Relations between the academic world and scientific publishers have evolved profoundly over the last 20 years, due to the concentration of the major scientific publishers and the digital revolution. The hardening of negotiations between higher education institutions, research organisations and publishers is revelatory. Publishers now offer a variety of contracts, often based on Big Deals – the provision of large portfolios of journals designed to meet the needs of extensive numbers of researchers. Meanwhile, universities and research organisations have formed consortia to reduce costs through the large number of beneficiaries. In a context of increased higher education and research funding needs and increasingly limited budgets, the steady increase in the cost of scientific literature has resulted in substantial profit margins (up to 30%) for major publishers. This situation is becoming unsustainable for libraries and academic institutions.
The rise of open access to scientific publications and open science breaks new ground, but the transition to full open access is still slow and its impact on university budgets still minor as shown in the annual EUA Open Access Survey. Changes to the publication model (paying for open access publication instead of paying to read an article) are not enough to guarantee an economy of means if the owners of major scientific journals continue to pursue high profit margins and if there are no alternative, competitive publishing platforms.
EUA has established a High-Level Group of institution leaders and scientific publishing specialists (the Big Deals High-Level Group) in the context of its open science activities. This group is responsible for monitoring the evolution of negotiation mechanisms and how these affect the content and financial conditions given to academic institutions.
From the outset, the Big Deals High-Level Group wanted to map major negotiations using information from EUA members in a variety of countries. This survey provides the first European overview of the negotiation process and outcomes, and describes the profile and organisation of negotiations, scope of beneficiaries, costs etc.
Information gathering is not easy, as contractual commitments often include strict confidentiality clauses, despite the fact that it seems paradoxical to promote openness and simultaneously withhold information about contracts that involve significant amounts of public funding. Transparency is also imposed under several national laws. The survey results therefore respect respondents’ anonymity and aggregate certain data. The information obtained is very interesting, despite this limitation and the fact that it only covered a limited number of major publishers and so only provides a partial picture. The survey is unquestionably useful for consortia, institutional leaders and National Rectors’ Conferences, which play an increasingly active role in the negotiation process. This report will also help researchers gain a better understanding of the dire reality of current publishing models and the importance of diversifying the ways in which scientific research results are disseminated. EUA will continue this work with a new survey in 2018.
I would like to thank the EUA team for completing this important and original survey, collecting the data and analysing the responses. I extend my thanks to the academic experts and librarians who steered it and contributed to interpreting the outcomes. I am also grateful to the EUA for taking the risk of promoting this sensitive study and publishing its results, faithful to its mission to serve and support the European university sector
Prof. Jean-Pierre Finance
Chair of the EUA Expert Group on Science 2.0/Open Science
2. Methodology and Participants
3. Big Deal negotiations consortia
4.1. Expenditure and main contract conditions
4.2. Purchase methods
4.3. Associated rights under Big Deal periodicals contracts
5. Big Deal database contracts
6. Big Deal e-books contracts
7. The cost of Big Deal contracts in Europe
Copyright © European University Association 2018