Memorandum from the Department of Trade
and Industry, the Department for Education and Skills and the
Department of Culture, Media and Sport
This submission contains detailed answers to
the questions asked by the Select Committee. It also contains
additional background material provided by the DTI.
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?
1. Institutions, such as libraries, universities
and PSREs are spending an increasing amount of money on subscriptions
to journals. As the cost is increasing many institutions are struggling
to cope. However, the volume of scientific publications produced
each year is also increasing and publishers argue that the cost
per article is actually falling.
2. Another issue that many institutions
are unhappy with is the fact that they feel they have become "locked
in" to deals with major publishers by which a range of titles
(including on-line access) are bought for a set period of timesome
institutions complained that as prices of these subscriptions
rose, they had no choice but to cancel subscriptions to journals
produced by smaller publishing houses. This was often very unpopular
within the institution and was felt to be difficult to justify
to the researchers affected. In addition, e-access to journals
can then create a VAT liabilityVAT liability for electronic
works but not for printed works is an issue that has been raised
by all sides.
3. In addition, researchers demand constant
access to their journalsarrangements can not be put in
place on a "when needed" basis and so libraries are
often forced to take out long term subscriptions to a large number
4. However, many institutions are combining
together to use their combined economic muscle to negotiate more
cost effective deals for themselves, for example the NESTLI2 agreement.
These are usually bought through a third party portal rather than
from publishers directly. Many areas of Government still negotiate
individual deals with publishers but discussions are underway
to negotiate a similar economic deal for Government. Overall,
Government needs to organize effectively to reduce the total purchasing
costs and should actively ensure that other public bodies do so
5. Nevertheless, we note that such deals
are only possible to large organisations or consortiums to provide
the critical mass to negotiate such a deal, and the current options
such as this may not be possible to ensure wider public access,
which is an important consideration for publicly funded research.
6. In addition, if greater public access
is also desired the means by which the research is accessed needs
to be considered, some members of the public may not have internet
access whereas others may not be able to easily access a public
or institutional library.
7. Consequently, accessibility of publications
is a key issue, there is a strong possibility that as access to
electronic journals, and the associated search engine technology
becomes more and more common, a form of electronic distribution
will improve both speeds with which new ideas can be disseminated
and also increase the potential audience for each publication.
Effective use of search engine technologies could have important
implications as increasing amounts of research are becoming multi-disciplinary
in nature. "Smart" search engine technology could search
through large archives and identify potential areas of interest
that may not be found through current search methods. For example,
investigation of online access has found that papers that are
available online are much more likely to be cited than papers
which are classified as offline.
8. It is essential however that accessibility
is not increased at the expense of the quality of the material.
The choice of online or printed versions increases the accessibility
to the information, and access should not be solely restricted
to online. In addition access to commercially published information
through libraries, with schemes such as those providing free or
low cost access to Scientific Technical and Medical (STM) data
in underdeveloped countries is an important factor. Under programs
such as HINARI (Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative)
and AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) forty
six publishers provide STM data to over one hundred such countries
9. Free Access to research papers via the
internet would be particularly useful for key groups such as women
taking career breaks. Constant developments within many subjects
mean that people on career breaks may often lose touch with the
major developments in their subject. For people taking long term
career breaks, this can prove a major obstacle to re-entering
their chosen subject. Access would not need to be immediate, for
example, many journals allow full access of their publication
archive after short periods of six months or so.
What action should Government, academic institutions
and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific
10. It is important that new models do not
degrade the value of full peer group analysis or result in a fall
in quality of published research. The provision of quality scientific
information requires the widest range of contributors. Peer Group
analysis is a vital component of the process and is required to
verify that the material has merit and that the research is not
flawed. The editing of text and establishing links to and from
other articles by the publisher improves the quality and visibility
of the article
11. The business model is under question
with the traditional paid-for journal approach being challenged
by Open Access where journals are available free to users, but
authors have to pay a fee. Interaction between the scientific/academic
community and the market will eventually work this out and there
may well be room for both models or hybrid models. The high-risk
period is the transition stage where we must take care that new
models do not make traditional models unviable before we are sure
that the new models are sustainable and capable of serving the
best interests of the research and the scientific community.
12. There is some doubt that Open Access
Models with their current pricing structure can be sustainable
in the long term. Commercial Publishers argue that the current
average cost of publishing one article is at least £2,000.
