UK universities reject ‘improved’ offer from Springer Nature

University groups say the proposed agreement with the German-British publisher ‘still does not meet the needs of the sector and our members’

February 21, 2023
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UK universities have rejected a proposed new publishing deal with Springer Nature, claiming the publisher’s latest offer “did not meet sector requirements”.

In a joint statement released on 21 February, five university groupings, including the Russell Group, University Alliance and MillionPlus, say the German-British publisher’s improved proposal for a read-and-publish arrangement for the UK sector, made in November, is not acceptable.

The statement, which is also signed by GuildHE and the N8’s research pro vice-chancellors’ group, says their institutions are “fully behind the recent decision by the sector, and the negotiating team, to reject the latest offer from Springer Nature”.

We recognise and welcome the improvements that Springer Nature has made to its offer throughout the negotiations. However, the latest proposal still does not meet the needs of the sector and our members,” it adds.

The offer was rejected, the statement explains, because it did not meet the requirements set out at the start of negotiations, which have been led by Jisc, which included the need for “reducing and constraining costs, ensuring all UK research can be published open access, and providing greater transparency on costs and Springer Nature’s transition to open research”.

The impasse over a new Springer Nature deal comes after months of negotiation with Jisc, which is acting on behalf of UK universities. Last year, Times Higher Education reported that UK universities had rejected a proposal that would have seen them pay nearly £1 million extra annually to read and publish in Springer Nature journals.

That proposed deal would have required subscribers to pay an additional £940,000 annually on top of 2022 subscription fees – a 19 per cent increase – while still requiring a separate agreement for Nature Review- and Palgrave-branded titles.

Springer Nature, which has been approached for comment, currently has two agreements with UK universities that expired on 31 December. These will be honoured by the publisher until further notice, the statement adds, which removes the immediate threat that universities will lose access to the publisher’s catalogue in the near future.

“We support the continuation of negotiations in the hope an appropriate agreement can be reached which will make the transition to open access financially sustainable and equitable,” it says.

The decision to reject the deal mirrors the tough line taken with Elsevier, the world’s biggest academic publisher, which eventually concluded in a three-year open access deal announced in March 2022 that will allow both unlimited open-access publishing and access to paywalled journals for what was described by Jisc as a “significant reduction on current institutional spend”.

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Reader's comments (1)

Do we even need a deal? I'd argue no: 1. Nature APCs are not justified. 2. Gold OA is not the only way forward. 3. Gold OA creates another paywall that prevents many authors from publishing. 4. SN refuse to recognise #RightsRetention for all authors. 5. SN have not met last year's targets for over half their transformative journals. See for more details.