Finnish researchers are calling for improved transparency in academic journal pricing

It is time for publishers to step up and stand beside the scientific community in furthering the cause of openness. If the publishers’ unwillingness to agree to the demands of FinElib, that subscription fees be made more reasonable and open access to content be increased, leads to the termination of subscriptions we, the signatories, are prepared for it and in addition will abstain from peer review and editorial duties for the journals of the participating publishers until an accord is reached.

This was the original statement which more than 2800 members of the Finnish academic community endorsed after we launched the tiedonhinta campaign in 2016. At the time, FinELib was engaging in negotiations with several big publishers, most notably with Elsevier. In 2017, the No Deal, No Review campaign was launched in turn to show support for the Elsevier negotiations.

After prolonged negotiations and temporary deals, FinELib and Elsevier reached a 3-year deal regarding the Science Direct freedom collection. With this, the campaign website, which was specifically targeted for this negotiation round, will be soon taken offline. Whereas the outcome of the deal has been thoroughly analysed elsewhere (see here and here) we would like to share some thoughts about the negotiation process and how it could be improved.

In particular, we are calling for increased transparency of the agreements. FinELib has publicly endorsed a strategy titled “Five Principles for Negotiations with Publishers” by LIBER (the Association of European Research Libraries). Of these principles, Principle #3 calls for transparency and even mentions Finland as an example of how the society will not accept confidential agreements. We fully agree with this and welcome the commitment for increased transparency. Whereas we wanted to see this principle applied more rigorously also for the new Elsevier deal,  it initially turned out to be difficult to get information on the agreement details in order to evaluate whether the outcome was satisfactory. in our view, the full contract information should be openly shared by default and without delays for all new contracts. FinELlib did release the contract text after public requests. However, annual costs per subscribing institution were not published. This is a key piece of information in terms of price and service comparison. Making the contract terms and the associated cost data openly available by default is the only sustainable way forward, a position that is clearly articulated also in the LIBER principles.

To facilitate greater transparency of academic publishing deals, we are hereby making a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to FinELib, in accordance with the Finnish Freedom of Information Act (“Julkisuuslaki”). In particular, we request the full contract texts and the total cost information per subscribing institution and per year, as specified in the contracts for all recent deals whose terms are starting from the beginning of 2018. These include, at least, the deals with Emerald (journal package) and IEEE (IEL database) and  with Wiley-Blackwell (the 2014 Full Collection), American Chemical Society (journal package), OVID (LWW journal package) and  Springer (SpringerCompact journal package).

We would expect FinELib to disclose the information accordingly and thus demonstrate its commitment to the LIBER principles. Almost two years later, the original statement of campaign still holds. This is why we are keeping the website online and encourage everyone to show their support. We welcome the LIBER principles as a starting point for more open licensing deals and hopefully for more affordable and openly accessible scholarly publishing.

Elsevier trusts in traditions – no advancement in FinELib-Elsevier negotiations

FinELib issued an update on the negotiations yesterday and it is not looking good:

Unfortunately the first meeting showed that Elsevier is not willing to develop open access business models. Elsevier insists on keeping up the traditional subscription model and the price increases linked to it. Elsevier is not responding to the severe budget cuts in Finnish universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes nor to the scholarly community’s demand for open access publishing.


(In Finnish) 27 miljoonaa vuodessa: tiedejulkaisujen tilausmaksuista kiistellään

Helsingin yliopiston Yliopisto-lehti käsittelee tiedejulkaisujen tilausmaksuja viimeisimmässä numerossaan. Helsingin yliopiston tutkimuksesta vastaava vararehtori ja tiedonhinta-vetoomuksen ensimmäinen allekirjoittaja, professori Keijo Hämäläinen, toteaa seuraavaa:

Tiedän tutkijoita, jotka jo nyt kieltäytyvät referoimasta artikkeleita Elsevierin lehtiin, koska kustantaja ei kuuntele tutkijayhteisön tarpeita. Kyllä nämä vetoomukset luetaan tarkkaan.

Finland and Germany: “Finland joins the fray”, blog post by Gavia libraria (the Library Loon)

This blog post is an insightful outsider view from the US looking at the negotiations in Finland, Germany and the rest of Europe.

Something the Loon is rather enjoying about the German and Finnish rhetoric is its resolute centering on open access. As usual, Europe is a few years ahead of the United States, where Big Deals are still (pace a few non-negotiables and the state of California) wholly price-fixated.

Finnish higher education and research institutes continue negotiations on open access with Elsevier

From FinELib:

International science publisher Elsevier and Finland’s higher education and research institutes have agreed on one year’s extension to negotiations on electronic journals. More time is needed in order to find a solution for advancing open access, which is an extremely important goal for the Finnish research community. This one year agreement makes it possible for researchers to continue using Elsevier’s journals in 2017 while the negotiations continue.

See original post here.

Germany: No full-text access to Elsevier journals to be expected from 1 January 2017 on

More information on the state of negotiations in Germany:

More than 60 major German research institutions are to be expected to have no access to the full texts of journals by the publisher Elsevier from 1 January 2017 on, among them Göttingen University with 440 Elsevier journals. There will be access to most archived issues of journals, but there may be no access to individual e-packages for the economic sciences in particular.

Read more here.

Statement from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM) released today a statement titled “Open science must be promoted by all means necessary”:

It is vital that these negotiations find a solution that is financially sustainable for the scientific community. The contracts that are to be signed must significantly increase the opportunity for Finnish researchers to publish openly. Open science is the starting point for our national contract negotiations. Finland requires that all parties implement solutions that will make open publishing commonplace for all researchers.

Read the whole statement here.