“This agreement is a good example of what VSNU can achieve, if all universities cooperate and stand strong together”, said Gerard Meijer, summarising the Elsevier negotiations. The agreement in principle the Dutch publisher and the Dutch universities have entered into constitutes a major step towards open access.

Gerard Meijer
Gerard Meijer Image credit: Radboud Universiteit

Meijer, who is President of the Executive Board of Radboud University, led the negotiations on behalf of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and said he was very pleased with the outcome. “The outcome of the negotiations is a major breakthrough”, he explained. “The Netherlands is now the first country in the world to ensure that the percentage of articles, which will be published in Elsevier journals and will be made freely available over the next three years, will increase by ten percent each year, at no additional cost for the universities, nor for the Dutch citizens.”


Many of the details are still to be finalised, but even so, VSNU felt it was important to issue a press release on the agreement in principle. “I want to reassure scientists”, said Meijer. “Come January, they will have access to all Elsevier’s scientific articles.”

The universities and Elsevier have yet to determine which scientific journals will be open access from now on. “We’re looking at certain fields. We haven’t decided yet which ones they’re going to be. The obvious decision would be to choose those fields where open-access publications are quite common, such as technological studies and medicine.”

Good news for scientists

Tempers flared during the negotiations. On behalf of the Dutch universities, Meijer told Elsevier that he was prepared to fight for open access. He considers it a major victory that 30 percent of all articles written by Dutch scientists and published by Elsevier will be open access by 2018. “Of course, I was aiming for a higher percentage, but I’m very satisfied with this deal. It fits in with State Secretary Dekker’s ambition to ensure that all Dutch scientists’ publications will be open access ten years from now. Initially, Elsevier tried to separate the negotiations on journal subscriptions and open-access publications. The fact that both these things have been discussed in tandem and that we’ve arrived at such a deal shows that Elsevier is willing to meet us halfway. I genuinely believe that this deal is good news for scientists.”

It seems likely that similar arrangements will be agreed elsewhere in the world. “The open-access movement is not a uniquely Dutch phenomenon, but rather a global movement”, said Meijer. “Other countries and university partnership associations will now want to strike deals similar to the one we’ve just struck. I’m curious to see how it pans out.”