This cost is increased even further by the number of articles
that are rejected. Journals such as `Nature' can typically have
a rejection rate of 85%, which increases the costs of publishing
to a cost around £4,000.
13. The current average price for publishing
an Open Access article is approximately £800 per article.
The most successful of the current models (Public Library Of Science,
Biomed Central), are currently heavily subsidized by charitable
organizations. In addition the cost of rejecting articles will
also need to be borne by Open Access publishers, but it is unclear
how the current pricing models will accommodate this factor.
14. The true cost of any STM publication
model should include the revenue spent on peer group evaluation,
formatting, linking, profiling, and archiving the information.
15. Consequently, the DTI believes that
there needs to be considerable more research into the long term
stability and financial viability of the Open Access Business
Model. The risk of distorting the market through short-term subsidies
requires further consideration.
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?
16. The DfES does not have a specific policy
on scientific publications, but institutions receive some support
for access through funding made available to the Higher Education
Funding Council for England (HEFCE). However, it would encourage
HEIs and all partners to adopt a holistic approach and work together
towards more open access to science research publications.
17. The DTI will be working closely with
Research Councils UK (RCUK) on this issue.
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?
18. The Department for Culture, Media and
Sport (DCMS) sponsors the British Library but has no sponsor responsibilities
for other Legal Deposit Libraries. The role of DCMS is necessarily
limited and this answer relates solely to legally deposited material.
19. It is not yet a legal requirement for
non-print material to be deposited. However, the Legal Deposit
Act 2003, passed on 31 October 2003, gives the Secretary of State
power to make regulations requiring the deposit of non-print material
(such as CD-roms and e-journals) with a deposit library. This
allows future forms of publications to be incorporated and ensures
that the complexity of the non-print publishing industry is fully
20. DCMS will be responsible for drafting
the regulations. Each set of regulations will be subject to a
21. During the passage of the Act, DCMS
Ministers gave assurances to the publishing community. One of
these was that DCMS would set up a Legal Deposit Advisory Panel
comprising members of the library and publishing communities,
as well as independent experts. It would advise the Secretary
of State on timing and drafting of regulations. It was made clear
that no regulations would be made until such a Panel had been
22. DCMS is consulting on setting up the
Advisory Panel and aims to have it in place by the end of 2004.
Work on regulations can begin then and legal deposit of non-print
material is likely to start in 2005.
23. DCMS is not in a position, at present,
to comment on the likely wording or detail of any regulations
relating to the legal deposit of non-print material nor on what
access arrangements will be made following the laying of those
regulations. However, the regulations will cover access to legally
deposited non-print material. Access arrangements will have to
achieve an acceptable balance between the need for the libraries
to store and preserve the material and the economic interests
of the publishing community. For these reasons access will, inevitably,
have to be limited in some cases. The availability to the research
community of such legally deposited non-print material will be
dependent on two factors:
the wording of the relevant regulations;
and within those constraints
the policy of the deposit library
24. The establishment of a secure network
between the deposit libraries is one of the proposals for maximising
access. This would allow access to non-print material from any
of the deposit libraries, following the deposit of just one copy.
The details of how such a network may operate (eg. how many users
would be allowed to access this material at any one time) would
be subject to consultation and be covered in the regulations.
25. Our expectation is that the British
Library's services will, as now, be priced to recover costs in
accordance with the requirements of the Government's Fees and
What impact will trends in academic journal publishing
have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
26. The overall level of scientific fraud
and malpractice is difficult to judge. There have been major cases
recently (for example, at Bell Laboratories) and less major cases
have also been reported.
However, the crucial aspect is that these cases were picked up
within the scientific community. As the publications process is
a key part of research, any scientist suspected of malpractice
may effectively find that his/her research career comes to an
end. Certainly, the standing of any scientist amongst his/her
peers would plummet. It is difficult to estimate any potential
level of plagiarism within the publications process, but anecdotal
evidence suggests that it is rare. There is no evidence that we
have seen which suggests that a switch to open access methods
of publishing would have any impact on the level of plagiarism
27. Software has been developed, and is
continuing to be improved, which can be used to detect cases of
and thus it is possible that a move to a publishing model whereby
all papers are published electronically could actually reduce
any such malpractice.
28. This background represents the combined
views of the Office of Science and Technology and the Business
Relations Unit of the DTI, which represents both the commercial
and the not-for-profit publication sector.
