Last week Wiley and Projekt DEAL announced a transformative Publish-and-Read agreement that will, by a conservative estimate, giving the world at least 30,000 additional open access articles over the next three years. Under this agreement, articles by authors from participating institutions will be published open access in Wiley journals and everyone at those institutions will be able to access all Wiley content at no additional cost. The agreement was announced at the Academic Publishing in Europe conference and a copy of the agreement FAQ in German is available in the Internet Archive.

This agreement is a significant development. To my knowledge it is the first and currently only publish-and-read agreement between libraries and a publisher. A publish-and-read (PAR) agreement is one in which fees are paid only for publishing and reading is provided at no additional cost to consortium members. This is in contrast to a read-and-publish (RAP) agreement, in which there is a fee for reading and additional fees for publishing, which are then bundled together, which is the kind of agreement that the University of California System is pursuing.

Artistic piece titled A Hunt in the Mountains of Heaven
Artist Unknown. A Hunt in the Mountains of Heaven. 17th Century. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Given the significant milestone that the Wiley/DEAL PAR agreement represents, it is not surprising that it garnered a lot of attention both at the conference and online. The news ricocheted across Twitter and prompted intense discussions of how the agreement would be seen relative to the requirements of Plan S, a topic of focus for the conference, as well as the implications for negotiations with other publishers and the like.

The Inevitability of Open Access

Before I start to examine the detailed implications of this PAR agreement, let me state clearly that I believe that 30,000 articles being open for reading is inherently a good thing. In and of itself, there is no question that everyone having access to this content is better than only some people having access to the content. To borrow the words of Micah Vandegrift, “a global transition to 100% open access has the potential to make our world a better place to live.”

I also believe we are in a time of transition to full open access. It appears this will most likely be funded primarily by read-and-publish/publish-and-read contracts and individual article processing fees though with Diamond open access and a variety of other business models in niche areas. Every year we have more and more open access content and a steady movement in that direction through government policy, funder mandates, campus directives, and researcher choice. I’m on record predicting a flip timeframe for Elsevier’s journals. I believe that the subscription model for access to scholarly content will recede, certainly in what remains of the lifetime of my career. You might even call me an open access optimist!

The questions that face us at this point are less related to whether we will transition to predominantly open access for the scholarly literature but rather to how will it come about, how fast, and at what costs paid by whom. Agreeing that open access is a good end, an analysis of the means for achieving that end is crucial to ensuring that the open access world is equitable and sustainable. Critical to engaging these questions relates to the means of achieving open access is analysis of the costs (financial, political capital, etc.) and the possibilities of unintended consequences. The greatest challenge in the transition to open access is not open access per se but rather the negotiations around how much it should and/or will cost. And, of course, these negotiations take place against a backdrop of the reality of open shadow libraries anchored by Sci-Hub.

In my own mind, I think about the challenges of this transition time through the metaphor of pathways. Some pathways are direct and paved smooth. Other pathways are winding rock-strewn mazes, with dead ends and flooding rivers to forge. You can likely get to the destination through either pathway but the expenditures of time, resources, etc. will vary greatly and, if you don’t make it, you may start your next attempt injured or hampered in other ways. Determining whether a given path is smooth or rough is strategically important in deciding whether to take it, preparing for it, and thinking through what recovery will demand if things don’t work out as hoped.

The Wiley/DEAL Agreement

So, with that framing of how I am thinking about the transition to open access for the scholarly literature, let me turn to the Wiley/DEAL deal and some of the questions I’ve been pondering. The primary characteristics of the Wiley/DEAL agreement are (these are numbered for ease of referencing not to indicate priority or order of implementation):

  1. At the core is a three-year publish-and-read (PAR) fee that is set at €2,750 per article for the estimated 10,000 articles annually published by covered corresponding authors in Wiley hybrid journals.   
  2. A discount of 20% off the individual article processing charge (APC) fees for articles published in Wiley Gold OA journals.
  3. Both PAR and APC payments will be made to Wiley by the newly established MPDL Services GmbH. Wiley will no longer have to bill separately to individual German institutions. MPDL Services GmbH is essentially functioning as a “reseller” in this scenario; it will pay Wiley and then bill German institutions, which will pay MPDL.
  4. PAR costs charged to participating institutions will be calculated based on previous subscription costs and the publishing volume of the institution. APC fees are in addition to the PAR costs.
  5. Authors retain their copyright and articles are published under a Creative Commons (CC) license. CC-BY is recommended but not required.
  6. Authors are not mandated to publish open access; they may choose to publish a subscription article. This choice, however, will not decrease the PAR payment required of the participating institution as the PAR will still be paid for all articles published.
  7. Compliant with Plan S (falling under the draft cOAlition S guidelines for pre-2020 agreements for the transition period – see 11. Transformative Agreements).
  8. Commitment to collaborative projects in addition to the payment terms for PAR and APC fees:
    • publish a new open access journal from Wiley/DEAL;
    • establish an open science and author services joint development group to investigate and develop infrastructures and workflows for open access publishing generally and PAR agreements specifically; and
    • institute an early career researchers symposium to gather input and feedback from participants about their needs and how rewards and incentives affect their careers.  

