Select Committee on Science and Technology Tenth Report

6 Self-archiving: Institutional repositories

What is a repository

108. Self-archiving serves two main purposes: it allows authors to disseminate their research articles for free over the internet, and it helps to ensure the preservation of those articles in a rapidly evolving electronic environment. It is one of the two pillars of the Open Access movement, as they were outlined in a memorandum from Professor Stevan Harnad of Southampton University:

For self-archiving to be fully effective at disseminating and preserving research articles, they need to be accessible from a single search point. This role can be fulfilled by institutional repositories — online archives set up and managed by research institutions to house articles published by authors at those institutions. Academics would deposit a copy of each of their research articles in the repository, usually after, but sometimes prior to, publication. The articles would become freely available on the internet. Articles that had been peer reviewed and accepted for publication would be distinguished by the quality hallmark of the journal in which they were published.

The current situation

109. JISC and the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) jointly fund the Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access (SHERPA) project, a development project that is investigating the future of research communication and publication. SHERPA is initiating the development of openly accessible institutional repositories. A recent informal survey of the members of SCONUL showed that 17 of the 51 respondents had already established institutional repositories, with a further 13 expecting to do so in the forseeable future, making an estimated total institutional participation rate of 59%.[206] In answers to supplementary questions, JISC told us that 20 institutions were currently participating in the SHERPA project. The collective experience of these institutions would be made available to all higher and further education institutions through "presentations and reports and materials such as copyright advice to be made available on the project web-site".[207] JISC also funds the Focus on Access to Institutional Resources (FAIR) programme, which has been developed to create the mechanisms and supporting services to allow the archiving process to prosper and to facilitate the building of online "places" for the deposit of material.[208] In the US, the Digital Library Research Group at Cornell University and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) have conducted research into the design and development of infrastructures for digital repositories. The purpose of the research was to achieve the interoperability and extensibility of digital library systems.

110. When we began this inquiry, 83% of publishers allowed authors to self-archive after publication. The number of publishers willing to accept articles after they had already been archived was substantially lower. Nature was praised in written evidence for allowing authors to post articles published in the journal on institutional repositories in the PDF format used by publishers.[209] This journal was perceived to be an exception. The situation has, however, changed substantially during the course of our inquiry. On 3 June 2004 Reed Elsevier announced that authors published in their journals would now be allowed to post the final text of their articles on a personal or institutional website without seeking specific prior permission from the publisher. This change in policy has a number of conditions attached to it: authors must provide a link to the publisher's website; they must not use their posting for commercial purposes; they must not put their articles in central academic databases; and, "to preserve the integrity of the official record of publication, the final published version as it appears in the journal (PDF and HTML) will continue to be available only on an Elsevier site".[210]

111. Elsevier's shift in policy has been welcomed by many, notably by Professor Stevan Harnad, one of the most vocal advocates of the principles of Open Access.[211] Nonetheless, author-pays publishers have denounced the action taken by Elsevier as a "cynical piece of public relations": the Committee itself found that the timing of the announcement, approximately one month before the publication of this Report, was unlikely to be coincidental.[212] Several serious limitations to Elsevier's new policy on self-archiving have also been identified. The policy allows the publication of a text-only version of the research article. However, research articles now contain many features as well as text, including diagrams, photographs, video clips, links to research data and to cited works. Many readers will still need to access the publisher's version of the article, in PDF or HTML, that is posted on the publisher's own site, in order to take advantage of these enhanced features and tools. For this they, or their library, will still have to pay. In addition, Elsevier's ban on authors posting articles on "central databases" reduces the potential visibility of the self-archived article. As Deborah Cockerill of BioMed Central stated, "this kind of archiving is in many ways useless to the majority of scientists, mainly because no one will know that the copies exist at all or where to find them".[213] The extent of the limitations to the new policy is confirmed by Elsevier's own conviction that the change will not have an impact on the company's revenues.[214]

112. Elsevier is no sudden convert to Open Access. The company has seen the direction of trends in publishing and has acted accordingly to minimise criticism of its current policies. We are in little doubt that Elsevier timed the announcement of its new policy on self-archiving to pre-empt the publication of this Report. It is good news that our inquiry has prompted such a high profile endorsement of increased access to research papers. Nonetheless, there are a number of serious constraints to self-archiving in the model proposed by Elsevier.

