Memorandum from the Scottish Confederation
of University and Research Libraries (SCURL)
is the principal association of Higher Education and Research
libraries in Scotland and is a sub-committee of the Board of Trustees
of the National Library of Scotland.
Membership comprises the National Library of Scotland,
all University and Higher Education Institution libraries and
the major public libraries of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
1.2. SCURL has been concerned for some time
that the present system of scholarly communication is increasingly
coming under strain and is unable to adequately serve the research
community as it has done in the past and fully exploit the technological
developments of recent years.
1.3 SCURL has been working collaboratively
with others such as the Scottish Library & Information Council
and the NHSiS to address these issues. SCURL is a key player in
the Scottish Science Information Strategy Working Group (SSISWG).
Recognising the key role scientists play in the knowledge economy
and the need for accurate, up-to-date and readily accessible scientific
information not only for the academic and research community but
for lifelong learners and others, this group aims to make science
information more easily accessible to all users. In particular
it is exploring the potential and benefits of national licensing
for science information within Scotland. This is in line with
UK Government and Scottish Executive policy but has come about
as a direct result of the current crisis facing libraries in respect
of provision of science information.
The Confederation therefore warmly welcomes
this timely inquiry into scientific publications.
2. WHAT IMPACT
2.1 We are in a situation where much research
carried out within the universities is paid for from the public
purse, however the cost of buying back the commercially published
output of this research is proving prohibitive.
2.2 In recent years STM journals subscriptions
have risen much higher than the UK Retail Price Index. In 2001,
the average increase was 4.3%; in 2002 this rose to 7%.
2.3 The requirement to continue access to
the "best" journals for academic community means that
budgets are squeezed. Less money is available for the purchase
of monographs vital to Humanities and Social Sciences in particular
and to undergraduates in general.
2.4 The application of VAT to electronic
publications has added an additional burden and is a disincentive
to move to electronic only access. We would strongly urge that
this be reviewed with a view to removing VAT in line with print
publications. Whilst this matter requires resolution at a European
level, we would urge the government in the interim to consider
the application of VAT-exempt or VAT-reduced status to electronic
publications for universities, higher education institutions and
other non-commercial educational and research bodies.
2.5 The "Big Deal" has been made
possible by the advent of electronic publishing. This has allowed
publishers to exert market pressure on libraries to accept this
model at marginally increased costs to themselves.
2.6 The multi-year nature of many of these
deals provides income stability for publishers. Many deals are
tied to non-cancellation of corresponding print versions. In a
period of decreasing budgets and rapid change in terms of support
for teaching, learning and research, this inflexible approach
from publishers is both unrealistic and unsustainable.
2.7 The nature of the "Big Deal"
means that some libraries are being forced away from an access
policy to a holdings policy. This means that budgets committed
to document delivery (the `just in time' scenario) are being reassigned
to serial budgets.
2.8 There is concern that the ongoing costs
of subscription to the "Big Deal" model has led to cancellation
of titles from smaller publishers. Whilst access to a wider range
of titles through a package deal is regarded as generally beneficial
although it is noted that many non-core titles may receive little
use (recent research from one "Big Deal" study showed
that 87 per cent of users viewed less than 5 per cent of the titles)
this should not be at the expense of output from the smaller publishers
which may be of more academic value.
2.9 There is a danger that the success of
the e-journal in terms of desktop delivery and ease of access
and use may adversely affect the use and availability of material
that is not yet available in electronic format. This is a particular
threat to smaller publishers (who may already face reduction in
subscription income) and one that is being addressed through projects
such as the SHEFC-funded SAPIENS project. 
2.10 There is concern that the number of
recent mergers and takeovers in the commercial publishing field
is leading towards a position of monopoly or near-monopoly. In
particular, we are concerned at the difficulties experienced in
the recent UK contract renewal negotiations with Reed Elsevier.
3. WHAT ACTION
3.1 It would be unrealistic to expect to
achieve a competitive market in scientific publications. Many
journals have built up such a reputation and prominence in particular
subject areas that competition would be near impossible. In any
case, it can take many years for new journals to achieve any position
in the field let alone a position of prominence.
Further, if an academic or researcher requires
a specific article, then only that article will suffice.
3.2 In view of this, SCURL believes there
is an overwhelming case for the close monitoring of proposed mergers
and takeovers by the official authorities and action taken as
required to avoid further concentration of the market.
3.3 The current model is one whereby much
research output in the form of journal articles is provided to
publishers free of charge. These articles are then peer reviewed
at no additional cost to publishers.
3.4 Whilst there may be little action the
government might take in respect of promoting a competitive market,
there may be more value in promoting open access initiatives and
extending the provisions of legal deposit as outlined in sections
4 and 5 below.
