Dutch lose access to OUP journals in subscription standoff

Negotiators fail to reach a deal with Oxford University Press over transition to open access

May 6, 2017
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Source: Reuters
Access denied: the chief negotiator said that OUP’s offer would have involved ‘a steep increase’ in price and that the world is moving towards open access ‘with or without’ them

Academics working in Dutch universities have been left without access to journals published by Oxford University Press after 18 months of subscription talks broke down.

Jaap Winter, the chief negotiator for the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), said that OUP’s offer would have involved “a steep increase” in price and that the world is moving towards open access “with or without” them.

The publisher said that it was disappointed not to have come to an agreement and remained committed to open access publishing.

VSNU, which makes agreements with publishers on the subscription fees of academic journals on behalf of all Dutch universities, has set a mandate to achieve 100 per cent open access publishing by 2020.

It recently concluded a year of negotiations with Elsevier on open access after a deadlock that saw the two sides fail to come to an agreement and left academics without access to the publisher’s journals.

VSNU said that OUP’s subscription proposal did not make an affordable offer that facilitated a transition to open access.

Dutch academics lost access to OUP’s journals on 1 May, meaning that researchers will now have to use alternative routes, such as emailing a paper’s author directly to ask for a copy of an article, if they wish to access OUP journal content.

Professor Winter, who is also the president of the executive board of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, said: “[OUP] have come up several times with a very complex set of arrangements that were not very efficient. All of these offers would involve a steep increase in the total price we were paying to the publisher.”

“There was not an offer that comes close to the mandate we have given ourselves as universities to negotiate open access contracts for a price which is on the same level as the current cost that we pay to publishers, plus a potential price increase of 2 or 3 per cent,” he added.

Professor Winter said that VSNU had “no interest” in continuing to talk to OUP unless there is something “very significantly different on the table”.

“Publishers and OUP should understand that the world is moving to an open access publishing system with or without them,” he added.

An OUP spokesman said: “We are unable to comment on the detail of specific customer negotiations but we are, of course, disappointed not to have come to an agreement with VSNU to continue access to the journal collection content published by OUP.”

The spokesman added: “OUP remains committed to open access publishing and finding the fairest and most equitable way for all users globally to access journal content. We will continue to work towards reaching a suitable agreement in future."

holly.else@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Just in case people are reading this and think the only alternative to not having direct access is to email the authors of articles, it is worth checking out apps like the OA Button and Unpaywall that provide legal access to self-archived versions of paywalled articles. When self-archiving reaches a critical mass, it essentially makes 'losing access' or cancellation of subscriptions risk free.

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