We asked the German science community about the implications of the lack of access to ScienceDirect for research. The results suggest a negative impact on day-to-day work, research quality and innovation strength.
Since 2016, Elsevier has been negotiating with Project DEAL, a consortium of 700 publicly-funded research and higher education institutions in Germany, to provide students and researchers with access to Elsevier’s subscription journal content. While working to find a solution we continued to provide those German universities that had terminated their contracts with Elsevier in support of Project DEAL access to ScienceDirect without payment for 18 months. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement and in July 2018 we implemented the cancellation.
It’s been one year since the majority of universities and research institutes in Germany no longer have access to Elsevier's ScienceDirect platform and thus to high-quality, well-founded research results in our journals. This situation is not satisfactory for any of the parties involved – not for Project DEAL, not for Elsevier and especially not for researchers in Germany.
In 2019, Elsevier commissioned the market research institute ConfirmIT to conduct an independent survey on how German researchers had been impacted by the loss of ScienceDirect content. The research was carried out under the terms of the Market Research Society Code of Conduct. While the respondents were conscious of current trends in publishing and generally supportive of more Open Access as a model, the results of the survey also suggest that researchers are working less efficiently in the current situation and therefore need more time to generate research output. Negative implications for Germany as a leading research nation are particularly evident in the following areas:
- Researchers' daily work/workflow
- Quality of research
1. Daily work/workflow of researchers
The lack of access to ScienceDirect means that researchers must spend more time, money and effort searching for relevant articles, resulting in lost productivity. For example, 76% of responding researchers tried and failed to find an article on ScienceDirect – on average four times a month. The search for articles via alternative methods, if successful, cost researchers about 1 hour per month on average. However, 43% of all requests remained unfulfilled in the past 12 months. The survey revealed that more than 75% of German researchers support the full restoration of Elsevier’s content, while just 7% don’t support a restoration of access.
2. Quality of research
Most German researchers agree that losing access to ScienceDirect made their research activities less efficient (61%) and delayed the production of the research output (54%). High-quality research further required access to current, international research results. However, the survey shows that 49% of the scientists surveyed believed that the lack of access to new research findings leads researchers to miss current developments or to become aware of them only with a delay. 44% of respondents fear that this will have a negative impact on the quality of their research.
All in all, 84% of researchers surveyed think ScienceDirect was important or somewhat important while 76% supported or strongly supported the restoration of full access to ScienceDirect in Germany. Reasons for this, among others, included the importance of Elsevier journals for the advancement of research in certain fields, the need for up-to-date information and loss of valuable time that could otherwise be spent on research itself.
An independent survey conducted by the University Münster in June 2019 supports these findings. 66% of researchers surveyed agree that it took more time to access literature, while 55% agree that “no deal was no option” and negotiations between Project DEAL and Elsevier needed to be picked up as soon as possible.
At the same time, we realize that opinions within the German research community vary and there is support for a Publish and Read (PAR) model as advocated for by Project DEAL. We at Elsevier have made many efforts to reach an agreement with the Project DEAL team and offered alternatives that would accelerate open access in Germany, enable access to subscription content, and address Germany’s budget constraints. As a leading Open Access publisher, we support Open Access options across almost all our journals. In 2018 alone, we published over 34,000 Gold Open Access articles – an increase of 26% on the previous year – and made more articles openly available than any other publisher through Green Open Access. The recent agreement with Wiley underlines the HRK's continued interest in negotiating a national DEAL. We, too, remain open to discussion and are committed to a compromise that focuses on the well-being of researchers in Germany. Recently concluded deals with EISZ in Hungary, the Polish consortium for higher education and the Norwegian consortium for higher education and research have shown us that this is possible.
A detailed overview of the study results can be found under the following link. Please feel free to contact us directly by e-mail if you have any additional questions about the survey results.