Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 111

Memorandum from the UK Higher and Further Education Funding Councils' Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)

INTRODUCTION

  The Joint Information Systems Committee is funded by the UK Higher and Further Education Funding Councils. The JISC's mission is to provide world class leadership in the innovative use of Information and Communication Technologies to support education and research.

  The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) requirements of colleges and universities are becoming more demanding as staff and students increasingly exploit technology to support modern ways of working. JISC's vision is one of ubiquitous and reliable access to an integrated information and communication environment, so that every user—learners, researchers, teachers or administrators—is able to enjoy a world class infrastructure provision in support of their work and study.

  The JISC provides ICT infrastructure and development programmes to support education and research. It is uniquely placed to promote the joining up of activities to help achieve its vision. JISC can help to bring cohesion across the education spectrum: colleges, universities and wider non-compulsory education, so that practitioners and students will be able to access materials from different sectors of education, thus promoting a broader understanding of subjects. The licensing terms and pricing of publishers' current policies act as a barrier to achieving this vision.

  A summary of our response is below in the form of an executive summary followed by a more detailed response to the relevant questions.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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?

    —  For many years the increase in journal prices above normal inflation has led to a reduction in the funds available for other library purchases, particularly the provision of undergraduate textbooks (please see chart attached as APPENDIX 1).

    —  The "big deal" purchasing schemes have led to a further distortion in library purchases, increasing expenditure with the major international publishers and reducing expenditure with smaller publishers.

    —  The teaching and research communities have been faced with regular cancellations of journals from smaller publishers and restrictions upon the use of textbooks by students in order to maintain the collections of journals available in "big deal" packages.

    —  As a result of high journal prices, the potential impact of publicly-funded research is being restricted both in the UK and abroad.

    —  The long-term effect upon teaching and research of restrictions on the journals and books available to be read is difficult to predict but reading is being determined by ease of access rather than by academic need.

    —  Concern about the effect upon teaching and research of the current structure of the journal publishing industry has led to international initiatives such as SPARC, SPARC Europe and the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

    —  The JISC view is not only of the problems with the current journal publishing model but also of the opportunity to improve access to journal literature, using the electronic networks to make research reports readily-available to users at every educational level.

What action should Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific publications?

    —  A competitive market in scientific publications requires the availability of several sources for the supply of the text of journal articles at differing prices.

    —  At present all sources of supply for published journal articles are controlled by publishers who set the prices and licensing conditions for end-users, whether the article is supplied directly by the publisher or through an intermediary.

    —  Publishers exercise this control over supply through the transfer of copyright from the author to the publisher.

    —  Some academic institutions have copyright policies recommending that academic staff should retain certain rights and such policies should be encouraged.

    —  When public funding of research results in publication, publishers could be required to permit the posting of a copy of the publication to a publicly-available web-site.

    —  A Government statement in support of open access to publications arising from publicly-funded research would encourage the development of alternatives to the current subscription model for peer-reviewed academic journals.

    —  The development of alternative models would provide much-needed competition within the present structure for journal supply and also provide an opportunity for improved access to the results of publicly-funded research with greater public awareness of the value of scientific research.

    —  The role of learned societies in supporting scholarship in particular disciplines should be considered in the development of new publication models.

    —  The contribution that both commercial and society publishers make to UK academic and economic success can be maintained under an open access model.

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?

    —  In principle the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) treats publications by academics in peer-reviewed open access journals in the same way as publications in peer-reviewed subscription journals.

    —  At present there are insufficient open access journals for publications from those journals to be noticeable in the RAE.

    —  Open access journals will feature more prominently in the RAE as they become more numerous and acquire high impact factor ratings.

    —  A statement of Government support for the even-handed treatment of peer-reviewed open access and subscription journals would ease fears by academics that publication in open access journals will harm their opportunities for research funding.

    —  The maintenance of the quality of academic publication is essential but greater flexibility in publication models may encourage the development of new ways of looking at quality assessment.

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?

    —  The Legal Deposit Libraries welcome the deposit of non-print publications.

    —  They are developing systems to improve access to these publications.

    —  The principal concern lies in the cost of preservation of non-print publications, preservation which is essential to ensure access for future generations of students and researchers.

What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?

    —  Academic journal publishing is currently faced with three types of fraud and malpractice: illegal copying, plagiarism and unauthorised changes to the publication.

    —  Illegal copying ceases to be a problem if publications are funded as part of the research process, enabling open access for users across the world.

