The Elsevier War ends here

16 December 2015 - The Art of Publishing

As reported here earlier, the Dutch universities declared war on scientific publisher Elsevier in 2015 (link, link) demanding an affordable open access model. This war has now ended in an agreement.

The good news: Dutch researchers can now publish their articles open access without any costs. In this way by 2018 the universities predict that 30% of all Elsevier articles are published via open access. End of story? The fun in any negotiation is the small-print. In what ways could mighty Elsevier have screwed over tiny VSNU (the combined Dutch universities) or the other way round? One bottleneck could be the phrase "Dutch researcher". Researchers tend to publish their work in an international collaboration, a sort of behaviour encouraged by the Dutch money donors. Do only 100% Dutch science-crews apply for free open-access publishing?

More damaging for the VSNU is the stipulation that Elsevier is to select a list of publications available for free open-access. If a desired publication is not on the list, the researcher will still have to pay up to 1500 euro's to see it published. So what is keeping Elsevier from introducing a really shitty open-access publication such as "The Journal Of Really Shitty Open-Access Publications"?

Final unknown: to what extent is the publication open-access? You would naturally expect: open-access free-for-all but you are jumping to conclusions and you are a bit naive: it could of course mean that the semi-open-access publication is only accessible via a university library login and not to the common man. Not an agreement then, more like a truce?