Alex Holcombe and Björn Brembs argue that if German institutions win their open-access battle with Elsevier, they will have lost the larger war (“Open access in Germany: the best DEAL is no deal”, Opinion, 27 December 2017).
Taxpayers fund much of our research and our universities. Why would they first fund the research and then have to pay a second time to buy back findings that would not even exist without their help? This is the reasoning behind German universities’ demands, and this is why they are unlikely to give in.
Of course, their success will also depend on how many other countries join the movement and how many researchers can be persuaded to publish their results openly. And there will be a transition period that may be tough on scientists. But coupling public funding to a commitment to publish all results openly could also be a convincing argument.
That will probably be the next step, and I believe that it will gain momentum fast. My guess is that in a few years, open-access platforms will have acquired impact factors that are comparable to today’s top journals, which fail to realise that they are no longer indispensable in the digital age. They are clinging to an obsolete business model – and they know it.