Germany’s Medical Library Signs Open-Access Deal With Switzerland’s Frontiers

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The ‘ZB Med’ medical library program in Germany signs with Frontiers an all open-access, flat-fee scientific research agreement.

Germany’s National Library of Medicine, ZB Med, and the Swiss open-access publisher Frontiers had representatives in place on December 12 to sign the flat-fee agreement. From left are Ronald Buitenhuis, head of institutional partnerships and lead negotiator with Frontiers; Petra Labriga, head of strategic license management and lead negotiator for ZB Med; Franck Vazquez, director of partnerships at Frontiers; Dietrich Rebholz-Schuhmann, ZB Med’s scientific director; Lea Schindler, strategic license management with ZB Med; Frank Hellwig, institutional partnerships development manager and co-negotiator for Frontiers; and Jonathan Lehmann, consortium licenses manager with ZB Med. Image: Frontiers

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

‘Long-Term Budget Security for Institutions’
In what’s being called by its parties “the world’s largest fully open-access agreement,” the German National Library of Medicine—often abbreviated to “ZB Med”—has announced with Switzerland’s Frontiers, based in Lausanne, a new program intended to provide “long-term budget security for institutions.”

Through a single annual payment from each participating institution, more than 900 German research centers and libraries are to be enabled by this agreement to support their affiliated researchers to publish an unlimited number of peer-reviewed articles across all Frontiers journals and Frontiers’ partner journals.

The agreement is Frontiers’ first flat-fee agreement in Europe and is calibrated to run for three years, starting in January. It’s being touted by the open-access publisher Frontiers to be an arrangement that “will significantly increase German researchers’ opportunities to publish their research in high-quality open-access journals.”

All of Germany’s public and private research institutions as well as state, regional, and specialist libraries can opt into the agreement. German institutions already taking part in Frontiers’ institutional partnership program may also opt in.

Participating institutions will be offered the option of joining the flat-fee model or receiving a 10-percent discount on article publishing charges. Institutions wishing to benefit from the flat-fee can opt in until mid-December 2024, in order to start their participation at the beginning of the next quarter. Institutions choosing to receive the discount on article-based charges can opt in at any time.

Among prepared comments on the agreement, Dietrich Rebholz-Schuhmann, ZB Med’s scientific director, is quoted, saying, “This great result of our fruitful negotiations with the publisher Frontiers, achieved by two German national libraries, ZB Med, and the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), is of high importance to the German research community and for all open-access publishing initiatives in Germany.

“This agreement will further advance the benefits of full and immediate open-access publishing covering many, and possibly all, disciplines. We are pleased to be part of this initiative which will significantly contribute to Germany’s visibility as a frontrunner of pioneering research and will accelerate the global transition to open-access publishing.”

And at Frontiers, the head of institutional partnerships, Ronald Buitenhuis, says, “In the context of the current publishing landscape, this agreement is highly significant for open-access publishing in Germany, creating budget predictability for German institutions. It will help to foster increased choice in a market in which authors can publish equitably, without financial or administrative obstacles.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer this simpler and more straightforward pathway for libraries, which is also more transparent for researchers.”

This agreement signed this week is part of an ongoing flat-fee pilot project from Frontiers which in recent months has yielded new agreements in North America, with the University of California and the University of Kansas.”

Richard Charkin: ‘A Drive to the Bottom?’

Related article: ‘Richard Charkin at Year’s End: Asking the Unaskable.’ Image – Getty iStockphoto: Ogulcan Aksoy

Meanwhile, Publishing Perspectives readers who are interested in a countervailing take this week on the progress made by open-access publishing may be interested in the latest column from Richard Charkin, a former leader in academic publishing in the United Kingdom.

“In trying to improve access to scientific research papers,” Charkin writes, “could the open-access movement in academic publishing have created more cost, more uncertainty, and a drive to the bottom in terms of quality? 

“The complexity of the various ways of paying for publication open to everyone to read—green, gold, diamond, transformational agreements, pay-and-read—has enriched lawyers and generated any amount of discussion at meetings around the world. But the evidence that there have been any savings or more than a marginal improvement in access is scanty.

“Is it impossible to consider an academic publishing house focusing on the quality of its journals and books being reflected in a market wishing to pay to read; and a market in which library budgets are spent on offering the widest possible access rather than on funding authors’ papers?”


More from Publishing Perspectives on open access is here, more on scholarly and academic publishing is here, more on scholarly journals is here, more on the Swiss market is here, and more on the German market 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.

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