Greater impact through open access

Publicly funded scientific research should be freely accessible. This is not only budget-friendly, it is good for the visibility of a research project as well. In 2014, negotiations were started with eight large national and international scientific publishers in connection with publishing academic research open access. These negotiations have already borne fruit. The Netherlands is the fastest growing open access country in the world. Globally, the Netherlands is even considered a change agent.

Results of scientific research are published in scientific journals with high subscription fees. The Dutch universities united in the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), and the Dutch university libraries and the National Library of the Netherlands (working together in the UKB consortium) believe that everyone should have open access to science. After all, most research is publicly funded. In addition, open access is good for Dutch researchers; the publications are easier to find on the internet and are therefore more frequently cited. According to the conclusion reached by American researcher Jim Ottaviani in the summer of 2016, open access publications are cited up to five times more often than articles published through traditional channels.


Left to right: negotiators Jaap Winter, Koen Becking and Tim van der Hagen.


Starting shot

State Secretary Dekker of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) has fired the starting shot in connection with open access. Dekker’s aim is that in 2024, 100% of Dutch scientific publications will be open access. In the council conclusions of the European ministers in connection with the Dutch presidency of the EU, an agreement was even reached that open access should become standard at the European level by 2020.


Varying responses

The response from the publishing industry has been varied. The large publishers Springer, Sage, Wiley, Taylor & Francis and Elsevier have made a transition to open access. Notably, market leader Elsevier has been rather cautious in this regard, agreeing to implement gradual growth of 10% per year in accordance with the proposed phased approach. In the past year, agreements have also been reached on open access with a number of smaller publishers, including Walter de Gruijter and Emerald.



ʽMore knowledge is being made more easily available to more people. I've been seeing an acceleration in open access publishing over the last five years or so. We still have a long way to go, but this is the start of a push towards universal access.’

Marcel Levi – departing chairman of the AMC Executive Board



Not unnoticed

The Dutch negotiations have not gone unnoticed. At his first appearance in front of the Dutch knowledge community in Brussels, Carlos Moedas, EU commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: ‘Your emphasis on Open Access to scientific publications, in particular, could not be more in line with what I hope to achieve through Open Science over the course of my mandate. I think the Netherlands can contribute a great deal to policy discussions on this matter. You are already leading by example. We need to shift our focus from publishing as soon as possible, to sharing and collaborating as soon as possible.’


Full steam ahead

Efforts by major institutions such as the Max Planck Society and various bottom-up initiatives in the field, such as the linguists at Lingua, are now helping to spread open access more quickly.

The train has left the station and we are on a clear course to achieving State Secretary Dekker’s goal. There is no going back now!

The results

Since 2014, Gerard Meijer (President of the Executive Board of Radboud University Nijmegen), Koen Becking (President of the Executive Board of Tilburg University) and Jaap Winter (President of the Executive Board of the VU Amsterdam) on behalf of the UKB, the VSNU and SURF, have been in talks with eight major publishers, which together account for 70 to 80 per cent of the turnover of all Dutch scientific publications. Starting in 2017, a new team will be conducting these negotiations; Tim van der Hagen (TU Delft) will be taking over the role of negotiator from Gerard Meijer.


Source: journal subscription contracts between publishers and the Dutch universities


This graph shows the contractual agreements the negotiators have made with seven of the eight largest publishers concerning the number of open access articles to be published each year, reflected in the green line ‘Contractually agreed-upon number of open access articles’. This line is based on a conservative estimate of the results. Concrete contractual agreements are reflected where applicable. In instances where the contract does not extend until 2018, no number of future articles has been extrapolated: instead, numbers are based on the latest agreement.

In order to illustrate that there has been no significant increase in costs, a series of figures for the cost development of the contracts with publishers has been included. This cost development refers to the total expenditures for academic journals including open access publication. The cost development shown does not take any decrease – resulting from the prepaid open access agreements that have been achieved – in the article processing charge (APC) paid by individual researchers into account. As a result, the annual increase in costs will in actuality be less (as illustrated in the chart with a single downward arrow).


The VSNU is currently negotiating with the following eight major publishers:


1. Elsevier

2. Springer

3. Sage

4. Wiley

5. Oxford University Press (OUP)

6. Taylor & Francis

7. American Chemical Society (ACS)

8. Kluwer