The nationwide Projekt DEAL approach

Driven by pressing needs of science in our digital society, the global academic community is wielding the leverage of their intellectual and financial contributions to scholarly journals to transform the publishing market. The Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany has taken up a leading role in this global transformation, instituting Projekt DEAL to negotiate all new terms with the scholarly journal publishers most frequented by researchers. With its nationwide approach, the DEAL agreements reduce and restructure overall costs while enabling all scholars across Germany to publish 100% of their research openly and access complete portfolios of high-quality scholarly journals.

Projekt DEAL is changing the system

Projekt DEAL has joined the many research communities around the world who have entered negotiations with commercial publishers to rein in the cost of scholarly journal publishing and enable open publication of research.

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. The Projekt DEAL negotiations aim to create a cost-neutral setting on a national scale in which the logic, operations, and money flows of institutional subscriptions are restructured to support open publication of German research.

This approach, endorsed by the members of the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany and the many partners in the global Open Access 2020 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 giant and incisive step forward on the road to making open the default in scholarly communication and, thus, enabling further evolution in research practices.

Negotiation objectives

The Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany established Projekt DEAL to negotiate nationwide transformative agreements with the academic publishers most frequented by authors and readers. Negotiating on a national level with the largest academic publishers creates the greatest potential for positive impact throughout the entire research system in Germany. At the same time, the DEAL negotiations provide a model that can be replicated and amplified by other institutions and negotiating consortia under the umbrella of the Alliance with additional publishers.


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)

The strategic objectives of the Projekt DEAL negotiations are to:

  • 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,

  • 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,

  • Institute a fair, reasonable, and future-oriented cost model to restructure the inequitable financial streams of the subscription system around open dissemination of research.

Results delivered to all stakeholders

Through the DEAL agreements with scholarly publishers

  • All authors are entitled to publish their research articles immediately open access—without having to pay open access publishing fees—in hundreds of high quality journals that would, otherwise, withhold the articles behind subscription paywalls. DEAL has also negotiated nationwide discounts on open access publishing fees of fully open access journals, as an additional step to level the playing field among open publishing venues available to authors. 
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  • Researchers and students from German institutions, large and small, gain access to complete portfolios of high quality scholarly journals in perpetuity. Even the smallest research institutions with no previous subscription to the journals covered in the DEAL agreements can extend these benefits to their readers for a small, nominal library fee. 
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  • Librarians are provided with a viable and sustainable framework to re-engineer their workflows and budget streams to respond to the expectations of researchers and learners in the digital age. The nationwide DEAL agreements encompass more than 900 German institutions, but each institution must formally register for each agreement, in order to receive access to the full online journal portfolio and account for the open access publishing of their authors. 
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  • Administrators rein in and rationalize investments while elevating the research profile and capacity of their institutions. The costs associated with scholarly journal publishing are transparently and equitably oriented around the services provided to authors. All DEAL operations, institutional participation and billing/payments are organized by MPDL Services gGmbH, the contractual partner for the Projekt DEAL agreements, supervised by the General Secretaries of the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany. 

Here's how DEAL reduces and restructures the financial streams in scholarly publishing >>