Norway has become latest country to cancel its contracts with Elsevier following a dispute over access to research papers. In a statement published yesterday (March 12), the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT), which represents a consortium of research institutions in the country, rejected Elsevier’s offer to lower some of its costs for Norwegian institutions because it didn’t go far enough to promote free access to published research.
“The offer from Elsevier is far from fulfilling the requirements of Norway for open access to research articles,” the agency says in a statement (translated by Google). “Nor is there any movement in the agreement [about] paying for publishing instead of paying for reading access. The agreement with Elsevier is therefore not renewed for 2019.”
Norwegian institutions had been arguing for a so-called “read-and-publish” arrangement. Currently, most institutions pay both to read articles on Elsevier, which hosts around academic 2,500 journals, and to provide open access to their own articles on the platform. A read-and-publish deal would combine those costs into one and make papers immediately available on publication.
In a response to UNIT’s announcement, later posted by Inside Higher Ed, Elsevier compared Norway’s request to “asking to receive two services for the price of one.” The publisher noted that Norway’s decision not to renew the contract was “unfortunate for everyone, particularly researchers, especially as Elsevier cannot continue service indefinitely without being paid.” Norway paid nearly 10 million euros in subscription fees last year, Inside Higher Ed reports.
Without a renewed contract, Norwegian researchers will only have access to Elsevier-published articles dating through 2018, according to the University of Oslo’s website. They will still be able to publish in Elsevier journals.
Norway isn’t the first Scandinavian country to find itself in this position. Last summer, a consortium of institutions in Sweden decided not to renew contracts with Elsevier after a similar dispute over read-and-publish arrangements. “The current system for scholarly communication must change, and our only option is to cancel deals when they don’t meet our demands for a sustainable transition to open access,” Astrid Söderbergh Widding, president of Stockholm University and chair of the consortium, told OpenAccess.se, a blog published by the National Library of Sweden, at the time.
Similar disputes have also caused loss of access for multiple institutions in Germany, including the massive research organization the Max Planck Society. And a couple of weeks ago, following months of ultimately unsuccessful negotiations, the University of California also terminated its subscription to Elsevier.