Considerations for Open Access Pathways

If the conversations on Twitter and immediate coverage in the press are any indication, there is both great interest in this agreement as well as many questions about it and how it will impact pathways to open access. Here are a few and my thoughts at the moment.

Does this agreement remove barriers to publishing open access?

Yes. For scholars who would like to publish open access, an APC fee is often the barrier to do so. Though no author is mandated to publish open access in a hybrid journal under this agreement, the financial barrier to doing so is eliminated by the institutional payment and the workflows for doing so are streamlined. As Judy Verses, Executive Vice President of Research at Wiley, characterized it to me, the agreement presents authors with a “simple funded solution.”

Does this agreement incentivize publishing in Wiley Gold journals over Wiley hybrid?

No. And, it is possible that it might incentivize publishing in hybrid journals, depending how an individual institution handles Gold APC fees. If the Gold APC fees are covered by the institution, the author will have no financial incentive for one or the other. If the institution charges back the Gold APC fee, that may be a fiscal incentive to publish in hybrid journals.

Does this agreement encourage publishing in Wiley journals?

The agreement being the first of its kind it is difficult to predict how authors will respond but one can imagine authors will be attracted to the centralized funding support. Wiley may also see some first-mover advantage here from those authors who want to publish open access, particularly if those same authors are intentionally disengaging from Elsevier, as well as access advantage for early career researchers who are engaged in the symposium when it is established.

Will this agreement flip Wiley hybrid journals to Gold?

In and of itself, no. This agreement does not require Wiley to convert hybrid journals to gold, which is a requirement for Plan S transformative agreements starting in 2020. Nonetheless, as Joe Esposito has observed, a program that increases the number of open access articles significantly means that “smaller institutions are then in a position to respond by cancelling subscriptions because they can get most of the material they want through OA.” This particular agreement probably isn’t of a sufficient substantial percentage of the overall of articles in most journals to drive off significant subscription business for those titles; however, if there are additional PAR (or RAP) agreements or if there are other forces that increase the number of individual authors paying APCs for publishing in these hybrid journals, one can imagine Wiley choosing to flip titles. Indeed, this later scenario is the strategy being pursued by many open access advocates and library negotiators, i.e., to create so much open access content in titles that subscriptions are no longer financially useful.

Is this agreement cost containing?

As Roger Schonfeld asked last fall, “don’t we face a fork in the road, speeding towards OA [open access] or finding ways to contain publishing expenditures?” The Wiley/DEAL agreement definitely speeds towards open access. It isn’t clear to me that it contains expenditures; nonetheless, it may not worsen the situation either.

Using the financial information released about the terms of the agreement, Marcel Knöchelmann has estimated the cost of the agreement at €27.9 million (note: this does not include in this the one time payment to close the gap in the archive). Gerard Meijer, a member of the DEAL negotiation team and Director of the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, confirmed for me that payment to Wiley for the PAR fees should be roughly what German institutions have been paying in subscription fees. For this payment, German institutions — in addition to publishing open access — will collectively have greatly expanded access to Wiley content, as all institutions will have full access to the current and backfile content, which was not the case under subscriptions.

So, on one hand, costs are contained in that the PAR fee per article is set by the contract and the initial spend will be roughly the same as the subscription spend, but for greater access. On the other hand, if there is an annual increase in publishing in Wiley hybrid journals, the total spend will increase annually with no contractual limit established. Of course, there could also be a decrease in publishing in Wiley journals but it is difficult to imagine that being able to publish open access would drive authors away from Wiley! So, it seems likely that the total PAR spend will increase over time.

Finally, Gold APC payments are discounted but also without any contractual limit so there is no cost containment for APCs either. It also does not appear that Wiley has made any commitments to keep Gold APC fees at the levels currently set. There are other forces that would temper Gold APC fee increases but fee increases are still possible.

How does this agreement impact Wiley’s relationship with its partner societies?

Wiley has been in discussions with its society partners for quite some time about building a sustainable approach to an open access future. Societies have asked for Wiley’s help in positioning their journals for success with open access. According to Judy Verses, the overall feedback from partner societies to the Wiley/DEAL agreement has been strongly positive and some self-published societies have reached out to Wiley since the announcement at APE.

