Memorandum from Professor A Neil Barclay,
University of Oxford
I have been working in full time research for
the Medical Research Council in Oxford for 25 years and have published
widely in scientific journals in my speciality Immunology. I will
comment on some of the areas requested.
2. THE IDEAL
I would like to see scientific journals freely
available on the Internet. Journals should still be divided into
interests and peer review is essential. This trend is occurring.
I envisage halting the print versions of most journals (except
the magazine type such as Nature). This should lead to
large-scale savings in printing, binding, storage, postage. Copyright
should reside with the authors and they should be free to send
out PDF files of their work.
3. SPECIFIC POINTS
(a) How can we provide a more competitive
market in scientific publications? One of the problems is that
certain journals have very high profile, are oversubscribed in
terms of submissions and can be selective on various grounds including
perceived trendiness and not just scientific quality. If journals
went only to on-line then some of the pressures of space would
be decreased and some of the arbitrariness removed. Paying a charge
on publication would help to equate costs with number of papers
(b) Open access journals and the RAE? I fully
support open access journals. Government funds much of the research
and it is better value to make it available to the greatest audience.
The current process restricts access on the basis of the commercial
interests of publishers. The RAE provides pressure for scientists
to publish in the most highly rated journals. This is extremely
wasteful as a high percentage of papers are rejected because of
space on the grounds of specific interest according to selection
of editors. These then get resubmitted, re-reviewed etc. The RAE
should be encouraged to ask referees to look at some of the publications
instead of where they are published as long as they are in mainline
reputable and refereed journals. Similarly the Research Councils
should be encouraged to encourage referees to look beyond where
the papers are publihsed.
(c ) How to change the culture? Given that
scientists write the papers, submit them in a form almost ready
for publication, referee them and then pay for them, we are not
getting good value out of many of our publishers. I think the
way forward is for the open access journals to be encouraged.
Further pressure can be maintained if scientists refuse to referee
for journals that charge excessively but this is difficult to
orchestrate. It seems that charges vary dramatically between journals.
(d) Fraud and malpractice? The key is to
ensure peer review. One might imagine it would be easier to copy
from on line papers but I think this will be offset by the ease
in which one can check against the published papers.
(e) One important element is to maintain
the journals on line in the long term. If open access occurs and
subscription income disappears then a different source of funds
will be required to maintain and develop long term storage. The
storage of the genome sequences worked well as a joint venture
between Japan, Europe (EMBL) and the US (NCBI). I would like to
see literature storage shared in the same way and I suggest that
joint ventures with the US National Library of Medicine are instigated
as they have been the leaders in on-line access to scientific
literature through the excellent PUBMED database.