Next steps

113. Institutional repositories have the potential greatly to increase the speed, reach and effectiveness of the dissemination of research findings: the Wellcome Trust notes in a Report that "the existence of a central archive could transform the market. Access to all UK publications would be possible and would act as a brake on excessive pricing".[215] They would benefit authors, readers and institutions: authors would see their articles made available to a wider audience; readers would be able to access articles free of charge over the internet; and institutions would benefit from having an online platform on which to display their funded research. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Europe told us that repositories would be "cumulative and perpetual, ensuring ongoing access to material within them".[216] The necessity for establishing and maintaining a secure archive for the preservation of digital material is discussed in chapter 8.

114. The publishing environment in the UK is not yet ready to deliver these benefits. Institutional repositories will only generate increased access to UK research findings if:

  • all publishers allow their authors to self-archive without constraint (see paragraph 111);
  • all UK research institutions establish and maintain repositories; and
  • all UK academics deposit copies of their articles in their institution's repository.

Reed Elsevier's June announcement shifts some of the burden of change from publishers to research institutions and the academics that work within them.

115. Repositories have the potential to yield benefits for the institutions that house them by making their research more visible and helping them to construct a "brand" identity. Yet, when SCONUL carried out its informal survey of member organisations, it found that approximately 40% of academic institutions neither had an institutional repository nor any plans to create one. The current participants in the SHERPA project tend, for the most part, to be research intensive institutions. Nonetheless, institutions with less of a research focus also stand to benefit from the enhanced profile that repositories would bring. We were thus surprised to discover that some institutions have adopted a "wait and see" approach to repositories. The University of Hertfordshire, for example, told us that it "does not currently have an institutional e-print repository. We are aware that repositories have been set up recently by a number of universities and we are monitoring this trend. If this arrangement becomes the practice amongst our peers, then we will also set one up".[217] It is not clear why the University of Hertfordshire needs to wait until there is a critical mass of repositories before itself proceeding. Institutional repositories will only yield maximum benefits to the research community if all institutions are prepared to participate. We are concerned that insufficient incentives are in place to allow this to happen. Institutions need an incentive to set up repositories. We recommend that the requirement for universities to disseminate their research as widely as possible be written into their charters. In addition, SHERPA should be funded by DfES to allow it to make grants available to all research institutions for the establishment and maintenance of repositories.

116. Even those institutions that have established a repository still face the challenge of persuading academic authors to self-archive. ALPSP told us that "although more than 50% of publishers permit authors to self-archive their own articles in either preprint or publishing form, an extremely small proportion of authors are actually doing so".[218] SHERPA posited an explanation: "the main challenge at the moment is not setting up the repositories per se but populating them. Academics do not currently have many major incentives to archive their material (or at least they are unaware of the benefits of repositories)".[219] We found this to be true. It was clear to us that the main focus of academics was on the initial publication of their articles in a recognised journal and that subsequent self-archiving was relatively low on their list of priorities. We found it worrying that academics did not take an interest in what happens to their research after it has been published.

117. The lack of awareness about, and enthusiasm for, repositories amongst academics can largely be ascribed to the nature of their motivations for publication. The panel of academics who gave oral evidence to us on 21 April 2004 unanimously agreed that the most important consideration for them was being published in the right place. Professor Williams and Professor Fry agreed that this meant publication in high impact journals. Professor Crabbe added that the emphasis placed on impact factors by academics was a direct consequence of the measures used in the RAE (see paragraphs 208—210). Professor Hitchin told us that the journal's speciality was the determining factor in his decision on where to publish.[220] For varying reasons, all four academics emphasised the importance of publishing in certain selected journals within their field. Institutional repositories cannot currently compete with the incentives that publication in such journals provides. Academics have no financial incentives to self-archive. Neither does self-archiving bring with it the promise of prestige and enhanced reputation offered by known quality journals. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Europe posited that "a requirement to deposit would accelerate work already being carried out in the UK to develop additional repositories".[221] We agree. Academic authors currently lack sufficient motivation to self-archive in institutional repositories. We recommend that the Research Councils and other Government funders mandate their funded researchers to deposit a copy of all their articles in their institution's repository within one month of publication or a reasonable period to be agreed following publication, as a condition of their research grant. An exception would need to be made for research findings that are deemed to be commercially sensitive. Self-archiving has copyright implications: see paragraphs 121—127.