4. WHAT ARE
4.1 The number of Open Access journals (OAJs)
is currently relatively low
and their eventual impact is unknown at this stage. However, their
potential impact on a number of fronts is sufficiently significant
to suggest that there would be value in a dual approach to the
issuean approach that couples support for current and new
initiatives in the short term with an investigation into whether
it is feasible to work with publishers to ensure that the full
impact of the approach is realised in the medium to long-term.
4.2 Although some OAJs are supported "free"
within institutional costs, most are financed through the author
paying to have papers that have successfully passed through the
peer review process published. The advantages of this approach
are that access to the materials published is then made freely
available to the communitya potentially attractive model
if its full benefits could be realised.
If all of the significant journals in a particular
field were OAJs:
All researchers, teachers and students
in the field would have free access to all relevant materials
free of charge, regardless of whether or not their institution
could pay for a subscription;
Such access could also be made freely
available to the general public and the private sector;
Since all research output would be
freely available throughout the field, new work would be less
likely to duplicate earlier work and researchers would be generally
Any author published in the journals
could be assured of maximum research impactan impact that
would not be "skewed" by barriers to access; and
Because of this, it would be possible
to obtain accurate automated measurements of research impact from
the access logs of the OAJs themselves for use in the RAE
Whether or not it is possible to achieve this
degree of coverage will depend on whether the model can be made
attractive to publishers. Given its potential, it is worth opening
discussions with large and small publishers in a particular field
with a view to determining whether it is possible to come up with
a financial package based on the OAJ model that would be attractive
to all parties.
4.3 In the meantime, SCURL believes there
is value in continuing to support the model by supporting the
efforts of JISC and others in this respect. In particular, since
the assumption behind the model is that authors' costs will be
paid from research funding, research funders should be encouraged
to follow the lead of the Wellcome Trust in allowing such charges
to be included in research bid costs. In addition, some mechanism
should be considered to support authors who wish to publish in
an OAJ but do not have research funds (or, perhaps, even a research
grant) to do so.
4.4 In addition, more authors are now depositing
their papers in an institutional electronic archive (Scottish
examples include the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St
Andrews), where they are available to all, and searchable via
appropriate software. Publishers' restrictions relating to copyright
sometimes inhibit this, but this process could be hastened if
funding bodies were to mandate that research resulting from their
grants should be "open access", either via publication
in OAJs or by means of `self-archiving' in institutional archives.
4.5 There is an extent to which the current
model limits deep resource sharing and inhibits cross-institutional
collaborative activity such as the Scottish Centres of Excellence.
4.6 A clear indication of support from appropriate
UK bodies, similar to the Berlin Declaration
and others, would also be a welcome development.
4.7 On the question of the relationship
of publishing in OAJs to RAE assessments, it is clearly important
that authors publishing in OAJs be treated exactly the same as
authors publishing elsewherethe quality of the work should
be the deciding factor, not the mode of publication.
5. HOW EFFECTIVELY
5.1 SCURL welcomed the Legal Deposit Libraries
Act 2003 and supports its aims and provisions.
5.2 We would strongly encourage that resources
be made available to ensure the early and effective implementation
of the provisions in the Act for the legal deposit of non-print
media in general and electronic publications in particular.
5.3 It is noted however that implementation
of the Act will not in itself provide the totality of scientific
information required by users as the information acquired through
legal deposit is limited to United Kingdom output. This information
will have to be purchased by the Legal Deposit Libraries at significant
cost. The Legal Deposit Libraries are unable to benefit from nationally
negotiated deals available to Higher Education through agents
such as NESLI2.
5.4 Further, licensing restrictions as they
currently stand do not permit delivery direct to the scientists'
desktop. This is very much the preferred delivery mechanism for
users of this type of information.
5.5 We support the work of the National
Library of Scotland and the other Legal Deposit Libraries in working
towards the stable and sustainable preservation of and access
to digital materials for future research needs. Sufficient additional
resource will be required to ensure this.
5.6 SCURL understands the National Library
of Scotland will respond directly to this inquiry and we warmly
6. WHAT IMPACT
6.1 Developments in academic journal publishing
are unlikely to have any significant effect on fraud and malpractice.
There are two reasons for this:
Firstly, there has been fraud and
malpractice in print journals. Whilst it might be argued that
any online text may be more susceptible to fraud, the development
of tools to counteract this such as plagiarism detection software
make detection easier.
6.2 And secondly, the present system of
peer review, and possibly other methods that could be developed
in the electronic environment, should ensure the continuation
of quality control.
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ALPSP http://www.alpsp.org/htp-openacc.htm Back