BERLIN—Scientists across Germany can again read and download the latest papers from Cell and The Lancet—as well as thousands of other journals published by the Dutch company Elsevier—after being blocked for more than a month.
Thousands of researchers lost online access to the journals on 1 January amid a dispute between the publishing giant and a consortium of German universities, technical schools, research institutes, and libraries. But yesterday, Elsevier released a statement saying that it would restore access to the institutions “while good faith discussions about a nationwide contract carry on.” The move “reflects our support for German research and our expectation that an agreement can be reached,” Elsevier says. (Staff at the University of Münster, one of the affected institutions, received the statement in a universitywide email this morning.)
The consortium, called Projekt DEAL, was formed in 2014 to bargain with publishers for nationwide subscription agreements. It's holding out for lower prices, more transparency, and more open access than Elsevier has offered so far. More than 60 German institutions allowed their subscriptions to run out at the end of 2016, expecting that a new nationwide contract would be in place by January. But in December 2016, consortium representatives said the terms Elsevier had offered weren’t acceptable. Researchers at affected institutions lost access to new papers, and some to archived issues as well.
Horst Hippler, president of the German Rectors’ Conference in Bonn and lead spokesperson for Projekt DEAL, says the announcement came as a surprise to DEAL negotiators. “No one knows exactly what it means,” he says. “But it is a move that makes sense for the company to take while talks continue.” A meeting originally scheduled for the end of January did not take place due to scheduling conflicts, Hippler says; the next round of negotiations is scheduled for 23 March.
Update, 15 February, 8.30 a.m.: This story has been updated to add comment from Horst Hippler.