118. Institutional repositories cannot alone capture all the articles generated by publicly-funded research in the UK. A number of provisions would need to be made to remedy this situation:

  • Many researchers are funded by organisations other than the Research Councils, and would not therefore be covered by their mandate. Some of these organisations have shown themselves to be in favour of widening access to scientific publications. The Wellcome Trust, for example, "encourages researchers to maximize the opportunities to make their results available for free" and has announced that it will "encourage and support the formation of […] free-access repositories for research papers".[222] We recommend that institutional repositories are able to accept charitably- and privately-funded research articles from authors within the institution, providing that the funder has given their consent for the author to self-archive in this way.
  • Many researchers, for example within the private sector, are not attached to higher education institutions and consequently may not have automatic access to an institutional repository. Whilst institutions would, in theory, be able to accept research articles produced elsewhere, in practice this seems unlikely, particularly if institutions viewed repositories as a showcase for their own work. In order to house articles in this category, a central repository would be required. The University of Hertfordshire recommends that "the British Library should have a major role in setting up and running national e-print repositories and open access archives [and] in the co-ordination of the development of any discipline based repositories".[223] Given its existing legal deposit function, to be explored in chapter 8, we agree that the British Library would be well placed to carry out this role. We understand that it has already begun to establish a repository.[224] We recommend that DCMS provide adequate funds for the British Library to establish and maintain a central online repository for all UK research articles that are not housed in other institutional repositories.
  • Many research findings are "negative" and consequently do not get published because they are not deemed to have made any progress. This issue is of particular concern in medical fields, where the non-publication of, for example, negative clinical trials could have an impact on public health. It is also important in other fields, however: the publication of negative research findings has the potential to save duplication of effort by other researchers. Unlike journals, institutional repositories would not be subject to the commercial imperative to publish only research that obviously advances scientific knowledge. This presents a new opportunity for the publication of negative results. Institutional repositories should accept for archiving articles based on negative results, even when publication of the article in a journal is unlikely. This accumulated body of material would be a useful resource for the scientific community. It could help to prevent duplication of research and, particularly in the field of clinical research, would be in the public interest. Articles containing negative findings should be stored within a dedicated section of the repository to distinguish them from other articles.

119. Whilst we commend JISC and SHERPA for the work that they have carried out to develop functional institutional repositories within the UK, we were surprised by the lacklustre approach of Government to this issue. Institutional repositories have the potential to vastly improve access to scientific publications and to increase the impact of UK research. Several witnesses saw the realisation of this potential as a role for Government. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), for example, argued that "Government should do whatever is in its power to persuade all UK publishers to support self-archiving and all research institutions to set up open-access archives".[225] Although the Director General of the Research Councils, Professor Sir Keith O'Nions told us that "in effect, they [repositories] are funded by use of government funds", the Government's approach to institutional repositories has been largely exploratory and lacking in any coherent strategy.[226] Sir Keith told us that "I do not think we have fully researched and understood all the implications of these changing models".[227] This lack of direction may have contributed to the reluctance of some institutions to establish repositories. The University of Hertfordshire, for example, urged " the development and implementation of a national strategy", implying a current lack of one.[228] A Government strategy is essential to driving forward the process of establishing effective institutional repositories.

120. Self-archiving is a cross-departmental issue. It is DTI's responsibility to work with publishers to encourage them to allow self-archiving. Any Research Council mandate for authors to self-archive would need to be implemented through RCUK. Through HEFCE and its derivative bodies, such as JISC and SHERPA, DfES has a role to play in persuading and assisting institutions to establish and maintain repositories and in establishing guidelines and standards. The British Library relies on grant-in-aid from DCMS. It would need additional funding to set up and manage a central UK repository to capture articles not deposited elsewhere. We have no confidence that these departments are currently working together on this issue. Their collective written evidence was remarkable for its lack of direction. In oral evidence, neither of the two Government witnesses appeared to know what was being done in other departments. In order for institutional repositories to achieve maximum effectiveness, Government must adopt a joined-up approach. DTI, OST, DfES and DCMS should work together to create a strategy for the implementation of institutional repositories, with clearly defined aims and a realistic timetable.


