Consequences of Sweden Cancelling Elsevier
In May last year, the National Library of Sweden proclaimed that Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs) and government agencies had followed the German example and cancelled their subscriptions with Elsevier. Elsevier had been unable to accommodate the requirements of Bibsam (the negotiating Swedish Library Consortium) on OA and affordability. The press release on the cancellation stirred unprecedented international attention.
This cancellation has potential consequences for ~36,000 academic researchers or research students, ~6,000 government agency employees, and ~80,000 advanced level students, their institutions, and the Consortium. The Bibsam Steering Committee has therefore put together an evaluation group to assess the effects of the cancellation.
For this evaluation (in progress), we created two surveys to collect data from users and licensing staff from all of the 44 institutions that had an agreement with Elsevier at the time of cancellation. We collected economic, publication, and interlibrary loans data from the cancelling institutions. We contacted Swedish, Norwegian and Danish license negotiators, as well as rectors, library directors and a financial analyst of the academic publishing market.
The first survey will capture users’ strategies to access unavailable material, users’ attitudes to the cancellation and to doing future publishing/peer-reviewing/editorial work with Elsevier. The second survey will allow us to analyse the economic and administrative workload associated with the cancellation at the institutions. It also captures how the saved money will be spent. We will analyse how the cancellation was communicated to library directors and users. Finally, the conducted interviews will allow us to learn how the cancellation has affected the Consortium as a whole, its negotiations with other publishers, other countries’ negotiations with Elsevier, and also how the cancellation has affected Elsevier.
At the moment, negotiations with Elsevier are at a standstill. The findings of this evaluation may offer suggestions on what to do next. The evaluation will serve as a basis for future negotiations with Elsevier and other publishers. Its findings should be of use in strategic discussions with HEIs, research funders and representatives of the Ministry of Education and Research, and on future business models for OA to research publications.
This evaluation stresses the need for transparency in licensing agreements, as called for by LIBER. By sharing the insights from the cancellation of the Swedish agreement we hope to help create better conditions for future negotiations with publishers, in Sweden and abroad.