Memorandum from RESCOLINC (Research Council
Libraries & Information Consortium)
1.1 The Research Council Libraries &
Information Consortium (RESCOLINC) is the focal point of the Library
& Information Services (LIS) of the UK Research Councils.
Its aim is to obtain optimum information service supply benefits
in support of researchers across the entire research council sector.
1.2 Evidence is given below on all of the
questions posed by the Committee.
2. What impact do publishers' current policies
on pricing and provision of scientific journals, particularly
"big deal schemes", have on libraries and the teaching
and research communities they serve?
2.1 The current pricing and access policies
of publishers' have a significant impact on the provision of scientific
journals by libraries for the communities that they serve. The
marketplace is dominated by a relatively small number of large
commercial publishers and there is a continuing trend of mergers
and acquisitions amongst STM publishers. The Office of Fair Trading
have recently indicated that the marketplace might not be working
2.2 The periodical inflation index for STM
publications remains at 7-8% per annum
with some publishers' annual price increases being significantly
higher than this. Library acquisition budgets have not kept pace
with these increases leading to a steady and significant erosion
of the purchasing power of the libraries with a consequent impact
on how we can support the research needs of the research communities
we serve. "Big deal schemes" often have an annual periodical
inflation rate inserted at the start of the deal for the life
of the deal and while this is generally less than the standard
periodical inflation index it is still considerably higher than
general RPI inflation.
2.3 The variety of pricing models that exist
within the market makes it very time-consuming for library staff
to investigate all of the options and to manage the access agreements
arising out of any deals. In some cases the publishers' are removing
the subscription agents from the supply chain imposing an additional
burden on the library staff.
2.4 As scientific research becomes more
inter-disciplinary so the range of resources that the library
must supply increases and from this perspective the "big
deal schemes" offered by many of the large commercial publishers
have been beneficial to libraries and the research communities
that we serve. They have allowed researchers to access a range
of non-core material much more easily. To take the example of
ScienceDirect from Elsevier Science this has offered researchers
at the John Innes Centre access to over 1,300 journals but the
usage statistics indicate that only approximately 200 of these
journals have been used. The current pricing model for big deals
where all content is paid for regardless of use makes these deals
unsustainable in the long-term for all libraries.
2.5 Many of the "big deal schemes"
have been offered on a multi-year basis with "no-cancellation"
clauses inserted to ensure thus locking libraries into a certain
level of expenditure with that particular publisher. Where no-cancellation
clauses are in use and a library has to make spending cuts it's
the smaller publishers including Scholarly Societies and University
Presses who lose out to the greatest extent. The outcomes of this
are: a reduction in the range of resources that are provided for
the research community we serve; price rises from the smaller
publishers thus leading to more cancellations; more market share
for the large commercial publishers; and a further diminishment
in the competition within the market.
2.6 For the 2004 subscription year a number
of scholarly societies have changed the pricing policies for access
to the electronic versions of their publications. For example
the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) have moved
from providing access free-with-print for both EMBO Journal and
EMBO Reports on an individual basis to bundling both titles together
and moving to a site-licence access model. This has increased
the costs for libraries by 100% or more and to make the situation
even worse the option to have print-only subscriptions for 2004
has been removed.
2.7 The current pricing policies of publishers'
have led to increasing frustration within both the library and
scientific communities with threats of cancellations of all titles
by particular publishers or full boycotts of particular titles
or publishers. Ultimately these strategies will harm the scientific
process because of the poor substitutability of individual journal
titles and may have little impact on the marketplace unless very
large numbers of libraries undertake the action collaboratively.
3. What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
3.1 In recent years a number of initiatives
have been proposed that provide alternative publication methods
with the intention of introducing competition into the market
for scientific publications. These include pre-print servers such
as http://arxiv.org serving the physical sciences community and
open-access publication as exemplified by BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com)
and Public Library of Science (http://www.publiclibraryofscience.com).
A number of organisations such as SPARC (http://www.sparceurope.org)
have helped smaller publishers, and individual editorial boards,
to establish new journal titles to directly compete with existing
titles offered by large commercial publishers. These strategies
have all had a measure of success and have attracted widespread
support from within the academic community worldwide.
3.2 The Office of Fair Trading (1) conducted
a review of the STM market in 2002 which concluded that there
was evidence that the marketplace was not working well but that
for now it would not be appropriate for the OFT to intervene in
the market due to a number of factors that might lead to an improvement.
There has been no discernible improvement in the market in the
period since the review so we would urge the OFT to intervene
to improve competition in the market for scientific publications.
3.3 As previously recorded there is growing
frustration within the library and scientific community and all
opportunities for collective action that would lead to an improvement
in the competition situation should be thoroughly investigated
and if they will not have a detrimental effect on science in general
and the individual Institutes they should be pursued vigorously.
4. What are the consequences of increasing
numbers of open-access journals, for example for the operation
of the Research Assessment Exercise and other selection processes?
Should the Government support such a trend and, if so, how?
4.1 The increasing numbers of open-access
journals will have a major impact on the operation of all scientific
research assessment exercises. Assessments of individual scientists
and academic or research institutes is heavily influenced by publication
records. Publications in high impact factor journals, such as
Nature and Cell, are particularly important in assessment exercises.
Currently many open-access journals do not have any impact factors
and this makes it harder to assess the quality of papers published
in these journals. Individual scientists are concerned that by
publishing in these journals they will be harming their prospects
of career development and similarly their employers fear that
if they encourage staff to publish in open-access journals they
will also be disadvantaged during assessment exercises.
4.2 Until such time as the open-access journals
have impact factors we would urge the Government, through the
Funding and Research Councils, to investigate alternative methods
of assessment for open-access journals to ensure that the scientists
who choose to publish in these journals have the confidence to
4.3 With journal prices and publishers pricing
policies being what they are the results of a great deal of publicly
funded scientific research is unavailable to large parts of the
scientific community and also to the general public at large.
Open-access journals make the results of this research much more
widely available and thus help to facilitate public understanding
of science and knowledge transfer which are important facets of
the scientific process.
4.4 We would urge the Government to consider
stipulating that all research that it funds, either directly or
through Non-Departmental Public Bodies, should be published in
such a way that access is freely available to anyone with an interest
in the material.
5. How effectively are the Legal Deposit
Libraries making available non-print scientific publications to
the research community, and what steps should they be taking in
5.1 Legal Deposit Libraries are becoming
more effective at making available non-print scientific publications
from within the library but licensing restrictions often make
it difficult and very costly for them to make access available
through document delivery services, which are potentially of most
benefit to the research community.
5.2 We strongly welcome the passage of the
Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 into law as this will allow for
the secure archiving of non-print scientific publications for
current and future generations of researchers.
5.3 Legal Deposit Libraries should, wherever
possible, negotiate licenses with publishers that allow non-print
publications to be supplied in fulfilment of document delivery
requests even if this means a slight increase in the prices.
6. What impact will trends in academic journal
publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
6.1 Within the life-sciences independent
peer review of research articles prior to publication is an accepted
part of the current publication model and in addition to providing
a level of quality assurance it provides a partial safeguard against
scientific fraud and malpractice. Many of the open-access publishers
have retained the system of peer-review so the risks of scientific
fraud and malpractice should not be significantly different if
the open-access model becomes widely used.
307 Office of Fair Trading. (2002) The market
for scientific, technical and medical journals: A statement by
the OFT. London, OFT. Back
(2) Swets Blackwell. (2003) Serials Price Increases 2004:
third report. Swets Blackwell. Back