121. Institutional repositories have copyright implications. A recent analysis of publisher copyright agreements with authors found that "90% of agreements asked for copyright transfer and 69% asked for it prior to refereeing the paper. 75% asked authors to warrant that their work had not been previously published although only two explicitly stated that they viewed self-archiving as prior publication. 28.5% of agreements provided authors with no usage rights over their own paper. Although 42.5% allowed self-archiving in some format, there was no consensus on the conditions under which self-archiving could take place".[229] These statistics are now out of date, particularly in the context of the recent announcement made by Reed Elsevier, but they are sufficient to show a mixed approach to copyright that is potentially confusing for authors. BioMed Central criticised the current copyright situation as "cumbersome and sub-optimal".[230] A greater degree of consistency is desirable in copyright agreements, from publishers, but also from Government, institutions and academics, who have the power to influence the terms on which copyright agreements are established.

122. In oral evidence, Jane Carr of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) read out a typical copyright agreement, telling us that "the practice of assignment by some publishers takes away all the rights of an author, if I can quote 'Without limitation, any form of electronic exploitation, distribution or transmission, not known or invented in the future, all other intellectual property rights in such contributions…' and so on".[231] Such agreements limit the ways in which authors can use articles that they have produced, including for teaching purposes. Not all publishers are so restrictive. We heard in oral evidence that Nature Publishing Group, for example, allowed authors to license, rather than sign away, their copyright to the publisher.[232] Under the terms of a licensing agreement, authors retain ownership of the copyright on their article. The publisher is licensed to use it for the purposes of publication and re-sale. The author, on the other hand, is permitted to use the article in other ways, for example, by depositing it in an institutional repository. Some publishers have hidden disincentives for authors to enter into licensing agreements. Jane Carr quoted an ALCS member who had reported that "'the only journal I challenged over assigning copyright agreed to assign it to me as long as I understood that they would not publish me again. Academic publishing is, from an author's perspective, a complete rip-off'".[233] As has already been explained, authors rely on publication to further their career goals and are likely to be reluctant to take any action that would jeopardise their future relationship with a publisher. Acting as individuals, they thus have only limited power to influence the copyright agreement that they sign.

123. As was the case more generally, we found that many academics were disengaged from the issue of copyright assignment. A memorandum from DTI, DfES and DCMS stated that "Author's copyright is an issue that may not be fully understood by Authors, and an aura of misinformation often surrounds the process".[234] All of the academics we heard in oral evidence on 21 April felt that publishers played a useful role in the management of copyright.[235] Professor Williams told us that "as an editor, one of my concerns is people trying to publish it twice with slight modifications, but I have no problem with the copyright issue there and it does not impede my teaching at all".[236] In its closing statement, ALCS suggested a reason for academic lack of concern about copyright: "because scientific authors may be less concerned about personal financial return (due to research and publication being part of their salaried position or grant money) they are largely unaware of the substantial secondary rights incomes currently available".[237] As has been demonstrated above, many academics do not show much enthusiasm for self-archiving either. The assignment of all rights to publishers has little personal impact on the author. This is hampering any change to a system where authors, and the public that funds them, retain the rights to research findings, which in turn limits the accessibility of scientific publications to academics, teachers and the wider public.

124. Publishers can impose restrictions on the ways in which those articles for which they own the copyright can be used. The assignment of copyright to the publisher can thus prove to be a barrier to the effective functioning of institutional repositories, as is the case with Reed Elsevier (see paragraphs 110—112). This has led many advocates of the self-archiving system to call for it to be made mandatory for publicly-funded UK authors to retain the copyright on their articles, entering into copyright licensing agreements similar to those used by Nature Publishing Group. SHERPA argued that "since the taxpayer funds the majority of the research in UK institutions, government could kick-start open-access at the funding stage. Firstly, OST funding agencies could prevent the copyright of work they have funded being given away by researchers".[238] This message was reinforced by SPARC Europe in written evidence: "requiring that authors retain copyright will ensure that reuse of the material, within accepted scholarly and educational practices, will be safeguarded".[239] As is outlined above, individual academics lack the power to insist on their retention of copyright. Collectively, however, authors are too valuable a commodity for publishers to risk alienating them by refusing to allow them to retain copyright. Any change to the existing copyright provisions would have to be centrally instigated and supported in order for it to be successful.

