Memorandum from the Cambridge University
Cambridge University Library (CUL) welcomes
the opportunity to respond to the inquiry into scientific publications.
CUL is committed to promoting the dissemination and long-term
availability of scientific research output, whether created within
the University of Cambridge or elsewhere. In furtherance of this
principle it has become an institutional member of SPARC Europe;
is a signatory to the Budapest Open Access Initiative;
and contributes to the work of the UK Digital Preservation Coalition.
Furthermore, as a legal deposit library CUL has taken a leading
role in the storage, management and preservation processes for
printed materials and has recognised that these processes must
now be developed for electronic assets. As a member of both SCONUL
(Society for College, National and University Libraries) and CURL
(Consortium of University Research Libraries), CUL endorses the
submission made on our behalf by those bodies and will not repeat
here the points made in that submission.
2. WHAT IMPACT
2.1 The current economics of scholarly journal
publishing are unsustainable. Unless the model is changed, academic
libraries and universities will be unable to continue to provide
access to the world's scholarship and knowledge. The SCONUL/CURL
response indicates clearly how journal costs have risen far in
excess of the RPI in the last 10-15 years. This has taken place
over a period when university library budgets have, at best, increased
at the level of the RPI, but in many years libraries, including
CUL, have been faced with a budget that was either static or even
lower than that of the previous year. This has created a vicious
circle, in which cuts in journal subscriptions have led to further
price increases which, in turn, have led to further cuts.
2.2 A small number of commercial publishers
are exercising increasing control over the publication and distribution
of scientific scholarship and research, and their business models
and marketing strategies threaten to undermine the core academic
values of promoting broad and rapid dissemination of new knowledge
and wide access to the results of scholarship and research. The
licensing commitments associated with "big deal schemes"
or "bundling" are squeezing budgets by requiring libraries
to maintain large, fixed levels of expenditure with certain publishers
without the ability to cancel unneeded subscriptions. In the past,
one was that a library could accommodate increases in serials
prices was by cancelling some titles. This possibility is now
much more restricted, as current licensing agreements, as practised
for example by Elsevier Science, mean that if a library cancels
any significant number of the journals it subscribes to, the pricing
of the other journals that the library chooses to keep increases
substantially. This means that libraries have to make cancellations
elsewhere to finance the "big deal scheme", thus putting
the smaller journal publishers (learned societies and university
presses) and the publishers of monographs at a more disadvantageous
situation in the publishing market.
3. WHAT ACTION
3.1 The three players each have a role to
play. It is an ironic situation that has developed whereby many
academics have been willing to pass copyright control over their
articles to the publishers. They give the results of their research,
which has often been funded either by their institution or through
grants from public sources, to the commercial publisher, who then
"sells" it back to the academic's institution through
3.2 The open-access model, whereby researchers
can publish the results of their work either through institutional
or subject-based repositories, provides an alternative to the
current model. There is an increasing range of business models
for open-access, and opportunities for publishing in peer-reviewed
open-access "journals", so that it is no longer possible
to argue that open-access is necessarily less prestigious than
publishing with a major commercial journal. The encouragement
of open-access, in the interests of creating greater competition
and promoting the wider availability of scientific research, could
be achieved without placing at risk the legitimate expectations
of publishers such as the university presses and scientific societies,
who depend on income from their publications but who do not, on
the whole, exploit their market position in the way that some
commercial publishers do.
3.3 Open-access would gain significantly
in status if the output from government-supported research were
to be made freely available in the public domain, either instead
of, or in addition to, publication through traditional journals.
The Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany and the Wellcome Trust
in the UK have already stated publicly that they will meet the
costs of publishing in such journals or repositories. A similar
statement from the UK research councils and other funding agencies
would be a welcome development.
3.4 With the OAI (Open Archives Initiative)
the consideration of a network of repositories is now a possibility,
whereby all researchers can be encouraged to "self-archive"
their articles, which will then be accessible by all without charge.
CUL has initiated a project, Dspace@Cambridge,
whose primary purpose is to develop a digital repository for the
University of Cambridge. It utilises an open-source digital-repository
system, and, by making research publicly available via such a
repository, will ensure that both the teaching and research communities
will have access to the publications they require both now and
in the future, as Dspace aims to ensure the long-term preservation
of items deposited.
