Norwegian research institutions have decided not to renew their agreement with Elsevier

The offer from Elsevier is a long way from fulfilling the Norwegian requirements for open access to research articles. There is also no movement in transitioning the agreement from paying to read to paying for open publishing. The agreement with Elsevier will therefore not be renewed for 2019. The rectorates at the universities of Bergen, Oslo, Tromsø and Trondheim all support this decision.

The Norwegian government aims at making all publicly funded research articles openly available by 2024 and to move from paying to read articles through subscription agreements, towards paying for publishing articles that are openly available. Unit – The Directorate for ICT and shared services in Higher Education and Research has been in discussions with Elsevier since the introduction of the government’s national guidelines for open access in 2017. Unit negotiates and manages agreements on behalf of Norwegian research institutions. The agreement with Elsevier includes 44 member institutions comprising of universities, university colleges, research institutes and hospitals, and is the largest of the agreements.

To ensure a successful transition to open access, the following guiding principles apply to all negotiations:

  • Articles with corresponding authors from Norway shall be openly available at the time of publishing
  • Publishing open access shall not increase total costs
  • License agreements, costs and business models must be fully transparent
  • Perpetual access to content published in subscription journals must be granted
  • Agreements should demonstrate a move towards models where costs are related to the volume of Norwegian article output

In July 2018 Universities Norway (UHR) gave their full support to Unit’s negotiation principles and nominated representatives from the rectorates at the universities of Oslo and Bergen to participate in the negotiations with Elsevier.

« For many years we have cooperated closely with library directors during negotiations. The type of agreements we are now negotiating will have a direct impact on the publishing of research, and participation from the top level of the institutions has therefore been important. The active involvement of the rectors has sent an important message to publishers that the negotiation principles have the full support at the top level” says the Director of Research Services Strategy at Unit, Katrine Weisteen Bjerde.

Despite good discussions, the offer from Elsevier is still a long way from meeting the principles and has therefore been rejected. There will therefore be no agreement in 2019, but the discussions continue.

The vice rector for research at the University of Bergen, Margareth Hagen, states «It is very disappointing that we did not manage to reach an acceptable agreement with Elsevier, a publisher that accounts for a substantial proportion of Norwegian publishing output and is an important stakeholder for us on the road towards open research. We wish to cooperate with all publishers in order to create a good framework for open publishing, but sometimes we simply stand too far apart.”

Norwegian researchers publish around 2000 articles annually in Elsevier journals. In 2018 participating institutions paid around € 9 million in subscription costs. In addition, an estimated € 1 million was spent paying to make articles in subscription journals openly available.

Despite no agreement being reached this year for reading new articles, Norwegian researchers will still be able to publish in Elsevier journals as before. Depending on the individual institutions archive rights, researchers will also still have access to read articles published in many journals up to and including 2018.

Researchers and others who require access to articles that are not accessible via such archives are encouraged to contact their institutional library who will be able to assist.

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