125. As with many of the issues surrounding the publication of STM journal articles, any change to existing copyright provisions could be problematic if it were implemented at a national level only. If UK authors were mandated to retain the copyright on their articles, this could put them at a disadvantage internationally, as some publishers might select in their place non-UK authors who were still willing to assign all rights. If papers were selected for publication on the basis of quality alone, this ought not to occur. Given evidence of current publisher practices, however, we cannot be entirely confident that the copyright status of authors would be ignored when the publisher decided which articles to accept and which to decline. Such issues present difficulties for the reform of the current system. Nonetheless they should not in themselves be allowed to prevent a move towards a more effective system of self-archiving.

126. The issue of copyright is crucial to the success of self-archiving. We recommend that, as part of its strategy for the implementation of institutional repositories, Government ascertain what impact a UK-based policy of author copyright retention would have on UK authors. Providing that it can be established that such a policy would not have a disproportionately negative impact, Research Councils and other Government funders should mandate their funded researchers to retain the copyright on their research articles, licensing it to publishers for the purposes of publication. The Government would also need to be active in raising the issue of copyright at an international level.

127. In managing their copyright, publishers provide authors with a service. The provision of a service was used in evidence to justify the assignment of all rights to publishers. Dr Jarvis of Wiley told us that "if your author's work is then stolen or changed, what publishers can do because of their scale and their research is to do something about that. Individual authors would find it very difficult".[240] Items of intellectual property other than copyright, such as patents, are often retained and managed by higher education institutions or their industrial partners. This suggests that institutions already have the capacity and expertise to manage intellectual property rights. Rama Thirunamachandran, from HEFCE, reported that "institutions, as part of their knowledge transfer activities, are supported to have experts who in other areas support patents and licensing arrangements and so on. Many of the larger institutions would have some in-house expertise which could be used to support authors on copyright and related licensing issues".[241] It is logical to extend the institution's intellectual property management role to incorporate copyright. We recommend that higher education institutions are funded to enable them to assume control of copyright arising from their research. In order to carry out this function they will need in-house expertise and dedicated staff.


128. One of the main advantages of institutional repositories is that they are relatively cheap to set up and maintain, offering a cost-effective solution to some of the problems in scientific publishing. SHERPA told us that:

"in the short-term, the costs of setting up open-access repositories are minimal. Universities already have good IT infrastructure in place - local area networks which connect to the internet and widespread use of computer workstations. Given this provision, the connection cost and use of repositories is absorbed within existing overheads, so accessing the material is effectively free."[242]

We asked SHERPA to supply us with an analysis of the costs of establishing institutional repositories across the UK higher education sector, based on its experience to date. This is given in table 3 below:

Table 3
Cost per HE institution Total cost (based on 131 current HE institutions in the UK)
Installation costs
Installation (5 days)£600 £78,600
Customisation (15 days)£1,800 £235,800
Total installation costs£3,900 £510,900
Ongoing maintenance costs (per 3 years)
Technical supportAbsorbed by existing IT services Absorbed by existing IT services
Supported archiving service£90,000 £11,790,000
Upgrades/migrations£3,900 £510,900
Digital preservationSignificant costs (applies to all digital objects) Significant costs (applies to all digital objects)
£93,900 £12,300,900

Ev 479

129. Points of note within SHERPA's cost analysis include:

a)  The software for installing repositories can be freely downloaded from the internet.

b)  SHERPA reported that currently the most significant cost involved in establishing repositories is "in advocacy - promoting the service and persuading academics to deposit articles in the repository".[243] It also noted that this cost would be removed if there was a mandate for authors to deposit articles in institutional repositories.

c)  Several institutions have already established repositories (20 currently participate in the SHERPA project). The installation costs for them would, therefore, be nil.

d)  SHERPA told us that the technical maintenance costs could be "easily absorbed into an HEI's [higher education institution's] standard web services maintenance".[244] There would, however, be some significant additional technical costs that would need to be centrally absorbed. This issue is discussed in paragraphs 136—137 below.

e)  The cost of populating the repository would vary according to the model selected by the institution. The task could be carried out by authors themselves using a specially designed web interface, taking an estimated 1-2 hours of their time per year. We would not, however, recommend this model, as it would mean that deposits would receive only minimal supervision and regulation. The importance of regulation is discussed in paragraphs 132—137, below. It could be overseen at an institutional level by one member of staff at a cost of up to £30,000 per year. The final option would be for one member of staff in each department to be responsible for depositing articles. In this way the costs would effectively be absorbed by the institution.

f)  The preservation of digital content represents the largest cost of an institutional repository and cannot, at this stage, be quantified. Nonetheless, this is a problem that applies to all electronic resources, not simply the repositories themselves. This will be discussed in chapter 8 of this Report.

