Springer brought to heel

French uni­ver­si­ties say ‘non’ to a new deal with pub­lisher

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CON­TENTS - David.matthews@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

French re­search in­sti­tu­tions claim they are sav­ing mil­lions of eu­ros in sub­scrip­tion costs af­ter re­fus­ing to agree a new deal with the pub­lisher Springer.

The im­passe is a sign of ris­ing as­sertive­ness to­wards big pub­lish­ers across Europe, fu­elled by anger over high costs and slow progress to­wards open ac­cess.

Just as Ger­man in­sti­tu­tions have done in ne­go­ti­a­tions with El­se­vier, France ap­pears to have called Springer’s bluff, with ac­cess to the pub­lish­ers’ ti­tles be­ing main­tained free of charge.

Dis­cus­sions over a new con­tract have dragged on for more than a year be­tween Springer Na­ture, Springer’s par­ent com­pany, and Couperin, which rep­re­sents more than 250 French univer­si­ties, grandes écoles, and other re­search bod­ies such as the Na­tional Cen­tre for Sci­en­tific Re­search.

Couperin wants costs to fall, ar­gu­ing that sub­scrip­tion fees should drop as more and more jour­nal ar­ti­cles are made avail­able open ac­cess, mean­ing that the costs of pub­li­ca­tion are al­ready cov­ered by the au­thor. Ma­jor UK fun­ders have raised sim­i­lar con­cerns af­ter costs con­tinue to rise de­spite moves to­wards open ac­cess.

But San­drine Malotaux, head of the Couperin ne­go­ti­a­tion de­part­ment, told Times Higher Education that Springer con­tin­ued to de­mand “slight in­creases”.

French re­search in­sti­tu­tions have been with­out a con­tract with Springer Na­ture since the be­gin­ning of the year, she said, but have not yet been cut off.

Couperin has said that the lack of agree­ment is cost­ing the pub­lisher

e5 mil­lion (£4.4 mil­lion) a year. Springer Na­ture did not com­ment on this fig­ure.

Dur­ing dis­cus­sions in March, Springer Na­ture threat­ened to cut off ac­cess to jour­nals on 1 April, ac­cord­ing to Couperin, trig­ger­ing some re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions to warn their staff in ad­vance.

While the pub­lisher has not com­mented on this claim, ac­cess has been main­tained. “As re­quested by Couperin, we are con­sid­er­ing a fur­ther pro­posal and dur­ing this time the af­fected jour­nals will re­main ac­ces­si­ble,” a Springer Na­ture spokes­woman said.

The sit­u­a­tion in France mir­rors that in Ger­many, where a na­tional con­sor­tium is thought to be sav­ing more than e10 mil­lion a year af­ter fail­ing to reach a deal with El­se­vier. De­spite hav­ing no con­tract, the pub­lisher has not cut off ac­cess.

This in­creased as­sertive­ness has been driven partly by new ways of shar­ing pa­pers, said Ms Malotaux. The pres­sure to have a con­tract with a pub­lisher “is not as strong as it was”, she said.

Nicolas Galtier, a re­search di­rec­tor at a CNRS in­sti­tute in Mont­pel­lier, said be­ing cut off would “pre­sum­ably” have no im­pact on his work.

“You can ac­cess many pa­pers as pre­prints or via so­cial net­works, or by ask­ing col­leagues,” he said – as well as the pi­rate site Sci-Hub. “I doubt pub­lish­ers will ever cut us off; they badly need ci­ta­tions, and you cite more what you can eas­ily ac­cess.”

Valérie Mas­son-Del­motte, a cli­mate re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Paris-Sa­clay, said a cut in ac­cess could “po­ten­tially” be a prob­lem for her. But there were “grow­ing con­cerns” among re­searchers in France and else­where over the “un­sus­tain­abil­ity” of in­creas­ing costs, she said.

In a state­ment, the Springer Na­ture spokes­woman sought to down­play the scale of the im­passe, point­ing out that the ne­go­ti­a­tion was over ac­cess to less than half of Springer’s more than 2,900 jour­nals, and was on be­half of only about 100 of Couperin’s mem­ber or­gan­i­sa­tions. It did not af­fect other pub­lish­ers in the Springer Na­ture group, such as Na­ture Re­search, pub­lisher of Na­ture, she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.