Memorandum from the John Innes Centre
The John Innes Centre is a Plant and Microbial
Research Institute, core funded by the BBSRC
1. KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
1.1 JIG urges the S&T committee to welcome
the general principles behind the new open-access models of science
publishing, and to endorse the recent experiments for funding
them through an "author pays" mechanism.
1.2 JIC encourages the committee to recommend
that RCUK, and other publicly-funded grant-awarding bodies, should
adopt a policy that will, over time, require publicly-funded research
results to be freely available to both scientists and society
at large. They should also be urged to recognize that the costs
of disseminating scientific results are an intrinsic part of the
cost of doing the research.
1.3 JIG recommends that the committee strongly
reinforce the shift, in RAE/IAE exercises and in appointment,
promotion and tenure reviews, away from attention to the box,
or journal, in which a paper is placed and towards the individual
article as the appropriate unit of merit. RCUK and charities will
need to be encouraged to allocate resources for training, awareness
and the shifting of entrenched attitudes in this area.
2.1 John Innes Centre (JIG), in line with
its sister institutes, considers that neither the scientific community,
nor society at large, are well served by the current model of
scholarly publishing. JIG believes that the structure of current
journal practices and publishers, and "reader pays"
access, although well established have led to major emerging problems.
The appetite of the public for easy access to
the results of publicly funded primary scientific research eg
in relation to BSE, BMO, stem cells, cancer breakthroughs, HRT,
is frustrated by the "reader pays" model.
Journal prices have seen unsustainable growth.
In the decade from 1990 to 2000, the cost of medical journals
has increased by 250%. This is 5 times the retail price index
There has been major consolidation in the STM
publishing world. The Office of Fair Trading has indicated, "There
is evidence to suggest that the market for STM journals may not
be working well". Reed Elsevier has just announced record
profits this year of more than £lbn (on journal sales off2.2bn)
JIG, along with many comparable scientific institutions, cannot
sustain the corresponding library budget increases and is thus
forced to reduce easy access to scholarship.
2.2 JIG strongly supports the various recent
initiatives to test alternative scientific communication models.
We endorse the position outlined in the Bethesda Statement on
Open Access Publishing, 2003
and the Berlin Declaration
and the position of the Welcome Foundation, Howard Hughes Foundation,
National Institute of Health, JISC and the Max Planck Society
in relation to these.
Our evidence is submitted within the context
outlined above in Section 2. Our comments relate directly to the
questions posed by the committee and are endorsed by the Heads
of the JIG Science Departments, the JIG Library Steering Group,
the two Senior Scientists of the Sainsbury Laboratory (Prof JDG
Jones FRS and Prof. DG Baulcombe FRS) and by the JIG Centre Management
3.1 What impact do publishers' current policies
and provision of scientific journals, particularly "big deal
schemes" have on libraries and the teaching and research
communities they serve?
3.1.1 The higher-than-inflation increase
in STM journals prices has resulted in large scale cancellations
of titles at JIG over the last decade. Policy on electronic versions
varies greatly, in some cases to the detriment of our library
users (a recent example is the EMBO Journal/EMBO reports' price
hike of 100 per cent on obligatory electronic access).
3.1.2 Consolidation in the numbers of STM
publishers has led to dominant market leaders with little effective
competition. This has encouraged the use of "big deals",
which are not helpful to the consumer. JIG had to purchase access
to 1300 journals in an Elsevier/Science Direct bundle, when we
only make use of about 200 titles. We note with some disquiet
that the University of California library system and Cornell University
have still not been able to reach an acceptable agreement on access
to the Cell bundle of journals from Elsevier.
3.1.3 JIG believes that the charging of
VAT on electronic access to journals but not on hard copy is a
major disincentive to the general broadening of the use of the
scientific literature through electronic access.
3.2 What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
3.2.1 JIG, along with its sister institutes,
recognizes the economic pressures on its library that have resulted
from the continued consolidation of STM publishers. While the
Office of Fair Trading may be preparing to reopen its 2002 review,
we also believe that the Open Access model will eventually bring
welcome competition, particularly at the top end of the market.
Flagship journals like J. Biology (BMG) and Biology (PLoS) are
providing new outlets for the very best research papers produced.
3.3 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?
3.3.1 JIG considers that the increasing
number of journals that adhere to open-access principles is good
for scientists, good for science publishing and good for the general
public. We welcome not only the new open access only publishers
such as BioMed Central (BMG) and Public Library of Science (PLoS),
but also the recent moves by established journals such as Development
(Company of Biologists) and Nucleic Acid Research (Oxford University
Press) to experiment with the open-access model.
3.3.2 JIG firmly believes that the conventional
allocation of copyright to the publisher is no longer in the interest
of effective science communication. Copyright is rarely exploited
or enforced, and many journals (eg Nature) now allow authors to
post PDF files of papers on their web site, making copyright ineffectual.
We believe authors' retention of copyright in the open-access
model is a more desirable situation. This, together with multiple
electronic depositories will increase the opportunities for effective
data mining and will increase the chance that important papers
will be noticed and cited.
3.3.3. JIG shares the concerns of many scientific
institutions that the potential superficial use of journal impact
factors in RAE/IAE exercises and promotion, appointment and tenure
reviews could be both misleading and bad for science. We welcome
the focus that the open-access model puts on the individual paper
rather than the box or journal, in which it is placed. As citation
rates for papers are not related to the impact factor of the journals
that house them (4), this means that more attention must be paid
to the paper as the unit of scientific merit, along with its potential
associated trail of citations, downloads, Faculty of 1000 rating
etc. We do not desire a situation in which students and postdocs
are put-off by the fear that open access might mean lack of due
3.3.4 The emerging financial model for open-access
journals is that of "author pays". JIG urges that such
a "dissemination fee" is recognized and built into the
costs of research. There must, however, be some provision for
allowing amateurs, researchers with no grants, and third world
research scientists who cannot afford to pay, to still publish
in open access journals. (see Recommendations 1-3 above)
3.4 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
3.4.1 JIG considers that its access to electronic
document delivery is hampered by current licensing restrictions.
Open-access models will mean increased focus on efficient electronic
deposit libraries. JIG shares concerns about the permanency of
open-access journals, and about electronic access to the older
literature, and we urge that national depositories eg the British
Library are adequately funded.
3.5 What impact will trends in academic
journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
JIG does not consider that the chances of fraud
and malpractice are increased by the specific mechanics of open-access
journals, as long as effective peer-review systems are retained.
If anything, the open availability of articles may well make fraud
more easily detectable and therefore less likely.
325 BMJ. 382 (2004) 1-3. Back
Richard Wray in the Guardian 19 Feb 2004. Back
Nature (2003) 426; 495 Back