The Art of Projekt DEAL

At the 2019 Academic Publishing in Europe (APE) conference, Judy Verses, then Executive Vice President, Research, Wiley Inc., announced that Wiley had signed a partnership agreement with Projekt DEAL. At this year's APE conference, Irina Sens, Deputy Director, Head of Library Operations, German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), reported on "After the DEAL," an assessment of progress and a suggestion of possible ways forward.

At the 2023 APE conference, Sens began by reviewing the beginning of Projekt DEAL, describing it as a success story in Germany. The original idea was to bring about Open Access (OA) transformation in Germany, recognizing that the German scientific community wanted to replace excessive cost increases with a comprehensible pricing system. This view was supported by politicians as well as researchers. Currently, TIB has nine Transformative Agreements, along with OA framework contracts, diamond OA, and memberships. TIB has responsibilities toward both large and small institutions, some of whom publish only occasionally while others have a high number of publications. Ensuring long-term archiving is a goal, but Sens noted it is more complicated than it sounds.

When considering the ramifications of Projekt DEAL, Sens spelled out a number of questions and insights. What does it mean to fairly balance the various interests? Is it the number of publications that should be the determining indicator or the budget? How long should imbalances be perpetuated? What is reading worth? Should the only goal be to bring down costs? She recommended checking publication figures and forecasting publication increases as basic to answering these questions.

For comparative purposes, she considered what other countries do. In the U.K., JISC is comparable but institutions only provide reading opportunities based on previously subscribed materials. The California Digital Library has different funding due to author participation. The Netherlands has somewhat different terms and includes other products. What researchers really want is OA made easy, free choice of publication location, and an “all you can read” option. It’s not clear that all of this can actually happen.

The Recommendation of the German Science and Humanities Council (WR) – Research Institutes/Management includes ensuring access to appropriate publishing opportunities for all members, reorganizing publication funding by pooling funds in central budgets, supporting the development of transparent information budgets in libraries, and include publication costs as part of research budgets. In reality, Sens said, often libraries have no idea that researchers have funding for publication as part of research grants. That data is not shared with the library. She added, “When it comes to money, friendship ends”.

TIB sees several lessons learned. Librarians need to get their university presidents on board and make sure that publication costs are part of research costs. OA agreements are not “one size fits all” because institutions differ. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with publishers are necessary. We need more value not more volume.

What about the future? What comes after transformative agreements? What does Open Science really mean? We could be looking at author-based publishing, which entails a move from journals to article primacy. As the growth rate in articles continues, we need next generation metrics and new business models. To be sustainable, consider unbundling and a new eco system, perhaps a tendering of publication analogous to television rights for sporting events. In an OA world, the competition for the best authors and peer reviewers will intensify. Regardless of what happens with the new art of the deal, Sens was adamant about claiming that there is no going back to before transformative agreements and OA publishing became the norm.