Memorandum from the Oxford University
Oxford University Press participated in preparation
of the submissions made to the committee by Oxford University,
the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers,
and the Publisher's Association, and we support the main recommendations
contained within each of these submissions. At the request of
the committee, we are also submitting this short memorandum to
supplement these three submissions to provide some further details
regarding the main questions posed by the committee.
OUP is a medium-sized journals publisher, with
180 journals across a broad range of subjects including humanities
and social sciences as well as science and medicine. Around 60%
of our journals are published in collaboration with learned societies
or other organisations. According to the OFT investigation into
the market for stm journals, our market share of ISI-rated journals
is around 1%.
1. 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?
Our policies are designed to be as
scholarly- friendly as possible in order to achieve the widest
possible dissemination of research results, consistent with the
need to cover costs and produce sufficient surplus to enable OUP
and our publishing partners to continue to provide a high quality
publishing service for the scholarly community.
OUP offers our customers a wide range
of choices concerning access to the material published in our
journals. Individual titles may be purchased in print or online
formats (or a combination of the two). In addition libraries may
purchase online access to a number of subject collections of journals,
or the entire corpus, at heavily- discounted prices. We also offer
pay per view facilities for purchase of individual articles, reduced
rate subscriptions for individual researchers, and free or heavily
discounted subscriptions to libraries from developing countries.
Over the past few years we have invested
heavily to improve our online publishing and IT infrastructure
systems and this investment, together with our international reach
and flexible pricing policies, has led to an increase of 250%
in the number of article downloads over the past two years, (from
9 million in 2001 to 23 million in 2003), and a consequent reduction
in the average cost to our customers of more than 40% during the
same period (from £2.85 per download in 2001 to £1.24
per download in 2003).
2. What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
OUP faces competition from other
publishers, both commercial and not- for-profit, for authors,
customers, and the right to publish key journals on behalf of
their scientific society owners. We believe that the market will
decide on the best business model(s), without the need for further
regulatory intervention. Of course publishers are always subject
to application of competition rules to prevent anti-competitive
practices and abuses of dominance (see conclusions of OFT 2002
report). If problems arise, there is already an effective regulatory
regime in place to rectify the problem.
We support the calls made in other
submissions for VAT on online products to be removed, or for educational
and research institutions to be given "special status"
exempting them from VAT on electronic provision, in order to encourage
a move to "online only" distribution with consequent
cost savings for both publishers and libraries.
The current lack of a secure, permanent,
third party archive, is the other major barrier preventing libraries
in the UK from moving to online only access (see question 4).
3. What are the consequences of increasing
numbers of open-access journals, for example on the operation
of the Research Assessment Exercise and other selection processes?
Should the Government support a trend and if so how?
OUP believes that a variety of different
pricing models are necessary and that no one model is likely to
be able meet the requirements of the wide range of journals that
we publish. Since open access publishing does not yet represent
a viable model in that no publisher employing this model has yet
managed to cover its costs, a period of experimentation seems
prudent to help to decide whether open access can deliver on all
of the benefits that its proponents have claimed.
We are therefore conducting experiments
with two journals to investigate the potential benefits of open
access publishing. One journal, Nucleic Acids Research, has begun
to publish some articles under an author-payment model. Although
this experiment has been supported by a majority of authors we
have also heard concerns expressed by well-funded researchers
on behalf of their less-fortunate colleagues in small laboratories
or from developing countries. Inevitably, any subsidy offered
to authors unable to pay would need to be recovered through higher
submission charges for those who can afford to pay. For the other
journal, Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine;
an author-funded model is inappropriate because a large proportion
of contributions are expected to come from developing countries.
For this publication we have managed to secure sponsorship to
make all of the research articles available on open access, whilst
the other material published in the journal will be made available
under a subscription model.
We share many of the concerns about
open access publishing that are set out in the Oxford University,
ALPSP and PA submissions. In particular, we are concerned that
under an author-payment model only well-funded researchers might
be able to afford to publish their work, particularly in subject
areas where research is conducted largely without the support
of research grants (such as Mathematics and much of the Humanities).
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
OUP has in place arrangements with
the British Library for all of the material published in our journals
to be made available to any researcher who needs it, either in
print or electronic form, for a per article fee. Walk-in users
to the British Library (and any subscribing library) can also
view all print and online publications free of charge
Publishers and libraries have been
working together to develop guidelines and working practices to
ensure that the scientific record is preserved for future generations.
The main barrier to developing these archives appears to be lack
of funding available to the legal deposit libraries to build the
necessary technical infrastructure. If this were in place it would
facilitate a move towards online only- access, with consequent
cost-savings for both publishers and libraries.
5. What impact will trends in the academic
journal market have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
Despite high-profile cases, such
as publication in the Lancet of the research by Wakefield on MMR,
we believe that whatever publishing models might emerge it is
vital to preserve the practice of peer review. In our experience
peer review is a critical tool in the detection of scientific
fraud and malpractice, in addition to its primary role in assessing
and improving the quality of research publications.
In order to reduce barriers to accessing scientific
information published in subscription-based, online journals we
propose that the Committee should recommend that:
funding for the purchase of online
access to research should be increased in line with increases
in research funding;
VAT on online journals should be
abolished, or educational and research institutions should be
exempt from payment of VAT;
funding should be made available
for the creation of a permanent electronic archive.