Does this de facto establish a baseline minimum PAR fee per article for the industry?

It seems likely that any other major publisher in negotiations for a similar agreement will expect to be paid no less that the PAR fee ( €2,750 per article) being paid to Wiley. However, given the PAR fee is intended to be cost-neutral to institutions and thus considers past subscription spend, it may be overly optimistic (or pessimistic!) to assume that this is a baseline.

What are the implications for cOalition S funded authors that the Wiley/DEAL agreement is Plan S compliant?

Does the agreement being compliant mean that any cOalition S funded author is now free to publish in any Wiley hybrid  or Gold journal (as long as, of course, the article meets the other requirements for an article to be Plan S compliant)? Or, that only those authors who are cOalition S funded and employed at a Wiley/DEAL participating institution can do so? Given that no German funders are part of cOalition S, that latter group is likely very small. If the former, this means a much larger portfolio of journals for cOalition S funded authors has opened up. Or, does the agreement being compliant just mean that the Wiley Gold OA journals are temporarily reprieved from meeting the full Gold OA journal mandatory criteria for cOalition S funded authors? On this question, I think I’m just going to have to wait for more definitive guidance from cOalition S as I honestly can’t analyze my way to a guess.

What Next?

As I conclude, let me also add one final question: What are the implications of this agreement for DEAL negotiations with Springer Nature and Elsevier?  According to Gerarld Meijer, DEAL offered all three publishers the same agreement. (Note: this does not mean the specific PAR fees would be the same for each publisher necessarily, remembering that the PAR calculation is based on subscription spend and intended to be cost-neutral for German institutions.) Negotiations between DEAL and Springer Nature are continuing; the parties have agreed to a cost-neutral extension of the existing contracts with a new agreement expected in mid-2019.

In contrast, while the DEAL website says that negotiations with Elsevier are underway, Elsevier has cut off all institutions without contract from latest issues and Meijer shared that, though there are still bilateral conversations, the last time the negotiation teams met was last summer. DEAL is seeking a PAR and Elsevier has offered a RAP; DEAL is seeking a cost-neutral solution to replace subscriptions and Elsevier is expecting higher payments for RAP than for subscriptions alone.

So, it seems likely that Springer Nature will be the second publisher to sign a PAR with DEAL rather than the first. If authors shift to Wiley and Springer Nature, will Elsevier be the third or will Elsevier continue to hold out? And, as we await news of the outcome of the University of California System and Elsevier negotiations, one wonders if will we soon see the emergence of the first large-scale North American agreement in this space, but as a RAP rather than a PAR?

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe is Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library and affiliate faculty in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. lisahinchliffe.com

View All Posts by Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

Discussion

28 Thoughts on "Celebrating 30,000 Open Access Articles … PARs, RAPs, and Exploring Implications"

“A publish-and-read (PAR) agreement is one in which fees are paid only for publishing and reading is provided at no additional cost to consortium members.”

Is this truly open? Only consortium members can read?

The fees for publishing OA make the authors’ articles globally open. The reading is for the consortium for the closed content in the hybrid journals.

What are those institutions paying who did not publish nor subscribe? They are free riders? Or those who paid a good chunk subscriptions previously, but do not publish? They carry on paying for those who publish? Or those who’s publishing output is outraging their subscription spend? They suddenly find some extra money to cover the costs?
As long as the exact formula is unknown on how the costs are split between members you can call the deal RAP or PAR or whatever: for now it is a black box.

Current, those who do not publish do not pay. Payment is for publishing; reverse of the subscription model where payment is for reading. Under RAP, pay both. FWIW, the entire contract is to be posted publicly on February 15.

So if I paid 30k subscription, but my institution just published one article my fee will drop to €2,750? This is not how I read ‘will be calculated based on previous subscription costs and the publishing volume of the institution’. But we will know mid-February.

So can we assume that subscriptions to hybrid Wiley journals become significantly cheaper for the rest of the world, as a consequence of 10,000 German OA articles being published in them?

A few questions:

1. You say “PAR costs charged to participating institutions will be calculated based on previous subscription costs and the publishing volume of the institution. APC fees are in addition to the PAR costs.” Given that Big Deals have been somewhat opaque and that the overall sum of money is likely to be similar in any such PAR deal, other than semantically, how is PAR different to RAP?
2. Can you have a go at suggesting where this leaves smaller publishers and societies who will be unlikely to participate in PAR, or RAP deals, unless they all become partners with Wiley of course? Societies worry about the long tail of smaller subscribing institutions.
3. For those authors in fields that are not funded – humanities for example – the implication is that they can now publish OA in Wiley journals without needing to find funds – is that the case?
4. Plan S specifically bans hybrid and mirror journals. The PAR approach does not comply in its current form with Plan S. You imply that the PAR deal is compliant with Plan S – can you explain your thinking a bit more here?

