Memorandum from ICSTI
ICSTI, The International Council for Scientific
and Technical Information is the only international organisation
representing all interests in STI. It was founded in 1952 as a
grouping within the then International Council of Scientific Unions
(ICSU), now known as the International Council for Science.
In 1984 ICSTI became a scientific associate
of ICSU, a change of status, not of effect, to enable ICSTI to
welcome private sector organisations in Membership.
Today ICSTI has over 50 Member organisations
spread throughout the world, the majority of whom are themselves
representative organisations, so the effective influence of ICSTI
is much wider than the number of Members.
As befits an organisation founded in 1952 ICSTI
has been present during all the changes that have affected STI
for over 50 years.
The full details of ICSTI's activities and a
complete list of Members can be found at the ICSTI web site www.icsti.org
ICSTI would like to draw the attention of the
Committee to the fact that scientific publishing, like scientific
activity itself, is a global activity, of which UK production
and consumption are a significant part. Although the language
of Science is increasingly coincident with English, there is substantial
activity in other languages and substantial investment by national
authorities and commercial publishers in local language publication.
The global nature of science publication will influence the amount
of specific activity that the UK might undertake to support the
area but, as a major player, the UK can certainly influence developments
if a coherent policy is adopted.
There can be no doubt of the ease and efficiency
brought to scientific publication by developments in ICT (information
and communication technologies). Scientists have been in the forefront
of ICT development, the Internet was originally created by and
for scientists and they have been quick to realise the potential
for communication and co-operation. It was also a scientist that
created the World Wide Web. The object of both of these efforts
was to use ICT to enhance scientific communication, the foundation
of scientific progress.
It is easy to be distracted by the potential
of technology. Despite the rapid changes brought about by technology,
scientific information is more than just creation and diffusion,
there is a significant and highly important element of quality
to be considered. Added to this is the competitive pressure brought
about by the increasingly important relationship between scientific
progress and economic development. Jointly these requirements
have increased the pressure on the participants, the scientific
authors, the publishers of journals and other publications, the
administrators of research, to marry the technology, the economics
and the quality in the creation of and in providing permanent
access to the record. There is also the responsibility of the
developed world, of which the UK is part, to ensure the availability
of the record of science to less developed regions.
A startling and often overlooked fact of scientific
publishing is that, in economic terms, the supply and demand communities
overlap considerably. The two ends of the "value chain"
are connected as authors consume and build upon results in the
record. It is easy to concentrate only on the supply side of the
economic equation. The data available on the number of articles
published, the turnover of the publishers, the number of scientists,
the relationship between citation count and impact factor and
other elements make it possible to perform studies which concentrate
on those aspects. In fact the demand side is where many of the
major issues reside. Authors, as the creators of the record, libraries
as the suppliers of the record to authors and administrators as
the primary funders of both authors and libraries in academic
research are fundamental to the whole process. The requirements
of these groups as demand side players and their opinions on the
developments, in this capacity, are essential inputs to any analysis.
A further important element of the economic
analysis is that the availability of the product, scientific information,
is not exhausted by its consumption. In fact its value can be
enhanced by its use.
Perhaps the most influential change taking place
in scientific information is the move from the long established
writing > submission to a journal > peer
refereeing > commentary > re-writing > re-submission
and finally publication in a [subscription based] journal.
Increasingly the journal is available only in
electronic form on a network.
This sequence is prolonged by the cycle of citation
and use of the published results.
It is being progressively altered to a looser
writing > loading on a local or subject based
server > peer commentary and perhaps use of the results >
re-working of the initial writing > submission to peer review
(which may be an "open" review, in effect part of the
commentary process) and finally loading on a server as a refereed
product or published in an Open Access or other form of publication.
These two processes are not mutually exclusive,
they exist in parallel, with many authors using both channels.
The development of the "alternative" route has given
rise to claims such as returning the publication cycle to the
authors and extending the concept of open source being included
in the discussion. Overlaid on these are questions concerning
intellectual property, the rights to re-use, long term preservation
of non-paper materials, availability to non-subscribers and the
quality of "non-conventional" publishing. Another change
is that many of the newer publication vehicles are financed, at
least in part, by author fees, a change in revenue source but
not necessarily new income in the publishing cycle. A further
effect of the recent changes is to make the identification of
the "final" product of research more difficult. The
process has become more of a continuum, which shortens the former
cycle of more formal publishing and substitutes more "work
in progress" type publication.