    —  Plagiarism is no more serious a problem for digital publications than for paper publications and easier to detect through the use of technology.

    —  Unauthorised changes can also be detected through the electronic comparison of two texts and legal action taken by authors as a breach of copyright.

    —  Legal action of any kind in relation to scientific publications is extremely rare and self-policing by the scientific community resolves most problems.

DETAILED RESPONSE

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?

  1.1  For many years the increase in journal prices above normal inflation has led to a reduction in the funds available for other library purchases, particularly the provision of undergraduate textbooks. The chart attached as an Appendix shows the very substantial increases in journal prices, the growing expenditure on journals by UK university libraries, and the declining expenditure on monographs by the same libraries over a period of ten years. It will be evident that libraries have not been able to maintain their journal collections despite a higher expenditure on journals, and that their purchase of monographs has fallen even further behind the purchase of journals. As a result of these trends, UK students and research staff today have poorer library provision than ten years ago despite an increase in funding. It should be noted that the UK situation is mirrored in countries across the world, as libraries in even the wealthiest countries have not been able to keep up with the increase in journal prices.

  1.2  The major international publishers have responded to this situation by offering "big deal" purchasing schemes containing a wider range of journal titles. These packages of journals have led to a higher level of expenditure with certain publishers and have been justified on the basis of a lower cost per title. The deals have led to a further distortion in library purchases, increasing expenditure with the major international publishers and reducing expenditure with smaller publishers. An analysis of journal expenditure in Scottish university libraries in 2002 showed that 64% expenditure was going to 10 publishers, leaving 36% spent with approximately 3,000 publishers[439]. While the effect of these "big deals" has been to increase market share for the major publishers, the small publishers—often publishing a single journal of considerable academic value—have faced a decline in subscriptions.

  1.3  The teaching and research communities have been faced with regular cancellations of journals from smaller publishers and restrictions upon the use of textbooks by students in order to maintain the collections of journals available in "big deal" packages. While library users have had more journal titles available to them as a result of these deals, it is not clear that the additional titles have been more valuable to teaching and research than the titles from smaller publishers cancelled to pay for the "big deals".

  1.4  As a result of high journal prices, the potential impact of publicly-funded research is being restricted both in the UK and abroad. Within the UK knowledge transfer—particularly to FE institutions, schools and socially-disadvantaged groups—depends on the ready availability of academic content, and high journal prices form a barrier to availability. The public understanding of science is also distorted by what members of the public can afford to read. Outside the UK, awareness of the vital research conducted by publicly-funded institutions is restricted by what can be afforded, and benefits to individual and community well-being are not being realised.

  1.5  The long-term effect upon teaching and research of restrictions on the journals and books available to be read is difficult to predict but reading is being determined by ease of access rather than by academic need. Students and academic staff use those journals most readily available, normally those titles to which their university or college library has a subscription. The inter-library loan system and document delivery from the British Library continue to provide valuable routes to journal articles not available in the user's "home" library but the time taken to obtain an article and the cost make these routes unsuitable for most needs. If students and academic staff are largely reading those journals available in their "home" library—ie those available from a reducing number of publishers—what will be the long-term effect upon scholarship? The answer to that question is not clear but changes in the journals market could have educational consequences.

  1.6  Concern about the effect upon teaching and research of the current structure of the journal publishing industry has led to international initiatives such as SPARC[440], SPARC Europe and the Budapest Open Access Initiative[441]. Organisations and individuals in the UK have supported these developments and have welcomed the statement by the Wellcome Trust as an early sign of the recognition by funding agencies of the opportunity for change in journal publishing.

  1.7  The JISC view is not only of the problems with the current journal publishing model but also of the opportunity to improve access to journal literature, using the electronic networks to make research reports readily-available to users at every educational level. It is difficult to see how publishers' current policies could enable a quantum leap in accessibility without a quantum leap in expenditure from the public purse.

  1.8  Finally the policy of publishers licensing access to e-journals is a significant shift from the print environment. Subscribers to e-journals, particularly academic libraries whose core business depends on being able to cite and ensure future access to published works, are now deeply concerned with guaranteeing provision for archiving and continuing access to licensed e-publications. Further consideration of this issue is given in our response to question 4.

2.   What action should Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific publications?

  2.1  A competitive market in scientific publications requires the availability of several sources for the supply of the text of journal articles at differing prices. Each journal article is unique in content and a new competitor for the supply of a journal article has to have the right to supply that unique content.