1) I think laying out the distinctions is a whole other SK post but I can point you to two twitter threads that say a bit of how this is not just semantic: https://twitter.com/lepublikateur/status/1087398928558051329 and https://twitter.com/BMittermaier/status/1087440346206879750

2) Another whole post. Not specific to PAR agreements but I think Michael’s piece on implications of Plan S is highly applicable here – https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2018/12/05/plan-s-impact-on-society-publishers/.

3) In Wiley HYBRID journals. For Wiley GOLD it will depend if the institution institutes a charge-back. (Note – I’m not predicting a charge-back. But, it is not prohibited by the terms of the DEAL agreement.)

4) Plan S allows for a transition time where agreements are considered compliant if entered into prior to 2020 are considered compliant. After 2020 there is a set of criteria that is required for agreements. Section 11 of the cOalitionS guidelines. Also, for what it’s worth, the DEAL FAQ asserts compliance with PlanS and it is reported that Smits agreed on stage at APE. (I was not there so do not have first-hand knowledge … just Twitter chat.)

In April 2016 the Dutch universities concluded an offsetting deal with Wiley for the years 2016-2019. The amount was M€ 3.8 with a price increase of 3.5% per year. For that amount staff and students of the Dutch universities got access to all (then) 1500 Wiley journals and corresponding authors could publish an unlimited number of articles in open access in these journals. In 2014 the universities had published 2300 articles in Wiley journals and it was foreseen that this number would grow to 2600 in 2019. So, over the four years of the contract about 10.000 open articles could be published. The contract may be found here: https://www.vsnu.nl/files/documenten/Domeinen/Onderzoek/Open%20access/Wiley.pdf .

At the time we did not have those fancy terms like RaP and PaR. If you prefer RaP you might say we pay € 2.500 per year per journal for reading and publishing of the articles is free. If you wish to present it as PaR, you say that the publication fee per article is € 1.600 and reading of the journals is free.

So, the main difference between the Dutch contract and the German one is the price. Calculated per article we pay € 1.600 and Germany pays € 2.750. I can imagine that the Wiley people are delighted. I can also imagine that for this amount Elsevier may knock on DEAL’s door very soon now.

Indeed, Wiley needed a long administrative run up to make all published articles open access. For 2018 they have published so far 1858 OA articles (more are expected), which brings the price down to approx. € 2000. For 2019 they may (finally) reach the foreseen number. It will be interesting to see how fast they will be able to publish all the annual 10.000 German articles in OA.
But, as you observed, I just compared the contracts.

Leo, I would say, your contract is clearly a Read an Publish contract, because it explicitely says that the amount of money charged (which includes 3.5% price increase per annum) will be adjusted (mainly) if the value of the Wiley journal database or the number of titles included will change by more than +/-5% through journals acquired or transferred. There is also a clear statement that the contract allows unlimited hybrid OA publishing and the price will not change because of that. In the German contract it is just the other way around. The 2750 EUR is fixed and the annual payments made in advance will be adjusted depending on the actual numbers of articles published by corresponding authors from the DEAL institutions.

So your 1600 EUR RAP per article is an inferred price based on the estimated number of open access articles published via the offsetting deal (10000 articles over 4 years) and the negotiated price of the contract. It is mentioned only in the analysis you have linked to elsewhere (https://www.qoam.eu/Content/documents/Price-per-article.pdf) and is not part of the contract. So my guess is that the difference to the 70% higher German PAR per article must reflect that your institutions have collectively paid less in subscriptions before than the German DEAL institutions, when calculated in relation to the number of articles published. Either because your journal collections were overall smaller, or you had better deals before, or because dutch Scientists publish more in Wiley journals than their german colleagues, or because the large list of participating institutions from Germany in its mix includes a lot of not so research intensive institutions. This assumes that the publisher’s aim was not to loose money overall. Do you have a comparison value for the value of the total subscription fees per article under your previous deal (that was not yet Read and Publish, I assume)? Also, I would be interested to learn about the corresponding overall value in Germany under the existing deals (*before* entering the new PAR agreement). Perhaps someone from Project DEAL can comment.

