Money rains down on scientific papers

Funding of scientific articles and books

Information about payouts of "Verwertungsgesellschaft Wort" (VG Wort)
Money rains down on scientific papers
Illustration: Graduierten-Akademie, Bild: Adobestock.com/Who is danny

All authors of a scientific publication can receive money from the German association Verwertungsgesellschaft Wort (VG Wort). VG Wort is a non-profit organisation that exercises the rights of authors if their works are available in public libraries in Germany – in print or digitally.

Once a year, the generated income is distributed to the authors. However, authors must have registered with VG Wort in advance by signing a representation contract („Wahrnehmungsvertrag“). Afterwards, they can report their published texts to VG Wort and receive money for them.

In the field of academia, all books and texts can be reported that are available in German libraries and have more than 1800 characters. This includes scientific papers in German as well as in international journals, no matter in which language they are written. The nationality of the author is irrelevant for the distribution of money.

The representation contract

Before you can receive money from VG Wort for your publications, you must first conclude a representation contract („Wahrnehmungsvertrag“). Therefore, you have to register in the VG Wort portal T.O.M. Unfortunately, the association’s website is available in German only. There you will find the representation contract which has to be sent by post to VG WORT until 31 December. The conclusion of this contract is free of charge.

Once the contract with VG Wort has been concluded, you can easily report your published papers and books within the following year via the online portal.

Different forms of publications

Printed publications (e.g. books, articles in printed journals) Expand entry

It is possible to report printed scientific works, including complete scientific books as well as stand-alone articles in books and journals. The printed work must have a length of at least two standard pages of 1500 characters each. For articles published only digitally, there is the METIS system (see below).

A prerequisite for remuneration is that the reported publications are available in scientific and specialist libraries to an appropriate extent: Only works will be considered that are listed in the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog (KVK) in at least two regional library systems with at least 5 locations. If this does not apply to your publication, you can receive a 50 percent allowance if you can prove that your publication is distributed to a reasonable extent in Germany (at at least 3 locations or with at least 100 copies of works sold if the minimum sales price is € 10).

For books, the amount of remuneration depends on the volume of the book. If several authors are involved in a book or article, each co-author can report the publication as a co-author. A printed work - in contrast to an article available online - can only be reported once. The deadline for reporting a work is always 31 January of the following year. However, works from the two previous years can also be reported.

Online publications (e.g. journal articles) Expand entry

For scientific works available online there is the so called METIS system. This system can be used to receive remuneration for articles that have a length of at least 1800 characters. There are two different forms of payment in this system: regular and special payment.

In order to be able to participate in the regular payment system, it is necessary to measure how often an online text is accessed. To do so, a digital marker is built into the website, known as a counter mark. Many publishers use such counting marks on their pages. At present, an article must be accessed at least 1500 times per year. Articles should be reported by 1 July of the following year. However, texts from the last three years can also be reported retrospectively.

All authors who have published an article online can participate in the special payment system. It is not relevant when the article was published online or whether it has already been submitted in a previous payment year. The deadline for submitting a text is always 31 January of the following year. No texts can be reported retrospectively for previous years.

The amount of payouts

In 2021, almost 47 million euros were distributed in the area of academia (see annual report). Of all the reports in this area, two-thirds were journal articles, one-fourth were contributions in books, and 8 percent were books. 2000 euros were paid per book. For journal contributions, 5 euros were paid for each page with 1,500 characters. In total, about 50,000 authors participated in these distributions.

The money that VG Wort pays out comes from various sources: Each time a device capable of copying (e.g., printer or laptop) is purchased, a share of the purchase price is paid to VG Wort. Libraries also pay a fee to VG Wort per copy or download.