  2.2  At present all sources of supply for published journal articles are controlled by publishers who set the prices and licensing conditions for end-users, whether the article is supplied directly by the publisher or through an intermediary. Any new supplier entering the market as a supplier of journal articles already published has to seek the permission of the primary publishers. This situation militates against effective competition.

  2.3  Publishers exercise this control over supply through the assignment of copyright from the author to the publisher. Authors submitting manuscripts to most academic journals are presented with a copyright transfer form for signature before the publisher agrees to publish the article. Some authors are able to negotiate changes to the copyright transfer agreement but most authors are in a weak negotiating position, particularly if they wish to be published in the high-profile journals.

  2.4  Some academic institutions have copyright policies recommending that academic staff should retain certain rights and such policies should be encouraged. Most academic institutions do not exercise their right to employer's copyright, wishing to leave copyright with their academic staff, but increasingly universities and colleges safeguard the use for internal purposes of journal articles written by members of staff, requiring authors to amend publishers' agreements if necessary. One key right universities may wish to retain is to post to the institutional web-site a copy of any journal article written by a member of staff.

  2.5  When public funding of research results in publication, publishers could be required to permit the posting of a copy of the publication to a publicly-available web-site. Some publishers already permit this right (various publishers' policies are accessible on the web-site http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ls/disresearch/romeo/index.html) but many do not. Government could require this right to be exercised as a condition of public funding. If adopted, the posting to a publicly-available web-site would introduce competition into journal supply, users choosing either the copy on the publicly-available web-site or the copy to which the publisher has added value, such as links to related material.

  2.6  A Government statement in support of open access to publications arising from publicly-funded research would encourage the development of alternatives to the current subscription model for peer-reviewed academic journals. Many individuals in the academic and publishing communities can see that the current subscription model is becoming unsustainable as the spiral of higher prices followed by cancellations tightens. The JISC is already supporting a number of initiatives to develop alternative models and Government support for such work would encourage other organisations to invest in new business structures. Competition could be introduced into journal publishing through varying publication-payments, some publishers charging a higher publication-payment for a higher level of service. At present there is no link between payment and service to authors, removing effective competition on price.

  2.7  The development of alternative models would provide much-needed competition within the present structure for journal supply and also provide an opportunity for improved access to the results of publicly-funded research with greater public awareness of the value of scientific research. Whereas the subscription model places a price-barrier in the way of increased public use of scientific publications, the open access publishing model is designed to encourage widespread use of publications. This type of model will become essential if the JISC and other public agencies are to extend the availability of academic content beyond the traditional university libraries into college and school classrooms. Greater availability of scientific publications will increase access to knowledge and taxpayers' awareness of the benefits of academic research.

  2.8  The role of learned societies in supporting scholarship in particular disciplines should be considered in the development of new publication models. There is no reason in principle why learned societies should not continue to use publication income under an open access model for academic purposes as they do under a subscription model, but the transition from one model to another has to be considered carefully if the society's activities are not to be put at risk.

  2.9  The contribution that both commercial and society publishers make to UK academic and economic success can be maintained under an open access model. The UK's publishing industry is recognised as being of high quality, and quality will ensure its success in a change to funding as part of the research process. Authors and their funding agencies will continue to wish to be published in the UK's prestigious journals. If UK publishers are under threat, it is through maintenance of the current business model which relies upon ever-declining subscriptions.

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?

  3.1  In principle the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) treats publications by academics in peer-reviewed open access journals in the same way as publications in peer-reviewed subscription journals. The HE Funding Councils provide guidance to the academic subject panels reviewing the publications submitted, and this guidance makes the Councils' view clear that the quality of the publication rather than its format is the key factor. However, it is understood that some subject panels favour publication in recognised established journals and most open access journals are new publications.

  3.2  At present there are insufficient open access journals for publications from those journals to be noticeable in the RAE. There are several hundred peer-reviewed open access journals (listed at www.doaj.org) by comparison with several thousand subscription-based journals. The JISC arrangement with BioMed Central for 2003-04 is proving successful in increasing the open access publication opportunities for UK researchers, with an average of 35 articles submitted per month. Quality has been maintained under this arrangement, with a 43% rejection rate of articles submitted. The JISC is providing further funding for open access journals from 2004-06 in order to increase the availability of UK scientific publications and Government support for such initiatives would encourage publisher participation.

