Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
MONDAY 29 APRIL 2002
60. That would be the same charge as that going
to a university?
(Mrs Brindley) yes, for a document, if we are talking
about remote document supply. But do not forget that access to
the Reading Rooms is free for anybody who needs to use that service;
if you want a document delivered to you then, yes, there is a
61. You have said that the level of charging
is established by the Treasury. Is this something over which you
have no discretion?
(Mrs Brindley) It is the guidelines and the rules.
62. The guideline is there should be no difference?
(Mrs Brindley) Yes.
63. That is established by the Treasury?
(Mrs Brindley) Yes.
64. Do you think you ought to have discretion
over that? The argument being if someone is beavering away on
something which is going to result in a new drug on the market
which will generate millions of profit, is there not a case for
saying that the access to the documents which contributed to the
generation of those profits should be subject to a higher level
of recharge than someone who is researching 14th century history
in Southern Spain?
(Mrs Brindley) I think you could always make the case.
I think though the arguments would be made back to us that they
pay taxes and we are supported through the public purse in the
same way. I think there would be some argument made against that,
andI think too, against making judgments by discipline,
it is very clear, for example, that we have in David Starkey a
major user of our services who is clearly making several millions.
65. He can afford to pay.
(Mrs Brindley) I think the cultural industry is catching
up with some of our more traditional commercial users.
66. Knowing David he is probably going to give
you a couple of million in a minute.
(Mrs Brindley) We would be delighted if he would.
67. Can I ask, I want to broaden the discussion
in a minute but I notice from the information that you have given
to us that the Research Support Libraries Programme is for a limited
period, it is going to come to an end. Why is that, because the
mission is accomplished or what?
(Sir Brian Follett) No, I think they are waiting for
my report, Sir, to come forward. The great bulk of that money
is being distributed in a complicated formula to ensure that all
bona fide researchers in universities have free access
to all other university research libraries. So the money goes
differentially to institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge or
the London School of Economics or Manchester where there are a
very large number of physical visitors coming to do research in
those libraries. Certainly it is likely that something along those
lines should be continued; it widens access. It is quite interesting
actually that in all our discussions with researchers we have
not run into a major issue over them travelling to other libraries.
One might have expected that the younger ones would have complained
about the cost or whatever it was, but clearly people move around
this country very easily these days and think nothing of travelling
100 miles to another university. Of course some types of research,
particularly in the humanities, they like to do it in that way
because in many ways they are practising their research actually
in the library as distinct from another model for research which
might be in a laboratory.
68. Sir Brian, you are a very unusual breed
in front of this Committee, you seem very content about the present
situation. If you track this back from 1993, the original report,
1993, the Anders Report, and the report that is about to come
out, I get the feeling from you that everything is on track, we
are doing all right. Is there any area where you think there is
a real challenge and perhaps we are being a little bit complacent?
(Sir Brian Follett) We have to be extremely careful.
We have one per cent of the world's turnover doing 4 per cent
of the research and we have had about 10 per cent of the citations
so in many ways we have done well. I am not complacent, I am not
(Sir Brian Follett) I think on the whole the British
research enterprise over the last 10 years, particularly in the
universities, has been one of our unsung success stories. I think
the Government has understood that and is starting to invest,
and people like David Sainsbury, appreciate public sector R&D.
I think in that sense I feel we have resolved it. There are a
number of ways in which it has happened in the last 15 years,
including some which by themselves are contentiousassessment
exercises, all sorts of thingsbut put together and ask
the question "Has any other country managed to do any better
or come up with a better method" then I do not know of one
as a matter of fact, that is not to say I am not critical of aspects
of work done. One of our risks I think must be that people outside
the really intense research centres will find themselves slightly
at risk. Already we have got a situation, as we well know in Britain,
with the vast bulk of the research money going to a matter of
about a fifth of the total number of universities. Since I am
no longer a vice-chancellor I am freer to say that there is a
really great concentration of resource and I think that has been
very good because the risk is that if we do not concentrate the
resource in research we shall end up in a situation of not having
a critical mass. If you do not have a critical mass in research,
and I am doing for the rest of my working week a Government inquiry
on foot and mouth disease, and it is very clear there that one
of the great problems worldwide is that these sorts of areas of
research have only a handful of people working on them worldwide,
so the critical mass thing is important. On the other hand, I
am very keen on access so I would want whatever structure we develop,
whether it is the research facilities or whether it is the libraries
which we are talking about, to have a maximum access displayed.
