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
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
contentthis can range from between 3% and 35%
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
The price of print subscriptions
has increased year on year for medical libraries in the UK by
an average of 9%.
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
What action should Government, academic institutions
and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific
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
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?
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?
What impact will trends in academic journal publishing
have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
320 2003 Swets Blackwell e-journal survey. Back
Ebsco Serials price projections report 2004. Back