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Asking for a better publishing agreement with Elsevier

Norway’s universities are working hard to secure open access to publicly funded research.  

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On behalf of the Norwegian knowledge sector (the university and university college sector, the health sector and the institutional sector), UNIT (the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research) has been negotiating for almost a year with the four large international publishers, Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor & Francis and SpringerNature about agreements from 2019 onwards.  Since the New Year we have been negotiating overtime. During this process UNIT has been provided with advice from the UiB (University of Bergen), the UiO (University of Oslo), the UiT (University of Tromsø) and the NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology). These negotiations have been guided by the national guidelines on open access. The main challenge has been to secure open access to research literature published by Norwegian researchers in a sustainable payment model. 

So far Elsevier, the largest of the four publishers, has failed to agree to our target of achieving open access to Norwegian research results with a sustainable funding model.  We have therefore decided not to accept Elsevier’s latest offer. 

Elsevier is responsible for a substantial percentage of Norwegian publishing and is therefore important for achieving open access. We are sorry that the agreement we have been offered does not adequately meet our requirements, but at the same time we hope that our decision will encourage the publisher to consider other agreements designed to ensure financially sustainable open access to Norwegian research articles. 

However, we must expect Elsevier to cut access to its 2019 publications on its online platform, as well as to older publications for which we do not have any file rights. This means that researchers and students will need to proceed in a different way in order to gain access to articles published in Elsevier’s journals. Our university libraries have contingencies for ensuring that our researchers and students can quickly gain access to most of the articles which we may no longer have access to.

If Elsevier cuts access to literature resources this will represent a new situation in a Norwegian context. However, this is not a unique situation in an international perspective. Similar situations exist in Sweden and Germany. Furthermore, the University of California’s colleges have recently decided not to accept an agreement with Elsevier. Overall a substantial effort is required in order to transform the publishing system to accommodate open access combined with a reasonable level of costs. It is well known that the margins of the big international publishers are high.

We are still negotiating with and considering the latest offers we have received from the other publishers.

We will continue to pursue negotiations and engage in a dialogue with these publishers. The work being conducted by the universities to secure open access has been going on for some time. The current research publishing system is not financially sustainable, and nor does it serve to adequately promote intonational research cooperation We, in our capacity as researchers and publishers, need to jointly find new models which will promote quality and international research cooperation.