Scientists in Germany, Peru, and Taiwan face the prospect of being unable to access online journals owned by Dutch publishing company Elsevier after negotiations for a new contract fell through.
Elsevier is considered one of the leading providers of technical, medical and scientific information in the world. Its current lineup of online journals, including Cell, The Lancet, Trends, Current Opinion and ScienceDirect, has become a staple read for researchers looking to advance their work.
However, thousands of scientists could lose their access to the company's journals at the start of this year. While efforts to secure a new deal in Germany and Taiwan didn't materialize in December, the Peruvian government simply decided not to fund an Elsevier license anymore.
Project DEAL, a consortium of universities and research institutions in Germany, led the negotiations in getting a new subscription deal with Elsevier.
The group had accused the Dutch company of trying to exploit its dominant position in the market in asking for a higher price for license fees and threatening organizations of cutting off their access to its services.
Horst Hippler, a spokesman for Project DEAL, described the failure to get a new license as "very unpleasant," but that they cannot agree to what Elsevier has proposed to them so far.
Rising Costs Of Academic Journals
Universities in different countries had already expressed disappointment over the rising costs of Elsevier's journals before, with some even threatening to cancel their subscriptions altogether. Negotiators were eventually able to strike a deal with the company to prevent researchers from losing access.
However, this was not the case for research institutions in Germany and Taiwan.
Project DEAL was in line to secure a nationwide license agreement with Elsevier for German universities and organizations at the start of 2017. The group had proposed that all articles written by German researchers should be made open access.
Hippler said Elsevier's asking price for the license cost too much, and that it didn't include a clause for open access. Despite negotiations between the two camps ending inconclusively in December, there are talks about a possible resumption in January.
For Elsevier's part, a company spokesperson reiterated that they have suggestions about the potential of creating open-access publishing in Germany. The company said it is also looking forward to resuming negotiations in 2017.
With no license deal in place so far, more than 60 research institutions in Germany remain without any access to Elsevier's journals. They chose not to automatically renew their subscription with the company by the end of 2016 in the hopes of getting a newer one through Project Deal's planned nationwide agreement.
Some of these organizations won't have access to research articles published from the beginning of 2017 onward, while others won't have access to Elsevier's archives as well. They can still opt to get new subscriptions individually, but many seem to prefer waiting for the results of the nationwide deal instead.
Meanwhile, about 75 percent of universities in Taiwan have staged a boycott against Elsevier. CONCERT, a consortium of Taiwanese universities, told the company that they will not renew their subscriptions because of the high fees.
Elsevier has opted to negotiate with universities individually, but many of the country's leading institutions, including Academia Sinica, have decided to uphold their boycott.