  3.3  Open access journals will feature more prominently in the RAE as they become more numerous and acquire high impact factor ratings. Open access journals have yet to acquire "critical mass" but as the number of articles on open access increases, they will appear in RAE submissions. Open access articles are generally read and cited more frequently than subscription-based articles, and this higher use will feed through into high impact factor ratings if academic quality is maintained.

  3.4  A statement of Government support for the even-handed treatment of peer-reviewed open access and subscription journals would ease fears by academics that publication in open access journals will harm their opportunities for research funding. The inertia in the journal publishing structure is due to the relationship between publication in well-established journals and the academic reward system. It is difficult for a young academic to take the risk of publishing outside the traditional journals no matter how high the quality of alternative journals may be.

  3.5  The maintenance of the quality of academic publication is essential but greater flexibility in publication models may encourage the development of new ways of looking at quality assessment. For example, the higher use of open access publications may enable experimentation with online continuous review of publications by a wider group of peers rather than a small panel of reviewers.

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 this respect?

  4.1  The Legal Deposit Libraries welcome the deposit of non-print publications. The recent legislation will greatly assist the HE and FE academic communities in providing a framework for long-term preservation of books and journals in electronic format. However it should be noted that a substantial part of the electronic research literature used by the UK teaching and research community will be of international origin and outside the remit of the new legislation. Significant uncertainties still exist over guaranteeing the archiving and long-term access to this material. JISC has commissioned a study on the archiving of e-journals which highlights the need for archiving with trusted third parties to be agreed between publishers and universities.

  4.2  The Legal Deposit Libraries are developing systems to improve access to these publications. The SUNCAT Project funded by the JISC will enable particular journals to be located and the British Library is expanding its use of electronic document delivery. A national strategy to ensure that the research community benefits from such systems and services will be developed as part of the Research Libraries Network supported by the HE Funding Councils. There is also scope to build on current pilot projects to develop our digital infrastructure and collaborative activities in areas such as electronic theses, archiving of web-resources, and linking of publications to original primary research data.

  4.3  The principal concern lies in the cost of preservation of non-print publications, preservation which is essential to ensure access for future generations of students and researchers. It is known that some electronic publications have already been lost by agencies outside the UK due to inadequate procedures for their preservation, and while the UK is ahead of many countries in developing structures to ensure digital preservation (the creation of the Digital Curation Centre being a good example), the costs have not been built into library budgets. The volumes of published material (both print and electronic) continue to increase. This together with rapid price inflation places library budgets under severe pressure. There is a case therefore for specific additional funding for libraries to address long-term access and preservation of electronic publications.

5.   What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?

  5.1  Academic journal publishing is currently faced with three types of fraud and malpractice: illegal copying, plagiarism and unauthorised changes to the publication. Illegal copying is not a major problem within the UK but UK publishers do lose potential revenue through large-scale illegal copying of their publications by individuals and institutions outside the UK. Plagiarism is of great concern to the UK academic community, as are unauthorised changes to the text of electronic publications, although the latter is not believed to be a significant problem.

  5.2  Illegal copying ceases to be a problem if publications are funded as part of the research process, enabling open access for users across the world. Open access removes the need for publishers to maintain expensive security controls to identify illegal copying when it occurs.

  5.3  Plagiarism is no more serious a problem for digital publications than for paper publications and is easier to detect through the use of technology. The JISC offers a Plagiarism Advisory Service to assist institutions in identifying plagiarism by students and academic staff. When plagiarism is detected most UK universities and colleges take disciplinary action against the individual concerned.

  5.4  Unauthorised changes can also be detected through the electronic comparison of two texts and legal action taken by authors as a breach of copyright. Digital signatures and fingerprints can be used to confirm the provenance and integrity of electronic documents. Scientific fraud and malpractice of this kind is not believed to be common and academics working with colleagues in the same subject discipline are able to identify major breaches of copyright.

  5.5  Legal action of any kind in relation to scientific publications is extremely rare and self-policing by the scientific community resolves most problems. Even publishers rarely take legal action as most cases of malpractice are resolved by direct contact with the individuals concerned.

February 2004



439   Confidential survey conducted for the Society of College National and University Libraries (SCONUL). Back

440   SPARC is the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, www.arl.org/sparc/ and SPARC Europe is supported by the JISC Back

441   The Budapest Open Access Initiative www.soros.org/openaccess/ is an initiative of the Open Society Institute. Back


 
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