22 May 2015

Open Access in the Netherlands: Solid citizens

Despite its small size the Netherlands is punching above its weight in Open Access practice and advocacy, driven by a strong sense of social justice.  As early as 2009 The National Library of the Netherlands was involved with the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) in a pilot project looking at long-term preservation of electronic journal collections.  The Hague is home to the Ligue des BibliothĂ©ques EuropĂ©ennes de Recherche (LIBER- Association of European Research Libraries). LIBER is currently coordinating the development of the EC FP7 Gold Open Access Pilot to pay article processing charges (APCs) for research papers up to 2 years beyond the life of the grant.  In April work translating the SHERPA/RoMEO interface into Dutch was completed and released while the translation of the publisher policies continues.  There is a national website for Open Access supported by Utrecht University Library.  Sander Dekker (pictured), the Dutch State Secretary Department of Education, Culture and Science is an enthusiastic supporter who favours international cooperation. Amsterdam is hosting the 7th Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing.

Credit: Image from Saskia Franken, Towards Open Access in the Netherlands, Oslo, April 21 2015

Amsterdam is also the headquarters of the publishing behemoth Elsevier that dominates the medical and scientific publishing market. Elsevier recently caused controversy by unexpectedly changing its sharing and hosting policy, and is able to use its considerable resources as a major Dutch taxpayer to lobby for industry interests. Particularly controversial was its decision to reinstate embargoes for voluntary deposit of accepted manuscripts into institutional repositories like Research@StAndrews:FullText. It also introduced a policy to apply the most restrictive Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND) to accepted manuscripts against the spirit of many funder mandates and sitting uncomfortably alongside an embargo period. A statement has already been signed by many international organizations against the policy.

It's therefore not surprising that the Dutch have been most active negotiating with publishers on immediate Gold Open Access.  This aligns with the UK Research Councils' preference for Gold, but the Dutch have not been so quick to flash their credit cards.  They've done a lot of work on progressive publication offsetting models. This approach has helped institutions negotiate reduced APCs, subscriptions and institutional costs and introduce a more streamlined publishing experience for authors with less bureaucracy. The Springer Agreement concluded in December last year is a good example that was subsequently taken forward by the Jisc/Springer  model in the UK in March.

The Association of universities in the Netherlands (VNSU) and the Dutch Government are leading a heroic stand-off with Elsevier on Open Access and subscription fees.  Elsevier agreed to automatically extend institutions' access to its bundle of 2,200 journals when talks reached an impasse last year.  It remains to be seen how and whether the balance of researcher v. Elsevier interests can be resolved in the Netherlands and beyond.

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