No Deal: Investigating the Influence of Restricted Access to Elsevier Journals on German Researchers' Publishing and Citing Behaviours

05/25/2021 ∙ by Nicholas Fraser, et al. ∙ 0

In 2014, a union of German research organisations established Projekt DEAL, a national-level project to negotiate licensing agreements with large scientific publishers. Negotiations between DEAL and Elsevier began in 2016, and broke down without a successful agreement in 2018; in this time, around 200 German research institutions cancelled their license agreements with Elsevier, leading Elsevier to restrict journal access at those institutions from July 2018 onwards. We investigated the effect of these access restrictions on researchers' publishing and citing behaviours from a bibliometric perspective, using a dataset of  410,000 articles published by researchers at the affected DEAL institutions between 2012-2020. We further investigated these effects with respect to the timing of contract cancellations with Elsevier, research disciplines, collaboration patterns, and article open-access status. We find evidence for a decrease in Elsevier's market share of articles from DEAL institutions, from a peak of 25.3 year-on-year market share decreases occurring in 2019 (-1.1 following the implementation of access restrictions. We also observe year-on-year decreases in the proportion of citations made from articles published by authors at DEAL institutions to articles in Elsevier journals post-2018, although the decrease is smaller (-0.4 than changes in publishing volume. We conclude that Elsevier access restrictions have led to some reduced willingness of researchers at DEAL institutions to publish their research in Elsevier journals, but that researchers are not strongly affected in their ability to cite Elsevier articles, with the implication that researchers use a variety of other methods (e.g. interlibrary loans, sharing between colleagues, or "shadow libraries") to access scientific literature.

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