All of these activities should be seen as progress,
a valuable and useful process, but in science publication the
changes must be seen in the context of the importance of the creation,
diffusion and use of the record of Science, a more important process
of potentially wider benefit.
At this point in time the technologies which
have already influenced change in scientific publishing are reaching
a point where they can alter the whole format of "publication"
Increasingly teaching and research are using the power of networks
to provide live and interactive presentation and discussion forums.
The proceedings of these are then made available as part of the
scientific record. Identifying, indexing and avoiding quality
problems with such products present significant challenges. In
addition, scientific data, which forms a significant part of scientific
publishing, is being created in interactive form with co-loaded
programs allowing manipulation and re-use of the materials.
The economic framework for Scientific publishing
has changed rapidly. In order to make better use of limited resources,
libraries have increasingly used consortia purchasing arrangements
for their journal requirements. This has had the effect of creating
shortfalls in publisher revenues, especially for the professional
societies who's raison d'etre was publishing their members work.
This has led to more co-operation amongst publishers of this kind
to ensure the exposure of their materials to the audience of other
scientists. There has also been "package deal" marketing
which requires institutions to lease access to the complete range
of a publishers offer in order to get special discounts. These
deals have been criticised because they include, in some cases,
a built in price increase over the period of the arrangement.
In addition, these arrangements can inhibit the level of services
the libraries can provide.
In the commercial sector there have been mergers
and acquisitions, to the point where the UK Office of Fair Trading
felt it necessary to examine the sector and to conclude "there
is evidence to suggest that the market for STM journals may not
be working well" The Office goes on to say: "Journals
are the principal means by which new scientific knowledge is disseminated.
Their purchase and content is supported to a large extent by public
funding to higher education and research institutions. Such funding
is appropriate given the "public good" aspect of libraries
and the important wider public benefit relating to the publishing
of research findings. The STM journals market, however, has particular
characteristics that are relevant to an assessment of whether
it is working effectively to provide good value for money:"
This statement is based on a view of a rapidly
changing old model of printed publication. As we mentioned earlier
we will see less and less of this type of publication because
including such things as video, audio, scientific data, and computer
software in articles means better communication of ideas. It also
means one can not use traditional paper and ink publication methods,
a change already understood by both the commercial and the non-commercial
sectors. Concomitant with this are the issues of protecting intellectual
property and public domain availability of scientific information.
This latter issue has been the basis for much of the commentary
about scientific publications in recent times, based on arguments
that the results of publicly funded research should be made freely
available and that publicly funded institutions should not have
to pay to get access to the results of work which has been funded
from the public purse.
While these arguments are valid because more
and more R&D is publicly funded, there remain the issues surrounding
the impact and implied quality and value of the journals where
scientists prefer to submit their results for publication. There
is a delicate balance to be maintained between the choice of publication
and the role of the public institutions in directing that results
be freely available.
ICSTI, as an international body, cannot presume
to suggest to the Parliament of a sovereign country how they should
manage their affairs. ICSTI wishes to draw the attention of the
Committee to the wider role that the UK's activities in this area
play in the creation, dissemination and use of the results of
scientific endeavor. Specifically ICSTI would draw the attention
of the committee to the following:
Scientific Publication is a world-wide
activity, developed nations have a responsibility to assist the
developing world to get the benefit of research;
English is a de-facto language of
Science, however, diversity is important and helpful to the widest
dissemination of information;
Technology is and increasingly will
change the format, content and means of distribution of the results
of research, allowance should be made for the funding of this
The area of scientific publication
is undergoing change, this is to be expected and may not require
any intervention at the level of public policy in order to achieve
the overall goal of improving the quality and availability of
the record of Science.
This submission is made to alert the Committee
to the context in which the enquiry takes place and in the hope
and expectation that the Committee will take into account in its
deliberations the wider role of Science and specifically Research
and Development in the development of the world's knowledge.