Max Planck Society discontinues agreement with Elsevier; stands firm with Projekt DEAL negotiations


The President and scientific council members of the Max Planck Society (MPS), one of the world’s largest research performing organizations, counting 14,000 scientists who publish 12K new research articles a year—around 1500 of which in Elsevier journals, have mandated the Max Planck Digital Library to discontinue their Elsevier subscription when the current agreement expires on December 31, 2018. With this move the Society joins nearly 200 universities and research institutions in Germany who have already cancelled their individual agreements with Elsevier in the course of 2016 and 2017 and affirmed their support of the national licensing framework Projekt DEAL, led by the German Rector’s Conference.

In response to the untenably increasing cost of access to scholarly journals and, more importantly, the stifling effect of the antiquated paywall system on the research process, Projekt DEAL was established to negotiate nationwide transformative agreements as a means to transition from the current subscription system to one based on open access publishing models that enable complete and immediate access to the latest research for scholars and citizens alike, free of cost or other barriers. “DEAL is fully in line with the objectives of the OA2020 Initiative, which is strongly supported by the Max Planck Society,’ emphasized MPS President Martin Stratmann.

The transformative agreement that the DEAL negotiators propose to the major academic publishers is a “publish and read” model covering open access publication of all scholarly articles by authors affiliated with German institutions and, at the same time, grant reading access for German institutions to the publisher’s entire portfolio of electronic journals still behind paywalls.

As no sustainable offer according these fundamental criteria has been forthcoming from the publisher, negotiations with Elsevier were suspended last July. Researchers at the 200 institutions supporting the DEAL negotiations have consequently foregone access to the Elsevier platform and are broadly making use of alternative routes for their research needs. The Max Planck Digital Library has already set in place mechanisms to address the content needs of its researchers when Elsevier shuts off access at the beginning of January.

“The system of scholarly publishing today is a relic of the print era, and we want to activate a real paradigm shift in order to finally utilize the opportunities of the digital age”, says Gerard Meijer, director at Max Planck Society’s Fritz Haber Institute and a member of the DEAL negotiation team. In a strong show of support for the DEAL negotiations, 13 prominent Max Planck Society scientists resigned from their positions as editors and members of the editorial and advisory boards of Elsevier journals in 2017.

“Transformative agreements are one of the primary strategies for driving large scale transition of scholarly publishing to open access and are increasingly being adopted by the scores of international supporters of our global Open Access 2020 Initiative”, says Ralf Schimmer, Deputy General Manager of the Max Planck Digital Library. ”As both producers and consumers of the research articles circulated through their journal platforms, we have the leverage to demand a system that meets the needs of our researchers, and by adopting these transformative agreements, we will be able to achieve our Society’s goal of publishing the vast majority of our researchers’ articles open access in a matter of a few short years. We have already accomplished such deals with some of the most relevant publishers to Max Planck researchers, such as Springer Nature, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics Publishing. Further publishers will follow in 2019.”