Finns join journal subscription boycott movement

Negotiations with Taylor & Francis collapse over cost as journal outages spread across Europe

February 1, 2019
Ice barrier
Source: Alamy

Researchers at more than a dozen Finnish universities and research institutions were set to lose access to new papers in Taylor & Francis journals after another European negotiation with a publisher hit the buffers.

Those leading the negotiations are hopeful that disruption will be minimal after a similar outage from Elsevier journals in Germany and Sweden was met with a shrug from libraries.

Arja Tuuliniemi, head of services at FinELib, the consortium of Finnish institutions negotiating with Taylor & Francis, explained that from 1 February, researchers at 14 universities plus four government and research institutes will lose access to new papers.

Some – it is unclear how many – will also be cut off from journals’ back catalogues, depending on the kind of deal that they previously had with the publisher.

Libraries “are a bit worried about how they can get the articles”, Ms Tuuliniemi said. “But we have prepared libraries so that there is a process in place for researchers.”

The consortium is directing researchers to online tools such as Unpaywall and Google Scholar to find open access versions of blocked articles. It also hopes that academics from abroad will pass on papers to Finnish academics in order to get around the shutdown.

Ms Tuuliniemi has been encouraged by the experience of Sweden and Germany, which since last summer have been largely blocked from reading new content in Elsevier journals after contract negotiations failed. Libraries there had received far fewer requests for help from researchers than expected, she said.

The consortium is seeking to switch from a model where it pays to subscribe to read journals – and gets a discount on article processing charges (APCs) for open access journals – to one where universities pay a lump sum to read and publish open access in all Taylor & Francis journals, an aim shared by Germany and Sweden.

“This kind of deal is so easy for researchers; they don’t have to think about the APC,” said Ms Tuuliniemi.

But the negotiations have collapsed, primarily over cost. Ms Tuuliniemi said that the publisher was proposing to charge libraries “substantially more” than they currently pay to switch over to their preferred, open access, model. Whether Finland returns to the negotiating table depends on “how low” Taylor & Francis’ next offer is, she said.

A Taylor & Francis spokeswoman said that the publisher’s proposal “balanced the increasing desire of the Finnish research community to publish open access with their need to read research that continues to be published in subscription journals.

“Unfortunately, at this time, we have been unable to agree on a balanced approach that allows us to meet the standards required of scholarly research and satisfies the requirements of FinELib. We remain open to working with FinELib on this, and believe there is a sustainable solution,” she said.

david.matthews@timeshighereducation.com

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