Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the NHS Library and Knowledge Development Network Purchasing Group

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?

    —  The NHS purchases printed and electronic journals through aggregators. The aggregators negotiate with publishers on behalf of the NHS and provide valuable support to NHS libraries in managing subscriptions from multiple sources.

    —  The market for aggregators has been shrinking considerably over the last 4 years and now consists of two major suppliers; Ebsco and Swets Information Services.

    —  The level of influence over certain key medical publishers by aggregators has diminished. The NHS is now at a stage where it is considering, through its library network, mechanisms for direct negotiation with its key publishers.

    —  The National Core Content Group, which the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency advised, has competitively purchased a core collection of electronic journals for the NHS. The collection offers a broad range of titles, which cover most specialities.

    —  The above is an excellent collection, however, many publishers are looking at their own strategies for supplying the NHS, which link directly to print cancellations.

    —  The issue for the NHS is that a move to electronic only models result in a subsidy for electronic only content—this can range from between 3% and 35%[320] by publisher in addition to the print subscription price.

    —  Many publishers are moving away from an electronic access free with print model, which effectively means the NHS pays twice if both print and electronic options are required.

    —  The price of print subscriptions has increased year on year for medical libraries in the UK by an average of 9%.[321]

    —  Any print cancellations can lead to higher prices being paid on electronic content.

    —  Print cancellations are inevitable each year as library budgets are limited. With the purchase of electronic information for all by the NHS, library budgets are being tightened further.

    —  This reduces access to core and specialist resources and encourages the purchase of generic collections.

    —  The impact on libraries is the increase in price of core and specialist titles, which are required for evidence-based clinical decisions and research.

    —  The NHS supports open access publishing, as information at point of use for all is key to the NHS.

    —  Publishers are taking advantage of the NHS and intervention directly with publishers is complex and may have only limited results. Only a major shift of thinking will encourage a fair and open structure of pricing by publishers.

    —  Encouraging open access will provide this.

What action should Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific publications?

    —  A Government statement in support of open access to publications arising from publicly-funded research would encourage the development of alternatives to the current subscription model for peer-reviewed academic journals.

    —  The development of alternatives provides competition within the present structure for journal supply and an opportunity for improved access to the results of publicly-funded research.

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?

    —  Unable to comment

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 this respect?

    —  Unable to comment

What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?

    —  Unable to comment

February 2004

320   2003 Swets Blackwell e-journal survey. Back

321   Ebsco Serials price projections report 2004. Back

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Prepared 20 July 2004