It should be noted here that the cost of applying consistent technical standards to institutional repositories is not referred to in this analysis. As is noted in paragraphs 136—137, these standards are key to ensuring the maximum functionality of repositories. SHERPA will need to take account of these costs when it applies for funding from JISC.

130. SHERPA's analysis confirms the statement made by Procurement for Libraries that "an investment, small in relation to the annual spend by HE [higher education] on scholarly journals, would create an infrastructure of institutional repositories within HE".[245] The cost to the taxpayer of establishing and maintaining an infrastructure of institutional repositories across UK higher education would be minimal, particularly in proportion to the current total UK higher education spend. When the cost is weighed against the benefits they would bring, institutional repositories plainly represent value for money.

The UK in the international context

131. Articles derived from research conducted in the UK currently account for 3.3% of the world's total output.[246] UK academics read a considerably larger number of articles in their field than are accounted for by this small proportion that originate in the UK. If the UK science base is to compete internationally, its researchers need access to scientific publications on a global scale. The establishment of a network of institutional repositories within the UK will, therefore, provide researchers with free access to only a fraction of the articles that they need to read. If the UK were to stand alone on this issue, the impact of institutional repositories on the provision of scientific publications would be limited. Having taken the step of funding and supporting institutional repositories, the UK Government would need to become an advocate for them at a global level. If all countries archived their research findings in this way, access to scientific publications would increase dramatically. We see this as a great opportunity for the UK to lead the way in broadening access to publicly-funded research findings and making available software tools and resources for accomplishing this work.


Peer review and institutional repositories

132. The importance of peer review to the scientific process is discussed in paragraphs 204—207. There is some concern that, by allowing the deposit of articles prior to publication, institutional repositories will facilitate access to a substantial volume of articles that have not been peer reviewed and validated by the scientific community. This is perceived to be a problem in particular for students, who may be accustomed to using internet search engines to find articles rather than resorting to quality-assured journals. Professor Fry told us that "you can use the internet to gain access to that literature and have a certain degree of overview but you should always read the primary literature, whether it is reviews which are refereed or if it is written papers which are refereed".[247] It is of concern that institutional repositories could facilitate access to articles that have not been peer reviewed for members of the public, who may not be able to differentiate between articles of varying quality; and interest and lobby groups, who may seek to use unvalidated material for lobbying, campaigning or political purposes without it being clear either to them or to third parties that it has not been peer reviewed. The need for the public to have access to scientific publications is discussed in paragraphs 39—44.

133. Existing projects suggest that concern about the maintenance of peer review in an open archival environment might be exaggerated. A repository in the physical sciences, arXiv, allows authors to deposit articles prior to publication. The archive is unrefereed but screened by teams of experts. Professor Hitchin of Oxford University told us that he was a regular user of arXiv: "a journal puts a quality and accuracy assessment on its contents, but in practical terms as often as not I still download from the arXiv instead of going to the library to look at the journal". For him, the main advantage of this site was its speed: "the refereeing process takes time, and science sometimes cannot wait for that". Professor Williams of the University of Liverpool disagreed: "I do not think science is moving so fast we cannot make the peer review. […] I am very much against having discussion pages on the internet to determine how good a paper is, it is not a substitute for a good quality peer review".[248] This statement goes against the insistence of the other academics that we spoke to that science is "self-policing". Professor Crabbe told us that "it only takes […] one bad paper in a journal for that journal to get a very bad reputation".[249] It is generally accepted that the scientific research process has inbuilt self-regulatory mechanisms that have been broadly successful at maintaining high standards to date. The community that reads a particular article is generally the same as the community that has produced and reviewed it. Nonetheless, as is discussed in paragraphs 39—44, a growing proportion of journal readings derive from the public, who are less well placed than the academic community to differentiate between articles of differing quality. There is a risk that a small proportion of the readers downloading articles from an archive would be unduly influenced by a poor quality article. There is, therefore, a need for quality indicators to be present. This is discussed below.

