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New four-year agreement with the publishing giant Elsevier

During the last few months intense negotiations have been going on between representatives from Universities Denmark and the academic publishing giant, Elsevier. The topic was the license agreements, i.e. which academic journals the universities will buy access to, and on which conditions.

On Tuesday January 26, the homepage of Universities Denmark had a news item about a new agreement lasting four years, which meant that the researchers at SDU could feel a certain relief, at least for now.

The main points of the agreement are:

  • The price of journal subscriptions remains the same for the entire period. It is based on the 2020 price.
  • The parties mentioned in the agreement have full, unaltered access to reading the Elsevier Freedom Collection.
  • There is permanent access to 75% of the Elsevier Freedom Collection (this used to be 100%).
  • Free Open Access publishing of the final Elsevier version of an article, with a cc-by license, when the author is the corresponding author and affiliated with an institution that is a party to the agreement. However, about 600 Gold Open Access Elsevier journals and a list of about 170 titles under the licenses (not yet specified) are not part of this contract.
  • A price increase of 1,12% on other Elsevier resources, such as Scopus, for all institutions.

This means that about 9.000.000 kroner, or about 26% of the entire University Library of Southern Denmark’s budget for electronic materials, will be paid to Elsevier in 2021. The money is distributed with around 7.400.000 kroner paid for the subscription to the journal package “Freedom Collection”. In addition, we have subscriptions to other resources which are outside the agreement: the reference database Scopus, the bibliometric data bank SciVal, various individual journals and digital reference works, and the software behind the research registration system, PURE.

The library has also been paying around 650.000 kroner annually for the so-called APCs for open access publishing, so the Library’s patience and money had all been spent and the budget was beyond its breaking point at the prospect of yet another agreement like all the others. Previous agreements with Elsevier have brought annual price increases of 3-5%.

Therefore, it is good news that this part of the Library’s contracts with Elsevier has now been settled.

The less good news is that the agreement only includes the Freedom Collection, that the definition of “corresponding author” is not yet clear, that Elsevier still denies us free open access to almost 800 journals (still not named), and that we only have permanent access to 75% of Elsevier’s journals. We have not learned which 25% we will not get a guaranteed permanent access to.

”In spite of this, we are happy and relieved that SDU researchers will still have access to Elsevier’s journals, and that the new agreement is more advantageous to us than the previous ones. The team of negotiators deserves great credit for having reached a better agreement than e.g. the Norwegian one. It would have had a great influence on the daily work of research and classes if the negotiations had not succeeded: we make more than 500.000 downloads each year from Elsevier’s servers at SDU, so we would have felt it if our researchers and students had suddenly had to do without these important resources. But at the same time, it should be stressed that we still pay enormous sums to private publishers for access to the research which has basically already been financed via the money of taxpayers from all over the world. It should also be stressed that a number of licenses have yet not been negotiated with Elsevier, and it is important to bear in mind that Elsevier is only one among the giant publishers that we must negotiate contracts with. This means that there may still be a long way to go before we are sure of having economically viable conditions in our agreements with academic publishers”, says Charlotte Wien, Professor of Scholarly Communication and Head of Research.

”This agreement should be seen as the first step on a road which we hope will lead to getting reasonable agreements between Danish universities and large publishers like Elsevier. The Library’s budget is still under huge pressure from price increases on the licenses, which by far exceed the increases in public budgets. Therefore we still experience a massive economic pressure, and we must still face cancelling subscriptions and cutting down on services, if we are to manage”, says Library Director Bertil F. Dorch.

If you have questions about the licenses, please contact the Licensing Office at SDU, email, or telephone 6550 2632.

SDU has access to these resources from Elsevier:

  • Elsevier Freedom Collection
    Approx. 2,300 journals
  • Cell Press 
    15 individual journals, i.a. Cell
  • JACC collection
    5 individual titles from the American College of Cardiology
  • 32 individual medical journals
  • Methods in Enzymnology
    Book series, biochemical methods
  • Encyclopedia of language and linguistics
    Reference work, linguistics
  • Handbooks in Economics
    Book series, economics
  • Compendex
    Bibliographic database
  • Scopus
    Abstract and citation database
Editing was completed: 03.02.2021