29. The UK is a major contributor to the
provision of Scientific Technical Medical (STM) publications.
UK based, global publishers include Reed Elsevier, Macmillan,
Oxford University Press, Blackwell and Taylor & Francis. A
significant percentage of their revenue is generated from outside
the UK, making them a major contributor to the UK knowledge economy.
30. Provision of Scientific information
plays a major role in the success of UK Plc and the information
provided is of high value to the academic community. The number
of articles and users of scientific information has increased
significantly over the last five years. There are a number of
key issues that must be considered.
31. The whole journal process as it stands
is a very effective way of ensuring quality control through the
traditional peer review process. Not all research materials which
are freely available on the Internet may have been reviewed by
this peer review process, for example, many institutions publish
"work in progress", or technical reports which will
in all probability not have undergone such a comprehensive peer
review process as would occur in a journal publication. However,
the peer review process is still viewed as the best method of
ensuring quality control. At least in the near future, any publishing
process would have to ensure that this quality control aspect
(most likely through peer review) was explicit. Current new open
access publishers still maintain a strict quality control and
effective peer review is still seen as a key part of the publishing
32. Traditional print publishing journals
claim to offer additional customer support. For example, the most
obvious example is that many journals allow both print and electronic
version of the same journal or provide news and commentary within
the journal. It is claimed that this "added value" offered
is a secondary, but important aspect of any publishing model
33. If an archive includes both formally,
peer-reviewed material and less formally reviewed work ("work
in progress" or internal technical reports) then it is important
that such distinctions are made clear. It is not clear the extent
to which the importance to which peer-review is held within the
scholarly community is appreciated amongst the wider public. For
example, a recent poll commissioned by the Science Media Centre
and Nature found that the majority of those people asked did not
fully understand the nature of peer review in scientific publications.
34. It is imperative that the quality of
research articles is maintained and not compromised by financial
considerations. The leading journals have significant rejection
rates and it is this that drives up the quality of the articles.
35. Government must be explicit that it
sees the peer review process as crucial for the publishing process
in the foreseeable future, whether in "traditional"
print format or in an electronic journal.
36. It is important that the output of research,
published in journals, is archived and will be available for the
foreseeable future. Through traditional print methods a physical
archive exists as part of the process, although it is noted that
this process itself can be very expensive and may nevertheless
lead to large deposits of physical information that are very difficult
to effectively retrieve.
37. The requirement for the author to pay
for publication could discriminate against those authors who cannot
afford to have their work published. Authoring of research articles
is a global activity and the burden of finding the additional
funds required to publish could inhibit the breadth of contributors
and thereby impact on the quality of research produced. Safeguards
must be maintained so that the willingness to pay to have your
work published should not be the deciding factor
38. A key component of any successful and
wide-ranging Open Access strategy will be the quality of its technical
standardsgood technical standards mean that data can be
searched and accessed in novel ways and must also ensure that
articles and data can be archived in a way which is as "future
proof" as possible. This issue is vital, particularly if
the article is no longer available in the traditional printed
39. The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) promotes
the use of standard metadata and produces software to help institutions
to produce their own OAI compliant archives.
40. The STM segment of professional publishing
has been one of the early adopters of Internet based technologies
and business models. Substantial investments over a number of
years have facilitated the migration of revenue streams from traditional
channels to e-commerce. Further value added services that should
emerge to facilitate research will require considerable investment
and this will need to be included in the business models of both
traditional and Open Access publishers.
41. A clear agreement on common standards
which includes both the open access sector and the commercial
publishing sector would be very useful to drive forward the development
of knowledge management techniques to handle scientific research
and which will have a major impact regardless of the future development
of open access.
42. Government can play an important role
in ensuring that all parties agree suitable technical standards.
Along with the OAI, a number of other organisations are committed
to ensuring common standards (such as, Dublin Core, MARC standards
and even e-GIF, the government interoperability framework). Many
of the technical standards being considered have developed over
many years as standards for data classification, and are applicable
to areas outside the open access debate such as knowledge management.
43. A proportion of the work on common standards
is funded through Government funding through the Research Councils
and Government can actively encourage such work to develop a clear
set of standards which will have great benefits for the way papers
can be accessed and used
44. This issue has been covered in detail
in the response to the specific questions above.