134. Some memoranda expressed the view that authors might abuse their ability to retain copyright by altering the scientific record after their article had been published. The Royal Society of Chemistry told us that "the control of the scientific record moves towards the authors rather than an organisation with industry-wide standards for archiving, with potential loss of version control. Once an article is published it should be out of the control of the author otherwise they can change it or remove it".[250] Similarly, Reed Elsevier noted that the signing over of copyright to the publisher "may actually be a useful system for ensuring that several different versions of a paper do not end up on the Internet".[251] We share the conviction expressed by these organisations that it is important that research articles are authenticated. Nonetheless, the existence of a number of versions of the same article is not damaging in itself providing that a system is in place to differentiate between published and prior, or subsequent versions. By providing a unique and persistent identity for each article, the Digital Object Identifier system (DOI) helps to ensure that each article can be authenticated as complete and unaltered. This system would be an important element of any project to create a network of reliable institutional repositories. Nonetheless a more immediately visible system may also be required. The University of Hertfordshire suggested the "assignment of a universally recognised quality assured 'kitemark' to denote the proven refereed e-publication".[252] The Research Councils agreed. In oral evidence Professor John Wood, Chief Executive of CCLRC, told us that "certainly there need to be kite marks of certain types in order to allow people to assess what the quality of that output would be, whether it is a journal or just an e-form in some form, it needs to have a quality standard attached to it".[253]

135. Peer review is a key element in the publishing process and should be a pillar of institutional repositories. We recommend that SHERPA agree a "kite mark" with publishers that can be used to denote articles that have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Upon publication, articles in repositories should be allocated the kitemark and marked with the date and journal of publication by the staff member responsible for populating the repository. Authors depositing articles in institutional repositories should also be required to declare their funding sources in order to reduce the risk of conflicts of interest occurring.

Networking and standards

136. The establishment of institutional repositories would enable users to gain free access to research articles stemming from each institution's work. However, the existence of many separate, un-networked repositories would make searches cumbersome and would greatly reduce the visibility and accessibility of the articles contained within them. The Knowledge Management Committee of West Dorset General Hospitals NHS Trust reported that "free or subsidized content may be little better than no content when it is difficult to access or does not provide quick, efficient access to useful information".[254] For this reason, it is essential that institutional repositories are networked, to allow cross searches and, eventually, access to all of them from a single source. SPARC Europe stated that this would ensure that "the material deposited within them will be fully searchable and retrievable, with search engines treating the separate archives as one".[255] The process of networking will need to be centrally managed, to ensure consistency and standards across the repositories. We recommend that the Government appoints and funds a central body, based on SHERPA, to co-ordinate the implementation of a network of institutional repositories.

137. The central regulatory body for institutional repositories would play a vital role in ensuring that technical standards were consistent across all the archives. Common standards for metadata, persistent identity and data harvesting would all be essential to ensuring that the repositories could be inter-linked and cross-searched. Work is already being carried out in this area. For example, the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), originating in the US, "develops and promotes interoperability standards that aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content".[256] It invites anyone to participate in the interoperability framework defined in its Open Archives Metadata Harvesting Protocol (OAI-PMH), which has been designed to be easy to implement. SHERPA told us that "when repositories are set up using the OAI-PMH […], they can be searched in a seamless way. Users may not even be aware that they are searching the contents of multiple repositories. The actual location of the content is in this sense irrelevant, as long as it is in an OAI-compliant repository".[257] DTI, DfES and DCMS stated that "Government can play an important role in ensuring that all parties agree suitable technical standards. Along with the OAI, a number of other organisations are committed to ensuring common standards".[258] A Government-established central body would play a major role in implementing technical standards across institutional repositories to ensure maximum functionality and interoperability.

The impact of repositories on the main players


138. The role of the library is in transition as the nature of the information it provides changes. In December 1993, the Follett Report, commissioned by the four higher education funding councils, stated that "the emphasis will shift away from the library as a place, away from the books and periodicals it holds, and towards the information to which it can provide access. Information management will be directed towards giving access to information rather than storing it, and it will be possible to provide access to it in many different ways".[259] This shift in emphasis is already taking place in many institutions. The establishment of institutional repositories would accelerate the process by eventually providing libraries with a viable alternative to subscribing to journal articles that they can no longer afford. This does not mean that the function of libraries would decrease, merely that it would change. Libraries would play a crucial role in helping readers to gain access to the articles they needed from the repositories. As is explained above, staff resources are needed to facilitate the population of the repositories. Library staff no longer required to manage subscriptions and print collections could usefully undertake this new role.