4. WHAT ARE
4.1 From an RAE point of view, the important
factor ought to be the intellectual merit of the article, regardless
of where it is published. The problem to-date has been that the
impact factor of a particular journal has been regarded as a key
merit in this exercise. Provided that open-access "publishing"
is peer reviewed, then there is no apparent reason why publishing
in an open-access journal should be regarded as any less acceptable
for the RAE ratings than publishing with an expensive commercial
5. HOW EFFECTIVELY
5.1 In common with the other legal deposit
libraries, CUL is heavily used by the scientific community, both
from within Cambridge and elsewhere. Over 50% of the Library's
35,000 currently registered users are neither staff nor students
from the University of Cambridge. As a matter of course, the Library
makes the electronic journals to which it subscribes (over 4,000
titles) available to the desktops of researchers anywhere in the
University. Wherever possible (subject to licensing restrictions)
users from outside the University may also make use of these journals
on a walk-in basis in the University Library buildings. The main
restrictions on this are the requirements by some publishers that
access is on a password-only basis, which means that some journals
are not available to library users coming from outside the University.
5.2 Most scientists now prefer to have access
to journal articles in electronic form rather than from paper
journals. A complete switch to paper-only journals is, however,
constrained by two factors:
The first is the uncertainty about
access to earlier issues. If a library has subscribed to a paper
journal, the issues of that journal are archived and available
for users. Subscriptions to electronic journals are for access
only and the library owns noting tangible from previous years.
Some publishers make their back runs available freely after a
certain number of years. Others charge an additional fee for long-term
access, and there are several models in between. It should be
a requirement that, having once paid for access to a particular
year's issues, the subscriber should then have indefinite access
without being required to pay an additional fee for this or to
be required to continue the subscription.
The second constraint is the continuing
uncertainty about long-term access to electronic files. Journals
of the seventeenth century can still be read without difficulty.
How sure are we that electronic journals of 2004 will be accessible
in 300 years' time? This is a matter which is being addressed
by many organisations around the world but it has not yet been
solved, and the solution will undoubtedly mean that whatever electronic
archives are established (whether in the legal deposit libraries
or elsewhere) will need to be adequately funded.
5.3 The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003
is a major step towards resolving one aspect of this problem of
securing that electronic future. We await the establishment by
the government of the Advisory Panel that will regulate this matter,
but once the secondary legislation covering electronic journals
is enacted, it should be possible to ensure that such journals
are placed in an appropriate archive. As already indicated, this
cannot be done except at a price, and the libraries are currently
exploring the most cost-effective model of providing a secure
repository for electronic materials received under legal deposit.
5.4 It should not, however, be taken for
granted that the enactment of legal deposit legislation will do
more than ensure the long-term preservation of electronic information,
as the restrictions likely to be imposed by publishers to protect
what they see as their legitimate business interests will restrict
access to the legal deposit versions of electronic journals, probably
to just one workstation within each legal deposit library building.
This means that, in this respect at least, for Oxford and Cambridge,
where campus-wide access to journals will be required, the legal
deposit provisions will have little effect, as the libraries will
have to continue to subscribe to those journals that they can
afford, as they do at present.
5.5 The scientific publishing business is
a global one, and many of the major publishers operate either
entirely outside the UK or partially so. There is a growing international
concern with the issues dealt with in this inquiry, and the UK
government should seek support from the European Union and other
governments in the investigation of these matters.
6. WHAT IMPACT
6.1 This is a matter better addressed in
the responses from the scientists rather than the libraries. Plagiarism
is a problem, be it in the print or electronic world. However,
if more research becomes available in an open access environment,
detection can be easier. There is a risk that scientific papers
can appear on the web without peer review, and indeed they already
do so. There is no perfect solution, but the opportunity to withdraw
or correct a mistake that has appeared in an electronic environment
is far more easily facilitated. The web has already allowed the
publication of many non-reviewed articles on a variety of subjects
and only through the education of users in critical appraisal
skills can be the risks be decreased.
329 The Academic Resources and Scholarly Publishing
Coalition: http://www.sparceurope.org/ Back