Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, February 04, 2008

Max Planck and Springer strike a deal

The Max Planck Society (Max Planck Gesellschaft, or MPG) and Springer have struck a deal giving MPG researchers access to Springer content as readers, and pre-paid publication fees as authors when they publish in Springer's Open Choice journals.  From today's announcement:

The Max Planck Society and Springer have reached an agreement which allows the scientists working at the 78 Max Planck Institutes and research facilities across Germany access to all content on SpringerLink, and which also includes Open Choice(TM), Springer's open access scheme, for all researchers affiliated with a Max Planck Institute publishing in Springer's journals. Springer's Open Choice(TM) program offers full and immediate open access for articles that are accepted for publication after a process of rigorous peer-review....

The new agreement is based on combining the subscription model with open access, and is set up as a 2-year experiment to investigate whether this construct is a more sustainable business model for scholarly publication.

"During the period of the agreement, Springer and the Max Planck Society will evaluate the effects of open access on both authors and users...," said Peter Hendriks, Springer's President of STM Publishing.

From today's blog comments by Jan Velterop, Springer's Director of Open Access:

This is one of a few - so far experimental - deals, similar in nature (the others are with the UKB - a consortium of the Universities and the Royal Library of The Netherlands - and with the Georg-August University of Göttingen in Germany) that aim to find a way forward in reconciling the desire for universal and immediate open access to peer-reviewed scientific journal articles with the need to ensure the economic sustainability of peer-reviewed journals.

Implicit in these arrangements is that they mix the subscription model with the author-side payment model during a transition to a fully and properly funded open access model across a whole spectrum of journals and disciplines. In the process, any differences in the ability to publish with immediate open access (the 'gold' route) between well-funded and poorly funded disciplines are evened out.

These experiments could quite conceivably see an increase in article submissions to Springer journals by authors from Max Planck Institutes, Dutch universities, and the University of Göttingen, particularly where the choice of journals for those authors is between a Springer journal which will publish with OA and a more or less equivalent journal, in terms of status, impact factor and the like, from another publisher. In fact, such an increase is expected, over time.

In any event, even without such further increases, these arrangements already entail a substantial growth in the number of high-quality peer-reviewed open access articles.


  • One piece of background:  last week, MPG agreed to pay the publication fees for MPG authors when they publish in any of the 17 OA journals from Copernicus Publications
  • Another, bigger piece:  last October, MPG canceled 1,200 Springer journals.  Today's deal essentially restores those subscriptions. 
  • One incentive for MPG to restore its subscriptions is that Springer is waiving (all or most) publication fees for MPG authors when they publish in Springer's Open Choice journals.  (All Springer journals are Open Choice journals.)  This means that MPG authors needn't pay extra for the OA option at these hybrid OA journals, and therefore will routinely select it, increasing (as Jan points out) the number of gold OA articles by MPG authors.
  • Springer didn't cook up this deal simply to win back MPG as a subscriber.  As Jan points out, Springer had already made similar agreements with UKB (Universiteitsbibliotheken en de Koninklijke Bibliotheek) in June 2007 and Georg-August University of Göttingen in October 2007.  See my blog comments on those two deals (UKB, Göttingen).
  • From my predictions for 2008 (in SOAN for December 2007):

    We'll see more publisher-university deals, like the Springer deal with Göttingen and the similar deal with the Universiteitsbibliotheken en de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. These deals create a new body of OA content --articles by faculty at participating institutions-- for about the same price that institutions currently pay for subscriptions. They don't make whole journals OA, and hence don't make subscriptions unnecessary, but they do make articles OA. We'll see more of them because they benefit both parties. They benefit universities by delivering more bang for the library budget buck and by widening the dissemination of some faculty work. They benefit publishers by [increasing submissions and] reducing the risk of cancellation .

    These deals give universities two goods --access for readers and OA for authors-- for the fee that previously bought just one. Because they preserve access fees for readers [of the non-OA articles], I view them as suboptimal, but that doesn't change the fact that they are bona fide cases of mutual benefit....

Update.  See Bernd-Christoph Kämper's supportive comments on the deal.

Update. Also see the article in Library Journal Academic Newswire for February 5, 2008.