Sweden ends contract with publishers

The dispute between European publishing houses and universities about open access continues. An alliance of Swedish research institutes has decided not to renew the contracts with Elsevier, the academic publishing house.

The contract was worth 12 million Euros in 2017. The Swedes are angry because they feel that Elsevier has not shown enough cooperation in the transition to open access and their move reflects the wider pattern of conflict between European universities and the major publishers.

This spring, French universities broke off relations with SpringerNature. The negotiations between German universities and Elsevier are not progressing well either and German academics could, for a short time, not read any new Elsevier papers.

Most university scientists’ research is funded by tax payers’ money. They are not paid by the publishing houses to review each other’s publications (peer reviews), but they are forced to pay to read the published work and those costs easily amount to millions per university, Scientists have been grumbling about this issue for several decades, but they also want to be published in leading journals, so the problem has only grown worse over time.

Politicians are now encouraging the universities break the deadlock: the European Commission aims to have all science funded by public money openly available without a paywall, i.e. open access, by 2020. VSNU, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands, is aiming for that target, while Swedes are aiming for 2026. Not that the science website Sci-hub does not count as open access: the articles there have been pirated.

The publishers are more than willing to remove their paywalls, but only for cash. This money is a major stake in the various negotiations held around Europe for access to scientific research and now universities are digging in their heels more and more often. BB

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