(Lord Eatwell) I must say, Chairman, if I could come
in. You asked if everybody was saying that things were pretty
good, I am actually very nervous. I am very nervous because we
are number one and that position has to be sustained. It seems
to me it has to be sustained for two reasons. First, it is a great
achievement for this country to have the best research library
in the world but more important than that sort of national glory
is the fact that this library stands at the centre of our higher
education system and our national research system. Funding that
resource is a challenge; it is a challenge to the country as a
whole, to the taxpayer, as to whether they feel that is an appropriate
thing to fund. It is a challenge to us at the Library to manage
our resources efficiently and to ensure that we really get value
for money in a period of very rapid change, during this process
of: development of digital collections as well as the growth of
paper collections that we referred to earlier. I am quite nervous
as to whether we will be able to sustain that postion, I think
we will, but it is quite a challenge for us.
70. Lord Eatwell, can I come back to you in
a second on that but I must get Sir Brian on a supplementary and
then I can call in Jonathan on this because I think Jonathan is
on the same track as me so I will get in before him. When you
say you are quite happy that research money is concentrated on
a fifth of British universities, the worry this Committee often
has is if this is sort of in concrete that the 20 per cent get
it, we have felt when we have taken evidence in various inquiries
that makes the opportunity for universities, dare I say, like
Warwick, that one would not have thought were in the forefront
of research a number of years ago, steaming up the research ladder,
the league table, as it did under your vice chancellorship. Is
there a real danger that would happen and the Warwick experience,
the Warwick changes might not happen if we have too much concentration
in just 20 per cent of UK universities?
(Sir Brian Follett) Yes, there is a risk, it could
happen and certainly I would agree with you that watching the
way that we often thought at Warwick, if it gets solidified we
would never have been able to do what was achieved at York or
Warwick or Nottingham or other institutions. So I think it has
to be maintained in a flexible way. Also I would concur with your
general thesis that it is possible to construct a funding system
which makes that impossible to happen. I do not think it is so
yet but we have always, since we began this whole business of
trying to build the research base in Britain in the middle 1980s,
had to have this competition, on the one hand the requirement
to sustain the research at a level which was comparable with that
in the United States, and that is exceedingly difficult, when
you think that the NIH budget has doubled and is currently 14
billion dollars and our total is about 1,500 million dollars,
that is just the NIH, but at the same time to allow as much flexibility
as possible. It is a challenge which has occurred throughout the
1980s and 1990s. I think it can be done but it is always a dynamic
71. Does Howard sing from the same hymn sheet?
I know another committee parallel with this is looking at RAE.
(Sir Howard Newby) Yes a committee which unfortunately
was not able to receive evidence from me because I was before
the Public Accounts Committee on the same day.
72. Now is your chance to have your own back.
(Sir Howard Newby) First of all, the degree of concentration
is the outcome of many separate decisions made by many peer review
panels, it is not an input into those decisions. In a sense what
we see is the chips falling where they may. What has occurred,
of course, on this occasion is that, as you know, the resources
were not available to fully fund the outcome on the basis of the
previous funding formula and that has meant that we have not been
able to recognise in cash terms the very considerable improvement
that has been made across the vast majority of the universities,
I have to say, not just the 25 or so that Brian referred to, but
that is for another day, and we are in the middle of a spending
review and we hope we can win the fight to get some of those resources
back, we shall see. Certainly I think it is a very good investment.
