Project Deal, a consortium of libraries, universities and research institutes in Germany, has unveiled an unprecedented deal with a major magazine publisher – Wiley – the proponents of Open Access closely scrutinizes scientific publications.
The pact, signed last month but published this week, was the first nationwide agreement to be celebrated within a leading research nation. (Only institutions in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom are publishing more articles.) Thus, researchers working at more than 700 project deal institutions have access to more than 1
This business agreement, known as the "Publish and Read" agreement, has been touted as a way to promote open access publishing. But until this week, an essential part of the Wiley deal – how much it will cost – was a secret.
Now the numbers are out. Germany will pay Wiley € 2,750 for each paper published in one of the publisher's so-called hybrid magazines, which includes both paid and free newspapers. The contract assumes that the researchers will publish about 9500 such papers per year for 26 million euros. In addition, researchers will receive a 20% discount on the price of publications in Wiley magazines that are already open access.
The deal is an important step towards more open access to scientific publications, but the paper fee of € 2,750 seems high, says Leo Waaijers, an open access lawyer and retired librarian at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Dutch researchers pay Wiley for just € 1,600 per paper on a similar deal in the Netherlands. "It's the same process, the same product, so why the price difference?" He says.
The explanation is that the deal with Wiley in Germany was "more or less budget-neutral," says physicist Gerard Meijer at the Fritz Haber Institute, part of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, and one of Project's negotiators Deal. The goal is to keep the German payments from 2019 to Wiley at the level of 2018, he says. As a larger country with more institutions, Germany paid more subscription fees to Wiley than the Netherlands. This resulted in a higher article fee. The difference, however, is that Project Deal researchers are now freely releasing papers worldwide. In addition, some institutions have access to journals they previously had no access to.
One advantage of the agreement is that German researchers no longer have to pay twice for Wiley's hybrid magazines – once for a subscription and again if you want to do a paper for free – says Lidia Borrell-Damian of the European University Association in Brussels , "Germany seems to be protected from double-dipping … and that's important," she says.
Finally, Waaijers hopes that German institutions can negotiate lower open access publishing fees. However, he sees the current contract with a term of 3 years as a good first step. "I think it's currently not possible for Germany to tell Wiley," We want a contract for 1600 [euros] per item, "he says." That would be a financial regression for Wiley, and they're totally unwilling to do so
The fact that the details of the German treaty have become known is also important, says Borrell-Damian. "Contracts should be public because they are public money," she says Other countries may sign similar deals and publicize the details, "says Waaijers," as the whole game of price comparison begins, and proponents of the open access approach could put pressure on even lower publishing fees.