FinELib’s Elsevier agreement and transparency – questions and answers


The FinELib-Elsevier agreement has generated a lively discussion in Twitter about open access, licensing negotiations and most of all transparency. Many voices have demanded publication of this agreement, and understandably so.  The FinELib office thanks everybody for the active commenting. We would like to tell about our efforts to increase transparency now and in the future as well as the limitations we encounter.

What we have published so far:

  • Total prices for agreement terms 1.1.2017-31.12.2017 and 1.1.2018- 31.12.2020
    • total price on the consortium level and total prices per consortium member
    • Why publish total prices instead of annual prices? The Act on the Openness of Government Activities regulates what is public information.In section 24 it is stated that “Unless specifically provided otherwise, the following official documents shall be secret: documents containing information on a private business or professional secret, as well as documents containing other comparable private business information, if access would cause economic loss to the private business, provided that the information is not relevant to the safeguarding of the health of consumers or the conservation of the environment or for the promotion of the interests of those suffering from the pursuit of the business, and that it is not relevant to the duties of the business and the performance of those duties;”

      Under Finnish law it is not clear cut what is a business secret or comparable private business information and what isn’t. However the Helsinki administrative court has specifically ruled that the total price of a licensing agreement cannot be a publisher’s business secret (decision 15/0593/ given August 7th2015).  This cannot be overridden by a non-disclosure agreement.

  • Elsevier agreement text for the current agreement term
  • Permitted and prohibited uses of the licensed content
  • Open Access discount, conditions and process

How we aim to increase transparency of FinELib agreements in the future:

  • We are working towards a system where we can routinely publish licensing agreements. We aim to increase transparency, taking into account that licensing agreements may contain publishers’ business secrets and/or confidential information even if there is no formal non-disclosure agreement.
  • FinELib consortium continues to take part in the Ministry of Education and Culture’s annual data gathering of publisher costs.

FinELib consortium appreciates the requests for transparency. FinELib, together with the other Nordic consortia, support LIBER’s principles and aim to meet them in publisher negotiations. Achieving open access and the highest possible level of transparency requires work from the whole research community including consortium members and individual researchers.