Norway and Elsevier meet a eighteen million Euro agreement including a Gold Open Access clause


The Norwegian consortium for higher education and research and the publishing house Elsevier agreed two days ago to a national license. This provides Norwegian researchers not only access to articles published in Elsevier’s journals (including the society journals as The Lancet or CELL Press) but also the opportunity to publish their results Open Access. Seven universities and 39 research institutions will benefit from the two-year agreement.

A comment in the Financial Times gives a little more insight in the contract. It mentions, among other things, the sum that will be paid to Elsevier under the agreement and puts it at nine million euros. This means an increase of three percent over the previous agreement, which did not cover Open Access publishing. The article goes on to explain that Elsevier expects about 2,000 publications per year. If one assumes that the calculation is based on publish and read fees, as it is proposed by advocates of the Open Access transformation through national consortia with major publishers, the fee per article would be €2,250 is €4,500.

[begin update]
Many thanks to MarthaR for pointing me to a Nature article that indicated that the sum of €9m per year is charged, in other articles this did not indicated. However, an article in The Scientist explicitly states that the total volume is €18m so that the fee per article is €4,500. This was also confirmed by a mail from the Norwegian consortium.
[end update]

In similar agreements, e.g. in Finland, an Open Access publication was by far not allowed in all Elsevier journals. But according to the contract covers up to 90 percent of the articles published by scientists from members of the consortium. Only the society journals (about 400 in total) will be excluded.

Inside Higher Education cites Nina Aslaug Karlstrøm, a representative of the consortium, with an interesting detail: “[If] the number of articles exceeds the allocated amount, a list-price article processing charge must be paid if it is to be published open access”. Therefore the nine million euros are Elsevier’s minimum revenue from this contract.

Just as with the Wiley DEAL in Germany, this agreement also strengthens the allegedly unpopular Hybrid Open Access, which was even disallowed by Plan S. The agreement with Elsevier in France is different and should strengthen Green Open Access.

9 Replies

  • Thanks for the maths 🙂
    I did not read anywhere that the 9 Million is for the period of two years. I guess this is why I came up with twice the amount. To quote the latest nature article; ‘The consortium paid €9 million (US$10 million) to Elsevier in subscription costs in 2018, plus an estimated €1 million in open-access publishing fees.’

    • You’re welcome! 🙂 I did not know the Nature article, the information in it …
      “The latest deal is ‘cost neutral’ compared with the previous agreement, which did not include open-access fees, says Margareth Hagen, a negotiator for the Norwegian consortium and pro-rector of research at the University of Bergen. The consortium paid €9 million (US$10 million) to Elsevier in subscription costs in 2018, plus an estimated €1 million in open-access publishing fees.”
      … contradicts the statements of the article in the Financial Times …
      “Elsevier, the academic publisher, will on Tuesday announce a €9m deal with a Norwegian consortium under which published research will be freely accessible. (…) Under the two-year Norwegian pilot ‘open access’ publishing agreement, research from academics associated with Unit will be freely accessible.” If the information in the Nature article is correct, then the PAR fee is an exorbitant 4,500 euros.

      I’m trying to figure out more.

      Update: I asked Unit (The Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research) and Margareth Hagen (a representative mentioned in the Nature article) for more information.

  • France reported around 180.000 € to Open APC for hybrid publishing with Elsevier in 2017. ( It is very likely that this is just a fragment of the country’s actual hybrid expenses which has been monitored institutionally, but does not cover direct payments by the authors for hybrid. Transformative agreements as the current Norweigian Elsevier deal or the German one with Wiley have been designed to rein in these costs. They therefore represent an strategy against double dipping and have been explicitly acknowleged by cOAlition S. More information on transformative agreements can be found at the ESAC website:

    • Thanks for the comment, Kai. But I don’t see what he’s changing about the facts. Of course, the hybrid articles will now become part of the total bill, but the 2,000 publications per year for which nine million euros are paid remain. In the case of exceeding this number, Elsevier charges a surcharge, which is why the price per article should not fall even in this scenario.

  • Is it now time for a refreshed calculation of Max Planck White paper from 2015? Was it not based on €2000 to show that there is enough money in the system?

    • 2,000 or so on average, then Ubiquity and comparable publishers may only charge as much as the Big Three leave behind. 🙂

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