Clearly, the RAP/PAR per article in such deals does not reflect the true costs of publishing but strongly depends on the previous subscription history and level of spend of a particular consortium or country. Within a country, there is considerable leeway to decide on how to distribute the fees in a fair way among participating institutions taking into account both previous subscription spend and the publishing volume of the institution. But when Wiley negotiates such contracts, they will not gamble that what they loose in one country they will gain in another. So it is to be expected that deals closed will be oriented at previous subscription spends. This inevitably means that when calculated in terms of PAR per article, some countries will be winners, and others losers, at least at the beginning. May be in a later stage, when more such deals are closed and as more journals flip, that will change.

Best regards,
Bernd-Christoph Kämper, Stuttgart University Library

Bernd-Christof, I am afraid that the subscription history of Wiley in Germany and in Holland will hardly be understood by authors as a justification of the huge price differences in the publication fees in these countries respectively. But, as long as authors are not confronted with the price because their institutes foot the bill, they could not care less. Once this changes a real market place for open access publishing will emerge and publishers have to migrate their business model from value-based pricing to cost-based pricing. Finally.

Appreciating all the engagement on this post. Since I probably won’t have time to look at every contract someone links over the next weeks, I’m going to sum up and say this … the folks negotiating contracts right now – both publishers and consortia – are making a distinction between PAR and RAP. The distinction hinges on whether there is a payment for read access that is separate from publishing or if paying for publishing also provides reading. I understand that many in our community believe this is a distinction without a difference whereas others are seeing it as strategically critical for their long-term strategies. Time will tell which it is?

RAP vs. PAR may be a material issue, not because of the arrangement with librarians (publishers will simply move things from column A to column B to get at the number they feel they need) but the hidden agreements with society publishers, who work with the big outfits’ platforms. Those deals are not public for the most part, if ever, and the way the accounting is done could affect how much of a royalty a society publisher receives. In the absence of the actual contracts, it is impossible to know how big a factor this is. It is not rocket science or brain surgery or choose your metaphor to know that if a publisher has a $1 million liability to a society under RAP and $0 under PAR, miraculously the deal will be called PAR. So many precedents of this kind of thing in media industries. All media businesses strive for the perfection that is the music industry.

That’s an intriguing comment Joe. I have to say that I hope no society finds itself in this situation as that would be a really sudden cashflow issue that might do them in. One presumes such societies would be looking to exit the partnership at the end of that contract – or sooner! – and find a new publisher. Maybe even an opportunity for those libraries that are looking to be the home publisher of open access journals?

Those options are going to be very hard to realize for reasons that would take a long blog post to explain. The more likely outcome is that societies will sell their publishing operations outright and get out of the business. RAP, PAR, and Plan S–choose your poison–go right to the heart of society publishing. Elsevier and Wiley will do just fine.

Great article but so many questions remain. For instance, what will this type of arrangement mean for scholarly societies that are still self published? Will they be forced to partner with one of the big three?

Lisa – quick correction – despite what was suggested in the IHE piece about UC, we have not been pursuing a read and publish deal with Elsevier with separate fees for reading and publishing, but rather a publish and read agreement that transitions our subscription spend to OA. Other than the misattribution in IHE piece, I think you’ll find our comments have been fairly consistent in that regard. That said, we agree with many others that these terms and distinctions are artificial and seek to reify what is a very fluid environment. Simply referring to OA transitional agreements may be a more useful rubric – we are all attempting to go from state A (default subscriptions) to state B (default OA).

Thank you for clarifying this. I’m one who does not see the PAR/RAP distinction as artificial but rather strategic so this correction is very important in my view. I do agree about the overall intention of both though!

I was at APE 2019. Smits definitely said (as Lisa infers from contemporary Tweets) that Deal was compliant with Deal. However I am writing a report (in my case for Against the Grain) and checked out my failure to understand how this could be with others reporting. They could not understand either. I also checked with a leading German librarian who was also puzzled. We shall see. Fascinating

Unless the thinking is we can’t know because the guidelines aren’t final, it seems pretty clear to me that its falling under compliant as an agreement for transition entered into before 2020. Section 11 of cOalition S implementation guidelines.

Perhaps the confusion stems from Plan S’ frequent interchangeable use of the terms “compliant” and “transformative”. To me, the pre-2020 agreements like Project DEAL/Wiley don’t have to be transformative (including a pledge to a full OA flip) to be compliant. After 2020, to be compliant, agreements have to be transformative (include that pledge). But Coalition folks are throwing those terms around randomly which has led to confusion.

But as I read it, this deal being “compliant” doesn’t really matter much as Germany is not a signatory to Plan S. The only researchers it would matter to would be Gates or Wellcome funded authors in German institutions that are part of the deal, which is probably not a whole lot of people.

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