The universities in the Netherlands and Oxford University Press (OUP) have been unable to reach a new agreement for access to academic journals. The key priority in the negotiations for VSNU (the Association of Universities in the Netherlands) was facilitating the transition to open access – freely accessible articles – without Dutch scholars having to pay double to make them available in this way. OUP made a proposal to the Dutch universities which did not include an offer for affordable open access. The research universities in the Netherlands are unable to agree to this.
Instead of a step forward towards achieving the objective of 100% open access by 2020, compared to the agreements that the VSNU has made with other publishers, the OUP’s offer is a step back. The VSNU is happy to resume negotiations if OUP is willing to make fair and more ambitious agreements relating to open access. President of the Executive Board of VU University Amsterdam Jaap Winter, who acted as the chief negotiator on behalf of the VSNU: ‘Publishers can elect to work proactively towards this development, but open access will come to be the new standard either way – with or without them.’
OUP mainly specialises in medical journals, so for University Medical Centers in particular it is important that a future-proof agreement is established. The Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU) fully supports the VSNU’s negotiating position. As long as no new agreement is in place, academics will have to take into account the necessity to access any articles they should need, published by OUP from 1 May 2017 onwards, in some other fashion. They can, however, continue to publish in the relevant journals as they have done previously.
Agreements about the subscription fees of academic journals are made with academic publishers on behalf of all universities in the Netherlands with the VSNU acting as negotiator. Universities will only seek to renew agreements pertaining to subscriptions under the condition that publishers work towards the transition to open access. The fact that OUP is currently unable to take this step is regrettable, but fortunately this is an exception, given the general trend towards open access.