45. Authors may lose the right to distribute
their paper in electronic format (for example, by placing on a
personal web site as a pdf file). Loss of copyright can also prevent
the documents being placed on institutional or subject archival
sites. However, Author's copyright is an issue that may not be
fully understood by Authors, and an aura of misinformation often
surrounds the process.
46. Currently publishers of scientific information
are responsible for monitoring, investigating and resolving issues
of copyright infringement or plagiarism. This essential function
will still need to be performed by either publishers or authors
under the Open Access system. This would involve additional cost
and needs to be factored into the financial model. For copyright
protection it is essential to ensure that mechanisms are in place
to monitor and resolve occurrences of infringement or plagiarism
that may occur.
47. We note that the Public Access to Science
Act was introduced into the US House of Representatives by Representative
Martin Sabo. This act would require that papers describing scientific
research substantially funded by the US government would be excluded
from copyright protection. This legislation has proved controversial.
48. For most academics, publication is the
key process by which they can be judged by their peers and by
which promotion (and future grants) are judged. Impact is crucial.
Consequently, the whole issue around publishing content and its
accessibility cannot be considered on purely economic terms (eg,
the cost or business models) or even in terms solely of content
(eg, peer review). As publishing is so fundamental to the research
process, at its heart it may touch issues that cannot be argued
or assessed in a totally rational, "economic" way. Given
a proposed publishing model, it may turn out to be very difficult
to predict what the outcome of its implementation will actually
be. For example, the effect of seeing ones own work in a major
print journal, rather than simply appearing on the web, may constrain
some of the proposed business models that move to an electronic
only content. Clearly, different authors will probably prefer
different models and many feel very strongly that access to publicly
funded scientific research should be available to all.
49. Often, it is found that added publishing
value comes from Peer review, selecting relevant and quality controlled
content, improving the language and presentation of that content
in journals and maximizing its visibility. It is these activities
that may contribute a large proportion of the costs of journal
publishing. These costs will still exist if the current peer review
and journal process is continued and electronic production and
distribution will also have a cost associated with them. Consequently,
the extent of cost savings when moving to wider open access publishing
may not become apparent for some years.
50. Currently, the true cost of running
an institutional archive may be masked with the operating overheads
of an organisation compared with the clear up front costs of journal
subscription. It is also most effective with sophisticated search
and archiving software which can be expensive to develop, although
software is available through open access organisations which
in turn can heavily reduce costs (for example, managing the peer
review process electronically).
51. The Journals model has developed in
recent years. In particular, there have been major changes to
respond to online availability giving rise to, for example, the
site licence approach whereby access is available to all on-line
publications for a group of users. There is already considerable
flexibility in subscription costs which provide greater value
for the user.
52. One possible business model is often
described as the Hybrid Economic model.
Articles will be available only to subscribers unless the author
chooses to pay, in which case it will be freely available on the
web. This model could enable a transition from payment for access
to payment for publication without endangering the viability of
the journal itself.
53. The archiving and preservation of scientific
information for future generations is an important factor. It
is the responsibility of all publishers to continue to preserve
information for the long term.
54. The risk of poorly kept archives or
of information being lost following the failure of a publisher
should be considered.
55. A key feature of open access is that
researchers will deposit a copy of their journal paper into an
institutional or subject archive. Control of copyright is often
raised as a key issue preventing this happening on a wide scale.
As discussed above, agreement on a common set of standards will
be vital to maximize the impact of such an approach.
56. However, some disciplines have a highly
effective approach to archiving, for example, the arXiv.org initiation
but the use of institutional archiving is patchy. As awareness
of open access issues grow, more educational and research establishments
will encourage authors to deposit their article into an institutional
archive. However, for this practice to become widespread, the
issues surrounding copyright will need to be clarified and institutions,
publishers and government should all play an important and active
role in ensuring that this is widely understood.
339 Free online availability substantially increases
a paper's impact. Steve Lawrence, Nature, v 411, (6837) p521. Back
Nature, vol 427, 1 Jan 2004, page 3. Back
for examples, see The Times Higher, January 16, 2004, page 11. Back
Science Media Centre, Press Release, 2 February 2004. Back
For example, see the article by David Prosser from SPARC
"From here to there: a proposed mechanism for transforming
journals from closed to open access," Learned Publishing
(2003) 16, 163-166". Back
The arXiv.org initiative archives physics, maths and computer
science articles, but has received funding from the US National
Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, Cornell University
and Los Alamos laboratory. Back