‘Christmas is over’, a group of 21 leading European universities wrote in the statement. Money intended for research should no longer end up in the coffers of commercial publishers.

In a jointly written statement, the League of European Research Universities lists the example of Harvard University, which, just a few years ago, accused publishers of scientific journals of overcharging. The League’s question: if the richest university in the world cannot afford the prices charged by publishers to access journals, how can European universities be expected to subscribe to journals?

The so-called League of European Research Universities (LERU) comprises the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but also Utrecht University, Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam. They all embrace the ideal of open access, which is to say that they believe that scientific papers should be freely accessible to everyone, with scientists paying only a reasonable fee to have their articles published by journals.

The universities are calling for the European Commission to enforce open access. They also hope that the Netherlands will place the subject on the agenda of the Council of the European Union, since the Netherlands will hold the Presidency of the Council for half a year, starting from 1 January 2016.


Keep articles behind paywalls for a short time only

LERU feels that universities, libraries, organisations funding research, government agencies and publishers must arrive at some decisions together in order to clear up the situation. For instance, the League feels that embargo periods (the number of months journals are allowed to keep papers behind paywalls) should be kept to a minimum.

A situation that should be avoided is that of hybrid journals double dipping, i.e. charging a subscription rate as well as receiving money for granting free access to new research articles.


LERU will be turning its statement into a petition and will be collecting signatures, which, if all goes well, will be presented to the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Portugal’s Carlos Moedas, and to a representative of the Dutch Presidency, in the first half of 2016.

It was also announced on Monday that the editors of a number of linguistics journals have taken matters into their own hands and will be offering open access to their publications from now on.