Background and objectives

In 2014, the Alliance of German Science Organisations commissioned the German Rectors' Conference to initiate a project to negotiate nationwide licences with the largest academic publishers. The resulting Projekt DEAL, now the DEAL Consortium, is concerned with the negotiation, conclusion and practical implementation of transformative nationwide Open Access agreements with the three largest academic publishers. The aim is to enable researchers in Germany to publish openly, thereby increasing the visibility and reach of their research and improving access to research literature that is not yet openly accessible across all German institutions. At the same time, it aims to contain the costs of scientific publishing and establish a sustainable, publication-based funding model.

Read more about the background and objectives of DEAL.


The subscription business model underlying scholarly journal publishing impedes the dissemination of research results

Scientists and scholars in Germany publish more than 100,000 research articles each year in scholarly journals. The publication of their research, methods and results is an essential part of the scientific process, as only results that can be read, discussed, challenged, and, where  appropriate, tested and reproduced by others qualify as scientific. German researchers in all disciplines, but especially in the natural sciences, rely on scholarly journals to provide editorial curation, the organization of peer review and validation, publication, preservation and dissemination of their findings.

Although today's digital environment provides the technical means for the rapid and almost limitless dissemination of knowledge, the scientific community and society as a whole are deprived of a of a substantial part of the research results, which severely hampers the scientific enterprise. The reason for this is the prevailing subscription business for scientific journals, in which authors are required to surrender the exclusive rights to their articles to publishers, who in turn sell access via subscriptions. As a result, German researchers can only read and reuse new research published in scientific journals if their institution subscribes to them.

Rising costs of scientific publishing

The majority of research results published each year in Germany and around the world is not directly accessible to most people because of subscription paywalls. Universities and research institutions have been spending more and more money each year on journals as the scientific publishing market's oligopolistic structure prevents competition and price transparency.

Cashing in on the scientific community’s demand for openness, many publishers offer researchers the opportunity to publish their articles openly in, otherwise, subscription journals for an additional fee, a practice called “hybrid” publishing.  In this way, publishers have created a second revenue stream, unmonitored and unchecked, around the same corpus of subscription journals. Data analysis has revealed that in the period prior to the DEAL agreements, expenditure on hybrid open access in Germany showed strong annual growth rates.

As many institutions are no longer able to afford an adequate supply of key literature, informal channels of exchange and piracy platforms are emerging, gradually undermining the authority of the scholarly publishing system.

DEAL negotiates open access and creates new financing mechanisms

DEAL establishes new principles for the relationship between the German scholarly community and academic publishers. Based on the understanding that the money paid, globally, in subscription fees is more than enough to cover the costs of open publication of today’s scholarly journals, the negotiations aim to transform the business model underlying scholarly journal publishing, moving from one based on subscription paywalls to one based on open access publishing services. In this way, the scholarly publishing services and journals wanted by authors are preserved, but the financial streams are restructured to enable open access to research findings and a more transparent and competitive scholarly publishing market.

This shift is carried out through the negotiation of ‘transformative agreements’ under which former subscription payments are repurposed to cover open publication of an institution’s or a country’s research articles.

DEAL negotiation objectives

The strategic objectives of the Projekt DEAL negotiations are to:

  1. Give all scholars in Germany the opportunity to publish the results of their research openly, securing the right to freely share, use and re-use their peer-reviewed articles so that researchers everywhere can learn from and build on their findings,
  2. Grant all learners in Germany equal and permanent access to complete portfolios of high quality scholarly journal content to expand the collective knowledge capacity; and, to achieve these goals,
  3. Institute a fair, reasonable, and future-oriented cost model to restructure the inequitable financial streams of the subscription system around open dissemination of research.

This approach initiated by the members of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany and the many partners in the global OA2020 initiative, massively increases the proportion of articles published openly, without paying twice for the same content, contributing to a swift and efficient transition of subscription journal portfolios to open access. As such, this transitional strategy takes a step forward on the road to making open the default in scholarly communication and, thus, enabling further evolution in research practices.



Distribution of scientific articles from German institutions across publishers (corresponding author publications between 2015-18). Just under half of the annual German research output is published in the journals of the publishers addressed in the DEAL negotiations, Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley.  At the same time, research libraries generally spend far more than half of their budget on institutional subscriptions to access the journals of these publishers. Source: oa2020cadata (Github)

„Publish and Read“

The DEAL agreements eliminate the extra cost to researchers for open access publishing in subscription journals (hybrid open access) and, at the same time, provide researchers at participating institutions full access rights to those portions of the publishers' journal portfolios that are not yet openly accessible.

Accordingly, the cost structure adopted in the DEAL agreements is based on a Publish and Read Fee (PAR Fee) which rolls up the costs for both open access publishing services and comprehensive reading access into one fixed, all-inclusive fee paid for each article published by a German (corresponding) author.

The PAR fee is a significant innovation with respect to the up-front, lump-sum subscription fees previously paid by readers or libraries, which were generally subject to non-disclosure and, therefore, difficult to compare; in contrast, the PAR model establishes a direct link between the services provided by publishers and the money paid by institutions: one publication, one fee. As such, it provides a viable bridge for institutions in the DEAL consortium to re-orient their previous subscription investments while enabling Open Access.

Institutions rebalancing their budgets

If an institution's previous subscription fees are disproportionate to their expected fees  based on publishing, converting library budgets to the Publish and Read model can be challenging. Many institutions can expect to make significant savings as the market shifts from one based on reading to one based on publishing; at the same time, research-intensive institutions with a high publishing output may stand to see their costs increase with respect to their former subscription payments.

In order to address these shifts in expenditure, and to ensure that all researchers in Germany are able to make their research openly accessible, regardless of their institutional profile, the Council of Science and Humanities recommends that institutions set up central information budgets in an effort to be able to consider publication costs holistically and to integrate them permanently into their financial planning as part of their overall research expenditure.

First achievements of the DEAL agreements

The first DEAL agreements, negotiated with Wiley and Springer Nature, have so far brought thousands of research articles from German scientific institutions into Open Access each year, with the well-known benefits of increased visibility and impact, and their uptake by the scientific community has shown that OA is their preferred publication model. The consortium comprises more than 500 institutions which, through the agreements, are simultaneously realising a comprehensive information service on their campuses, which is reflected in an increased use of Springer Nature and Wiley journal content.