Select Committee on Science and Technology Tenth Report

10 Conclusion

211. Provision of STM journals in the UK is unsatisfactory. This is due to a combination of publishers' pricing policy and the inadequacy of library budgets to meet the demands placed upon them by a system supporting an ever increasing volume of research. Despite evidence that they are adding value to the scientific process, publishers are not as transparent as they could be about their publication costs. The practice of some of the larger commercial publishers of "bundling" content together to be sold as one product is having a negative impact on smaller publishers and on the ability of libraries to purchase the journals required by their communities. On the purchasing side, HEFCE has not proved itself to be ready to respond to the problem of insufficient library budgets. We have concluded that change on all sides is necessary as a matter of urgency. The digitisation of the market place, with all its attendant benefits and possibilities, presents the ideal opportunity for the UK to make that change.

212. We have recommended that the UK Government fund the establishment of an inter-linked network of institutional repositories on which all research articles originating in the UK should be deposited and can be read for free. SHERPA has already carried out some valuable work in this area and needs to be funded to enable it to play a central role in the future. In order to ensure that the repositories are well-populated, we have recommended that Research Councils mandate their funded researchers to deposit copies of all their articles in this way. Universities and other research institutions will need to build up their capacity to manage the copyright that might in future be retained by authors as a result of this system. We conclude that these are the essential first steps in the direction of a more fundamental change to the way in which researchers publish their findings.

213. Rigorous quality assurance of the research that is disseminated is key to the integrity of science publishing, research and academia. It is vital that steps be taken to protect and enshrine the process of rigorous and independent peer review whatever the mode of dissemination or the publishing model used.

214. We have seen much to praise in the author-pays publishing model and the principles on which it has been established. Nonetheless, the UK still has insufficient understanding of the impact that this model would have, particularly on learned societies and in respect of the free rider problem, for us to recommend its wholesale adoption. Instead we have recommended a period of further experimentation. The Government has failed to respond to issues surrounding scientific publications in a coherent manner and we are not convinced that it would be ready to deal with any changes to the publishing process. We have recommended that it formulate a strategy for future action.

215. The market for STM journals is international. The UK cannot act alone. For this reason we have recommended that the UK Government act as a proponent for change on the international stage and lead by example. This will ultimately benefit researchers across the globe.

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