139. It is not envisaged that institutional repositories would have a significant impact on publishers in the early stages of their implementation. SHERPA told us that "the empirical evidence from the physics community shows that arXiv has not undermined journals. Physicists continue to submit their work to peer-reviewed journals as well as contribute to arXiv. Authors continue to value the quality control function the journals provide but also the rapid and wide dissemination that arXiv provides".[260] The academic community values several functions of the traditional journal very highly. Foremost amongst these is peer review. A report published by the Wellcome Trust notes that, in repositories, "articles could be individually kite-marked but readers would not have the sense of perspective and orientation which a journal gives and, without the journal, search costs for readers would be much higher".[261] Readers also value the subject-specific groupings of articles provided by journals, and the access that they provide to research conducted around the world. All this suggests that, in the immediate term, institutional repositories would not damage the business model on which traditional journals are predicated and that subscriptions would be maintained.

140. As institutional repositories become more technically sophisticated and prevalent on a global scale, the negative impact on publishers is likely to increase. It is possible that journal prices would rise further as libraries cut subscriptions to journals that they no longer needed because the same content was readily accessible through institutional repositories. Steep increases in price would not be sustainable in the long term, threatening the survival of the current business model for subscriber-pays publishing. For this reason we anticipate that publishers will need to move into different areas of information provision, for example investment in navigation systems that will overarch the repositories, or the database publishing market, which already accounts for 33% of total global expenditure on science information. We recommend that DTI works with UK publishers to establish how the industry might evolve in an environment where other business models flourished alongside the subscriber-pays model. Government also needs to become an intelligent procurer, outsourcing some of the technical work involved in establishing and maintaining institutional repositories to publishers who already have the relevant infrastructure and expertise in place.

141. Some of the processes embedded within the subscriber-pays model will continue to be required. As in the conventional model, the success of institutional repositories will partly rely on the quality assurance given by peer review. We see institutional repositories as operating alongside the publishing industry. In the immediate term they will enable readers to gain free access to journal articles whilst the publishing industry experiments with new publishing models, such as the author-pays model.

205   Ev 440 Back

206   Ev 478 Back

207   Ev 463 Back

208 Back

209   The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils, Ev 299 Back

210   Elsevier, press release, 3 June, 2004, Back

211   "I, for one, am prepared to stoutly defend Elsevier on all these counts, and to say that one could not have asked for more, and that the full benefits of open access require not one bit more - from the publisher". Back

212   "Reed allows academics free web access", The Guardian, 3 June, 2004 Back

213   As above Back

214   As above. Back

215   The Wellcome Trust, Economic analysis of scientific research publishing, p 25 Back

216   Ev 163 Back

217   Ev 476 Back

218   Ev 91 Back

219   Ev 478 Back

220   Qq 285-6 Back

221   Ev 166 Back

222   "Scientific publishing: A position statement by the Wellcome Trust in support of open access publishing", Back

223   Ev 316 Back

224   Ev 478 Back

225   Ev 412 Back

226   Q 382 Back

227   Q 409 Back

228   Ev 477 Back

229   Elizabeth Gadd, Charles Oppenheim and Steve Probets, "The impact of copyright ownership on academic author self-archiving", May 2003, Back

230   Ev 173 Back

231   Q 300 Back

232   Q 58 Back

233   Q 300 Back

234   Ev 384 Back

235   Q 300 Back

236   Q 303 Back

237   Ev 457 Back

238   Ev 217 Back

239   Ev 166 Back

240   Q 59 Back

241   Q 407 Back

242   Ev 217 Back

243   Ev 477 Back

244   As above. Back

245   Ev 151 Back

246   Ev 194 Back

247   Q 297 Back

248   Q 297 Back

249   Q 308 Back

250   Ev 211 Back

251   Ev 240 Back

252   Ev 316 Back

253   Q 396 Back

254   Ev 148 Back

255   Ev 163 Back

256 Back

257   Ev 478 Back

258   Ev 384 Back

259   The Follett Report, p 81 Back

260   Ev 217 Back

261   Wellcome Trust, Costs and business models in scientific research publishing, p 16 Back

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Prepared 20 July 2004