SUHF wants to change publishers’ transformative agreement

Efforts to promote open access to scientific publications risks being stuck in a permanent state of transformation that favours the large commercial publishers. A group within SUHF, the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions wants to change that.

The transformative agreements mean that scientific publishers receive income both from subscriptions and for open publication. The hope when the transformative agreements were introduced was that commercial scientific publishers would make at least some of their titles open access journals. However, publishers are working actively to be able to retain this type of lucrative agreement as a long-term solution.

With the aim of moving the process forward, the ”Working Group Looking Beyond Transformative Agreements” within the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF) has published a report entitled “Sweden’s way forward beyond transformative agreements – analysis and a proposal for a strategic direction” (Sveriges väg bortom de transformativa avtalen – analys och förslag till strategisk inriktning).

“Circulating this proposal both within Sweden in other countries and showing that we are working with these strategies is a way to advance the issue,” says Wilhelm Widmark, chief librarian at the Stockholm University Library and a member of the working group. “We need an international discussion about how to move forward.”

The report is a way to achieve a united front against the publishers. “There are many different strategies out there in the world to make progress, but there is no unity around the strategies. That benefits the commercial publishers and gives them a stronger negotiating position.”

There are several different reasons for pursuing this issue. “Apart from the fact that it is important to have open access to research articles, we believe that the commercial publishing system is too expensive,” says Widmark. “Money that should stay within research becomes profits for the major publishers. We want to speed up the process of going beyond the transformative agreements to genuine open access. That is not an easy thing to do.”

He believes that communication is important in order to move forward. “The people who can actually change the system are the researchers. We should communicate more and ensure that the issue is discussed at all higher education institutions and internationally. We must also challenge the commercial publishers by working with alternative publishing solutions. It is also important to return ownership of the scientific communication system to academia.

Some of the proposals in the SUHF report

Sign agreements with publishers that only publish open access journals, not with hybrid journals where the publishers get paid twice.

Provide a national independent publishing platform.

Make it easier to migrate researcher-owned journals from traditional publishers to other platforms.

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