Universities in the Netherlands are preparing to ask their researchers to resign from editorial positions with Elsevier journals amid deadlock over a new subscription deal with the publisher.
The universities have been in dispute with the Amsterdam-based publisher since late last year after they refused to renew their “big deal”, via which they get access to all of Elsevier’s subscription journals, unless it permitted, without significant price rises, 60 per cent of the country’s scientific output to be open access by 2019 and 100 per cent by 2024.
The universities’ previous big deal ran out at the end of last year, but the contract stipulated that it should roll over for one more year in the event of deadlock in order to allow time for further negotiation.
The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has surveyed Dutch editors-in-chief of Elsevier journals to assess their willingness to resign their positions in order to impose further pressure on the publisher. If this does not work, it will reportedly go on to ask Dutch researchers to stop reviewing for Elsevier journals, and may, as a last resort, ask them to stop publishing their papers in the publisher’s titles.
A newsletter produced last month by VSNU says Elsevier’s most recent proposal “is based on an increased number of open access publications, but comes with exponential price increases, requiring double payment from academia to both publish work and to read Elsevier articles”.
A spokesman for Elsevier said it was in “a constructive dialogue with the VSNU” and was “optimistic that we can find a solution that meets VSNU’s objectives and that supports the interests of Dutch research”.
“We have submitted a number of proposals to the VSNU that reflect our commitment to open access: it has multiple open access options. Both parties have a very similar goal in mind: an agreement including open access that benefits Dutch science. So our dialogue is much more about how that goal can be achieved via a responsible and sustainable transition," he said.
“What we are hearing from Elsevier’s editors in the Netherlands is that their commitment to our high-quality journals remains high.”
Several other publishers, such as Springer, Sage and Wiley, have recently agreed new big deals that conform with the VSNU’s terms.
Universities have threatened to cancel big deals with Elsevier before – including British universities in 2011 – but compromise agreements have always been reached. However, unusually, the Dutch negotiations are being led by university presidents, rather than less powerful figures at university libraries.