Springer Nature, the parent company of the Nature suite of journals, will allow researchers affiliated with around 120 German institutions to publish an estimated 400 open-access papers in these titles annually starting in 2021.
The deal, announced yesterday (October 20), will be offered to institutions that currently subscribe to Nature journals. The first to sign up is the Max Planck Society, an association of 86 research institutes. The deal will be “an enormous opportunity for scientists in Germany,” as well as an opportunity for researchers elsewhere to build on their scientific findings, Klaus Blaum, vice president of the Max Planck Society’s Scientific Council for Chemistry, Physics and Technology, says in a statement.
Springer Nature signed a similar agreement—to date, the world’s largest transformative agreement, in which publishers and research institutions agree to a contract that contains elements geared towards increasing open access—with a consortium of more than 700 research institutions and libraries in 2019, though that contract excluded Nature and other Nature-branded titles.
Institutions that sign up will pay a flat fee that covers the reading and open-access (OA) publishing of articles in the 34 journals, as well as access to articles in 21 Nature Reviews titles. According to the terms of the four-year deal, the fee is calculated on Springer Nature’s estimate that the cost of each open-access paper is about €9,500 ($11,200 US) per article.
Springer Nature says in a statement that its cost per published article is higher than less-selective journals because 60 percent of editors’ time is spent on assessing articles that they don’t publish, with a rejection rate of 92 percent of submissions to Nature and Nature-branded journals.
Some open-access proponents criticized the deal. “Agreements that arrange for paying exorbitant amounts for publishing OA in prestigious journals do nothing to improve the accessibility and equitability of the scholarly publishing system, and merely show everything can be had if you just throw enough money at it,” Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer, two librarians and scholarly communication researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, tell Nature in an email.
Only studies with corresponding authors from eligible institutions will be open access. Springer Nature estimates that about 3.5 percent of articles in its journals will be affected, according to Nature.
Over the last few years, universities and research institutions around the world have been pushing publishers for agreements that advance open access to journals. Earlier this year, the University of California and Springer Nature announced that they had forged the largest open-access deal in North America to date.