On Tuesday Nature announced its first open-access (OA) agreement, allowing institutions across Germany to publish an estimated 400 OA papers annually in 34 Nature-owned journals. That works out to about 3.5 per cent of the total number of papers Nature publishes each year.

The four-year deal will take effect in January 2021 and was brokered in partnership with Germany’s Max Planck Digital Library (MPDL) in Munich. The arrangement is being offered to 120 German institutions that currently subscribe to Nature properties. According to Nature and Ralf Schimmer, head of information at the MPDL, the first centre to sign up is the Max Planck Society, one of the country’s leading non-university research institutions.

Currently, research published in Nature and its sister journals sit behind a paywall, with the occasional OA article offered here and there. Institutions that sign up for the new arrangement will pay a lump sum of €9,500 (US$11,200), which will cover the costs of open-access publishing across Nature’s 34 journals and provide access to papers in 21 Nature Reviews titles, making the research free for everyone to read.

Most U.S. journals ask for around US$6,000 or lower for OA publication, and the high cost of the new agreement has already generated discussion online, although Nature argues it is justified.

Per Nature:

Schimmer calls the offer “very attractive”. But he acknowledges that the per-article price is unprecedented. He thinks it’s “not a problem” because universities generally don’t publish many articles in these titles, compared with the amount they publish in less-selective journals, which get more of their OA publishing budget. At the same time, “we will see a lot of negative commentary about this price point”, he says.


In a  statement, parent publisher Springer Nature says its cost-per-published article was steeper than less-selective journals because of Nature’s high rejection rate.

Only about 8 per cent of submissions to Nature properties are published, Springer says, and 60 per cent of editors’ time is spent on evaluating papers that aren’t ultimately run.

In an email to Nature, Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer, librarians and scholarly communication researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, call the fee “exobitant” and say the steep price tag does “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.” 

Similar sentiments were echoed online, with some suggesting the high fees would exclude the work of researchers from low and middle-income countries, and others calling the fee a “pay for prestige” arrangement.

Read more about the Nature agreement here.

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