Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

  1.  The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (the CSP) is the professional, educational, and trade union body for the United Kingdom's 42,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. We have members employed in teaching and research roles in universities across the UK. The majority of our practising members work in the NHS, but a significant proportion is employed in independent hospitals and charities, in residential homes, sports clubs and in private practice. Around 98% of qualified practising physiotherapists are members of the CSP. Physiotherapy is the largest allied healthcare profession and the third largest healthcare profession in the UK.

  2.  The CSP welcomes the Science and Technology Select Committee's inquiry into scientific publications, which comes at an interesting time for the CSP for two reasons. Firstly, the Society is entering into a commercial partnership with Elsevier to publish the CSP's relaunched scientific journal, Physiotherapy, now entering its 90 volume. Secondly, the Society is exploring a number of avenues for improving the funding and dissemination of physiotherapy research.

  3.  The CSP wishes to make clear that its policy on scientific publications and the views contained in this submission are entirely independent of its new relationship with Elsevier. The Society continues to own Physiotherapy and has entered into a fixed term contract under which Elsevier will administer, publish and promote the journal on the Society's behalf, with the CSP retaining complete editorial control.

  4.  The tests we apply in considering these issues are:

    —  Does the situation promote and advance research, including physiotherapy research?

    —  Does the situation enable researchers, clinicians and students, in whatever occupational or educational setting, to gain access to a wide range of research information, including that relating to physiotherapy research?

    —  Does the situation enable clinicians and those redesigning services to apply the lessons of the most recent and valuable research to their own practice and services?

  5.  This submission focuses on the areas where the Society feels it has a distinctive contribution to make to the debate.

Impact of publishers' policies on pricing and provision of journals

  6.  We are not opposed to "big deals" so long as subscribers are given an acceptable range of options providing either variety or focus, depending upon the needs of institutions and their users. On the whole, these deals appear to work well for large institutions but can be more problematic for smaller scale operations such as the CSP's own library service. We see potential benefits to physiotherapy's teaching and research community in such deals enabling or encouraging institutions to subscribe to a wider range of publications. In considering how best to relaunch our own journal to promote physiotherapy research outside the physiotherapy profession and to an international scientific audience, the CSP formed the view that its best option was to work with one of the publishing companies that could make subscription more attractive to librarians as part of a relevant package. For smaller institutions, especially those outside formal NHS or university structures, the relevance of coverage provided by these deals will be more important than breadth of coverage.

Action to promote a competitive market

  7.  We do not offer specific proposals for action in this area. In principle, we would wish to see at least a significant proportion of the benefits flowing from economies of scale coming to the consumer

Open access

  8.  The debate concerning open access, involving payment to publish rather than payment to access research, is now gathering momentum and attracting significant attention outside the scientific publishing community. We are pleased that the Select Committee is examining this issue as we believe that the issues are by no means clear cut and we are keen for some of the pitfalls to be addressed before the debate progresses further. The potential advantages of the open access model include quicker access to published research and, in theory at least, the potentially extended reach of information published in this way. The disadvantages include the risk that this new and relatively untried system could have an impact on quality and standards relating to review processes and editorial decision-making. The most significant concern for the Society and the physiotherapy profession, however, is that the costs of publication under this model may be more difficult for some groups to meet and that it will potentially drive up the costs of funded research projects. Much of the public debate has focused on the potential impact in high-profile and relatively well-funded research areas such as medicine. The funding situation confronting researchers in physiotherapy or related smaller but vital areas is such that these researchers would be forced to find additional funding to publish under open access. If the Government were to support the open access trend, it would be imperative that it simultaneously addressed the serious imbalances in existing funding structures. The full consequences of open access will remain unpredictable until the rules for the next Research Assessment Exercise have been published and universities begin implementation.

Legal Deposit facilities

  9.  The anecdotal evidence available to us suggests that while the system appears to function well at the level of national institutions, some users experience difficulties in gaining access to collections held in university libraries with legal deposit status.

Risk of fraud and malpractice

  10.  We are concerned that sufficiently robust protocols should be developed as electronic publishing and open access are explored, to avoid the potential for fraud inherent in a fluid situation with increased costs for authors.


  11.  The CSP believes that, on many of the issues being considered by the Select Committee, the jury is out and will remain so for some time. We hope that all those involved in influencing the global scientific publishing marketplace—whether publishers, research funders, governments or subscribing institutions—will use the current transitional period to deal with the issues of concern to all those with a stake in the promulgation of research rather than simply those with the highest profile under existing arrangements.

  12.  We will be happy to furnish the Committee with further information or to clarify anything relating to this submission. Please contact Adam Scorer, Head of Public Affairs, at for further details.

February 2004

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