The arrival of the Internet radically changed opportunities for disseminating scientific knowledge. Digitisation has meant that potentially anyone with Internet access can benefit from new scientific insights. Open access aims to make findings from scientific research (particularly that financed through public funding) freely available online to as many people as possible. Dutch universities strongly support open access and have been working to achieve it in various ways over the past few years.
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Recently, the topic has come under the scrutiny of the government too. In a letter to the Lower House, the state secretary took the view that publicly funded research should, in principle, be freely accessible. Like the United Kingdom, he has recommended a policy of pursuing the gold route. His aim is that in ten years from now (2024), 100 percent of Dutch scientific publications will be open access, with 60 percent being open access in five years (2019).
Universities in the Netherlands have responded positively to the government’s support. Universities also approve of opting for the gold route in principle. This route is likely to be the most sustainable solution in the longer term. But it is also complex, as the experience of the United Kingdom has shown. Universities expect that publishers will actively work towards this too. Eventually, they will need to switch all their journals to open access, and a solution will be required during the transition phase for the problem of ‘double dipping’, where during the transition universities find themselves having to pay to achieve open access for their own scientific output, but also for licences.
The renewal of what is known as the ‘big deal’ agreements is an important opportunity for negotiating with the publishers on this. Publishers have been offering their journals in big package deals for over a decade. This provides universities with access to the publisher’s entire range of titles. These deals run for 3 to 5 years. Negotiations are taking place with several large publishers about the renewal of those contracts. Universities are using that opportunity to discuss not just the extension of those licences with publishers, but also the transition to open access. Universities expect publishers to make a serious effort to facilitate this transition.
The negotiations with the publishers are held in close cooperation with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and UKB (the consortium of university libraries and the National Library of the Netherlands). Koen Becking (Tilburg University), Gerard Meijer (Radboud University Nijmegen) and Jaap Winter (VU University Amsterdam) have been appointed the lead advisors for the negotiations by the VSNU’s General Board.
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