Swedish Research Council published a report on April 9th looking at how to measure the progress of Sweden’s national research goals. These were outlined in a government bill in 2016 (2016/17:50):

The goal for research policy is for Sweden to be one of the world’s foremost research and innovation countries and a leading knowledge nation, where high quality research, higher education and innovation leads to society’s development and welfare, the business sector’s competitiveness and responds to the societal challenges we face, both in Sweden and around the world.

But how can progress on this goal be measured? The Swedish Research Council’s report presents several indicators that can be used to assess how well these goals are met during the 10-year period the government has mandated for the following:

  • Sweden should be an appealing country for investment in research and development. The public and private investments in research and development should exceed the EU targets.
  • There should be an overall increase in research quality, and equality should improve.
  • Collaboration and cooperation with society should improve.

A summary of the indicators that will be used come from the Swedish Research Council’s report (in Swedish):

Indicators for the goal ”Sweden should be an appealing country for investment in research and development”:

  • improvement in funding for research and development in Sweden as a part of the GNP
  • funding from abroad, as well as the distribution of funding from the government, business, and other national sources

INdicators for the goal ”There should be an overall increase in research quality, and equality should improve”:

  • the ratio of highly cited publications
  • funding from EU’s Horizon 2020 programme
  • division between men and women in different employment categories
  • the gender division among newly hired professors and lecturers
  • the gender division among new PhDs
  • the proportion of women and men who have made professor within twelve years of getting their PhD

Indicators for the goal ”Collaboration and cooperation with society should improve”:

  • funding in the form of financial support and tenders to universities from all areas of society, as well as collaborations on innovation
  • split posts, where university staff also have contracts with non-higher education institutions
  • joint publications, with authors both from higher education institutions and non-higher education institutions
  • the percentage of the population that has a higher education degree
  • the percentage of the Swedish scientific publications that are available with open access

The Swedish Research Council has said that these indicators will only be used to measure progress on the national level, and won’t be used to compare higher education institutions or to distribute funding.

It’s good to see open access included in the indicators of measure of engagement with society.

Another measure mentioned in the report is bibliometrics, and there it’s reassuring to see that the authors do seem to have some insight into the flaws and limitations of bibliometrics.

The report in its entirety is only available in Swedish at the moment, and can be downloaded here: Vetenskapsrådet: Redovisning av regeringsuppdrag att utveckla uppföljning av svensk forskning

Text: Signe Wulund

Researchers’ views on Science Communication and Open Science

Last week Vetenskap & Allmänhet (Public & Science), a Swedish non-profit acting to promote dialogue and openness between researchers and the public, released an interesting report together with Vetenskapsrådet. The report deals with Researchers’ views on Science Communication and Open Science, and is the result of comprehensive interviews with researchers, science communicators and research funders in Sweden.

Some of the results include:

  • science communication is seen as important, particularly for democratic reasons
  • the biggest obstacle is lack of time and the fact that it isn’t seen as a merit
  • researchers experience positive support from their colleagues when they do science communication outside of academia
  • researchers rarely use social media for science communication
  • open science is an unfamiliar term for many, who instead associate it with open access (of research publications)

The report and news post about it are currently only available in Swedish.

Public & Science news post about the report (Swedish)
Full text of the report (Swedish)

The results of the report were presented and discussed at a seminar at Vetenskapsrådet on March 23rd 2018. A recording of the seminar (held in Swedish) is available here:

Text: Signe Wulund