Science - November 25, 2004

Fewer journals in library

From the beginning of next year Wageningen scientists will only have access to half of the 1600 scientific journals from the publisher Elsevier that they can consult at present. The journals that are most often accessed will remain available.

The Dutch university libraries have come to a collective agreement for a new contract after negotiations with Reed Elsevier. The current contract allows scientists at Dutch university access to all 1600 scientific journals published by Elsevier. The publisher wanted to extend the current contract, but wanted to increase the price by five percent. The universities were not prepared to pay so much and have therefore agreed with Elsevier that they will only have access to the top fifty percent of the most used journals. Other publishers have not raised their prices for universities this year.

The 800 journals were decided upon by letting each university library decide which journals represent 75 percent of their total use. For Wageningen the figure was 176 journals, and all core collections together added up to 800. According to Elsevier the combination chosen ensures that Dutch scientists will still be able to access 90 percent of the articles that they can currently look up.

According to Ger Spikman of the Wageningen UR library, it is not yet clear which journals will no longer be available to users in Wageningen. He added that the total number of journals available is still higher than it was in 2000. In that year Wageningen UR had subscriptions to about 400 Elsevier publications. The joint universities are also examining whether to make other journals available through a pay-per-view system.

Spikman estimates that Wageningen has subscriptions to a total of about 10,000 scientific journals and databases, worth 2.9 million euros. The refusal of the universities to agree to Elsevier’s proposed price rise is part of a battle that has been going on for years between publishers and universities. Many research institutes are dissatisfied with Elsevier’s attitude. The company has raised its subscriptions prices dramatically in the last few years, and last year declared a profit margin of thirty percent. It is a bitter pill for the university libraries that they have to pay for journals the content of which is filled by their own researchers. / KV