In the mean timeand I think if we are realistic this will
be the case whatever additional resources we get through the spending
reviewwe have to develop more robust forms of collaboration
between institutions so that no talented researcher should be
in a position where he or she cannot get access to the kinds of
resources that he or she needs to conduct research, and then we
are right back into the debate we have been having.
73. I think you have nicely described, all of
you, how the network meshes together and we need this vital resource
of the British Library as a part of that support that mixed research
of high quality offers. Howard, did I cut you off?
(Sir Howard Newby) No.
Chairman: Jonathan, do you want a quick one?
Mr Shaw: No, surprisingly you have asked the
questions I wanted to ask.
74. Chair, just following on the lines of the
question you have just been pursuing. One of the key components
for future funding has to be income generation. What percentage
of existing income is generated from overseas and what are the
future opportunities for trying to increase both income generation
in this country and more especially from abroad?
(Mrs Brindley) You are asking for the British Library?
75. Yes, the British Library. It is going back
to the discussion we had earlier about the document supply division
at Boston Spa.
(Mrs Brindley) Yes. I do not have the exact figure.
The Library's total trading income is about £25 million.
76. That is what you quoted earlier.
(Mrs Brindley) About a third, or just over a third
because of the differential charges, of the total generated from
overseas. I can confirm those figures for you. In terms of opportunity,
I think we have always seen, and I am sure this is right, that
our core markets have to be UK, undoubtedly. I think for some
of the services to businesses, we are seeing multinationals, if
you like, trying to take greater advantage of our services, GlaxoSmithKline
being a very good example so I think there are opportunities there.
I think increasingly though other countries are setting up their
own arrangements that parallel ours. France does this in terms
of its scientific documentation and as you would expect in France
it is a hugely subsidised operation. I think we are seeing increasingly
competitive market place out there for that kind of service.
77. It will be more difficult in the future?
(Mrs Brindley) I think it will not be easier. I think
in some new service areas we can develop.
78. Moving on to the Government's widening participation
agenda in higher education. If the Government is successful in
achieving the 50 per cent target rate by 2010 how will that impact
on the resources which are supplied by the British Library and
in future how will it impact?
(Mrs Brindley) My interpretation of the aspiration
to get to 50 per cent is that higher education libraries and institutions
are going to be increasingly inevitably using more of their resources
on supporting teaching and learning simply to create enough or
buy enough material for the mass requirements of teaching. My
interpretation of this will be that there will be increasing reliance
at the research level on our national collections. Actually it
puts then even more onus on us to try to preserve the value of
what we are collecting for the national good.
79. That has not been quantified in specific
(Mrs Brindley) I have not tried to quantify that yet.
(Sir Howard Newby) Let me help a little if I can.
I fully endorse that. I think there is just the danger, which
I hope we have foreseen by setting up Brian's group, that while
we are being quite single mindedly focused on achieving that target
at the funding council through the institutions, we could simply
inadvertently not take account of the knock on effects on research
resources in our libraries. To hit the 2010 target will mean a
35 per cent expansion in student numbers in England by 2010. It
will mean, also, an additional 15 to 17,000 academic staff. Many
of those will be users certainly of research resources in the
British Library. We have to ensure also that because of the geographical
distribution of those 350,000 or so, the extra 35 per cent of
students, we will be needing to develop higher education in parts
of the country where local provision is not always there, or at
least it may be under-provided. There is a kind of geographical
dimension to all this as well, putting in proper teaching and
learning and therefore library facilities into institutions in
those parts of the country where they scarcely exist. Fortunately
we have extended, as I said earlier, the JISC to now include the
further education sector and through them, because of their interest
in sixth forms into some schools. So it is beginning to happen
but this just illustrates why we need to manage very carefully
this expansion over the next seven years both in terms of the
geography of provision but also in terms of how it is going to
be supplied in terms of full-time students, part-time students,
the mix of honours students and other kinds of higher education
qualifications, how much of it is going to be online, how much
of it is going to include information on means, how much in the
work place, how much through HEIs.