Dutch universities are considering a boycott against Elsevier if the publisher does not concede more in terms of open access. Last Saturday, NRC reported that a plan was in place to boycott the world’s largest academic publishing company.

Gerard Meijer, Radboud University’s chairman of the board, stated in NRC’s science supplement that ‘if Elsevier does not concede more, we will start the boycott before summer’. Meijer is negotiating with Elsevier about subscription rates on behalf of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). The universities and Ministry of Education, Culture and Science want academic publications of Dutch researchers to become freely accessible as soon as possible. Universities therefore wish to renew contracts with publishing companies like Elsevier only if such companies are willing to move towards open access.

Stalled negotiations

Negotiations between the parties about a ‘big deal’, a long-term contract for access to over two thousand Elsevier journals, stalled in the autumn. According to the universities, Elsevier is not moving enough towards open access. The publishing company and VSNU failed to agree on how articles were to be made freely accessible to all following publication and how this access was to be funded.


Meijer increased the pressure in NRC by explaining the plans for a boycott: “We will first contact our top scientists who are members of an Elsevier journal’s advisory board or editorial staff on an individual basis and ask them to resign from those positions. We will then ask researchers to consider stopping the review work that they do for Elsevier journals and subsequently we will ask them to stop publishing research in those journals.”


As far as VSNU is concerned, a new big deal must include provisions concerning open access. Although the previous big deal had ended, it was automatically renewed for one year. TF