Elsevier and Projekt DEAL: More Open Access in Germany

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The Projekt DEAL program inks its third major research-publishing agreement, as Elsevier signs a five-year transformative agreement.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Josefe Photography

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Kumsal Bayazit: ‘Working Collaboratively and Pragmatically’
As we’ve written in past coverage, among several pillars of the growing open-access context in international scholarly and academic research publishing, Germany’s Projekt DEAL is a recognized standout—a seminal consortium of more than 900 academic institutions in a structure initiated by the German Rectors’ Conference to create transformative agreements with the three biggest publishers of scholarly journals—Wiley, Springer Nature, and Elsevier.

Prior to today, Wiley and Springer Nature had indeed worked out such agreements. And now the concept has taken a major step with today’s (September 6) announcement that a transformative open-access agreement for Germany now is in place with Amsterdam-based Elsevier.

The agreement was signed by Elsevier and MPDLS—Projekt DEAL’s operating company at Max Planck Digital Library—on Friday (September 1), and is devised as a five-year commitment to run to the end of 2028.

As the announcement from Elsevier puts it, in essence, the trifecta of these three deals—now including Elsevier—means that “a large part of German research [becomes] openly accessible worldwide.”

As the Borsenblatt in Germany today is noting, the Elsevier agreement has not come quickly, being signed four years after the Wiley and Springer Nature agreements were completed. The successful conclusion of this arrangement, then, represents years of negotiations. Indeed, Buchreport‘s coverage today says that seven years of effort were needed, including “phases of radio silence and changes in the negotiating staff.”

The contract, Publishing Perspectives understands, is opt-in, meaning that German scientific entities are permitted to decide whether they’ll participate, a level of latitude that may have been important in closing the deal.

Despite what appears to have been at times quite difficult elements of negotiation, Elsevier’s stance in its announcement embraces the diplomatic principles of positive descriptives, the company’s announcement saying that the agreement was “forged through collaboration and mutual understanding.” German researchers now can publish open-access and read-content “across Elsevier’s extensive portfolio” of scientific journals, an array that includes Cell Press and The Lancet.

When a researcher publishes an article in one of Elsevier’s journals, immediate open-access is based on a per-article fee charged to their institution, “enabling,” the announcement says, “researchers around the world to access and benefit from their results.

“In addition,” media messaging says, “institutions will  receive discounts on the list prices for their researchers’ publications in fully open access Elsevier  journals. Participating institutions will also have reading access to virtually the entire portfolio of Elsevier  journals on [Elsevier’s] ScienceDirect,” a platform for peer-reviewed primary scientific and medical research.” 

Kumsal Bayazit

Kumsal Bayazit, Elsevier’s CEO, is quoted in the announcement of the agreement, saying, “We’re very pleased to be able to support German researchers to publish their research with immediate open access in Elsevier’s journals.

“The DEAL Konsortium and Elsevier worked together collaboratively and pragmatically to support Germany’s world leading academic and science organizations achieve their research goals for the benefit of society.

“Elsevier is committed to continue to support our customers to achieve their objectives.”

Günter M. Ziegler

The lead negotiator for Projekt DEAL is Günter M. Ziegler, president of Freie Universität Berlin. He’s quoted in the announcement, saying, “We  believe that this agreement is a significant step forward for the scientific community and demonstrates that positive change can be achieved through persistent effort and a shared commitment to open science. 

“By working together, we can further advance the principles of transparency, accessibility, and collaboration that underpin the pursuit of knowledge.

“The agreement fulfills the key objectives set out by  the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany for the DEAL negotiations in enabling open-access publishing and reading across Elsevier’s portfolio. This agreement will substantially enhance the global visibility of Germany’s cutting-edge research while promoting open access to publicly funded science.”

Frank Sander

And Frank Sander, MPDLS managing director, says, “This agreement is the result of the collective  commitment of all German higher education, research, and research infrastructure organizations acting jointly through MPDL Services GmbH.

“Reflecting our shared vision for an open and affordable system of  scholarly communication that maximizes the impact of research, the agreement provides DEAL institutions with cost-effective open-access publishing and reading services, and we’re delighted to support them in implementing the agreement to extend these benefits to scholars and scientists across the German research landscape.”

And the timing of the news from Germany and the Netherlands is made all the more interesting against the background of Max Colchester’s unrelated but timely article with Laurence Norman for The Wall Street Journal today, in which it’s reported that the United Kingdom is to rejoin the European Union’s Horizon “flagship scientific research program, according to two people familiar with discussions, the biggest step by the U.K. to tighten ties with the bloc since Brexit.” Negotiations in that case reportedly have followed the Sunak government’s success in the Northern Ireland trade issue.

While the Projekt DEAL-Elsevier news is about research publication, of course, and the British-EU Horizon news is about research itself and funding, both stories potentially point to currents of cooperative gestures in scientific and scholarly work in parts of Europe, something many may welcome.

At Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), Elsevier will have its stand in Hall 4.0/D71.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: HowToGoTo


A programming note: During Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), our Publishing Perspectives Forum programming includes a special morning focused on academic and scholarly publishing, presented in collaboration with Charleston Conference. Discussions include “Research Integrity: Technology, Trust, and Transparency” and “Sustainability and the Future of Scholarly Communication: Looking Forward at Business Models, SDGs, and Beyond.”

Elsevier’s global director of sustainability, Rachel Martin, is among the speakers in the Friday presentation. which starts at 9:30 a.m. with a networking breakfast and runs to 12 p.m. In addition to Martin, speakers include Peter Brantley, Vivian Berghahn, Stuart Whayman, Sven Fund, Heather Staines, Rafael Ball, Richard Gallagher, and Leah Hinds, the Charleston Hub executive director.

Martin will also join us on Frankfurt Thursday, October 19 at 11 a.m. for a special presentation on how mid- and small-size publishers are developing and implementing strategies for sustainable operation.

To learn more, see our Forum page here, and click on the Thursday and/or Friday tab on the schedule grid.

More from Publishing Perspectives on scholarly publishing is here, more on Elsevier is here, more on Projekt DEAL is here, and more on open access is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.