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