Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

  CILIP: The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the professional body that represents over 23,000 library and information workers in the United Kingdom. Under the terms of its Royal Charter, The Institute has a duty to promote high quality library and information services and to advise government, employers and others on all aspects of library and information provision.

  CILIP is aware of and supports the submissions of evidence made to the Inquiry by organisations such as the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL), the Consortium of University and Research Libraries (CURL), the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and by individual expert members of the library and information profession.

  The evidence below is provided on each of the specific points raised by the Committee and is made in light of the evidence supplied by esteemed colleagues.

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?

    Between 1998 and 2003 the average price of an academic journal rose by 58%, this is in comparison to an 11% increase in the UK Retail Price Index over the same period.

    Between 1996-97 and 2000-01 the information resource budget of UK university libraries has decreased by 29% in real terms, while the average journal price over the same time period increased by 41%.

    The proportion of university library information resource expenditure on journals has increased from 47% to 52%, but this increase has failed to maintain the actual number of journal subscriptions.

    An increasing problem for academic library budgets, as a result of a shift towards electronic publication, is VAT. Online information is VAT rated at the standard rate of 17.5%, as opposed to print-based resources that are zero-rated. This is not only an extra cost, but also a disincentive to the transfer to electronic access. Government could ease this pressure on academic and research library budgets by exempting these institutions from payment of VAT on electronic information resources, including electronic journals.

    Journal publishers have introduced a number of "big deal schemes". These schemes have been made possible by the development of electronic journals. They provide a library with access to all the journals of a particular publisher, at a price larger than the subscription paid for the publisher's journals received in print. Such deals often provide access to an increased number of journals. However, very little choice is offered in the content of the "package". Some titles are well-used and valuable while others are not relevant to the research and teaching undertaken at a particular university, and receive very little, or no use.

    To the publisher the cost of providing electronic access to all titles is virtually zero.

    Publishers are ensured greater stability with the two or three year duration of some of these deals. However, as has been illustrated, the library is faced with a decline in the purchasing power of its budget. As these schemes become established the library has to make cancellations elsewhere to finance the maintenance of the "big deal".

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

    A major problem in promoting a competitive market is the increasing monopolistic position of the publishers.

    This monopoly position can be evidenced by, for example:

    A spate of mergers and takeovers in the past few years—Reed Elsevier and Harcourt; Kluwer and Springer under the auspices of Candover Cinven

    Reed Elsevier reported an adjusted operating profit margin in 2002 of 33% for its Science and Medical Division

    The top five publishers now produce around 37% of the nearly 8,000 scientific journals (44% of articles) rated as worthy of citation analysis by the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI)

    All future merger proposals should be strictly monitored, and investigated. This will help to avoid the further enhancement of monopoly market power. It is also essential, given the international nature of the journals market, to extend co-operation across Nation States.

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?

    Publicly funded researchers in the UK publish their findings so that other researchers, anywhere in the world, can access them, challenge them and use them as the basis of further research. This process of "scholarly communication" reduces duplication of effort, ensures quality, and increases the productivity of research and development.

    Traditionally, research articles are published in peer-reviewed journals. This accounts for some 2,500,000 articles per year in approximately 24,000 journals.

    The authors of these articles do not expect royalties or fees for them. Their reward is in the recognition of their research—providing both visibility and impact.

    Open-access journals are available via the web. Their advantage is that, even where overall production costs are similar, their content is available to all without financial barriers.

    The development of open-access publishing and self-archiving are complementary initiatives and will re-engineer the research publication process to be more equitable for the benefit of research and society in general.

    There should be no discrimination by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) for or against open-access journals. The deciding factor must be the quality of the journal and the quality of the article.

    Traditionally, publishers of peer-reviewed journals have covered the costs of production and the peer-review process by charging subscriptions for the paper journal issues. Universities and research institutions have subscribed to these journals (often with public money) so that their own researchers could access and use the peer-reviewed research output of others. This approach has come to be described as "toll-access".

    However, even the richest academic institution has only ever been able to afford a fraction of the 24,000 journals published that it might wish to access—and this number is rapidly reducing as the price of journals continues to outstrip inflation. Therefore a majority of potential users of any research article are denied access, and consequently much of research impact of an article is lost.

    The rise of Web technology, by radically reducing the basic technical costs of access to information, has highlighted the prospect of a new model in scholarly communication, where access to research results would be made freely available to any interested researcher. This would maximise the impact of any piece of research, and thus the productivity of the whole research process. This approach is known as "open-access".

    Open-access journals are freely available to users, as they recover their peer-review and other production costs from the institutions whose researchers contribute the research articles themselves. This approach is strongly to be encouraged by Government and others, but currently accounts for only about 5% of total research output.

    The remaining 95% continues to be published in toll-access journals. However, an increasing number of research organisations worldwide are setting up open-access websites on which their researchers can "self-archive" full copies of the articles that have been contributed to toll-access journals, so that their research results can be widely available and achieve the greatest possible impact.

    55% of journals already officially support this author self-archiving. Many of the remaining 45% will agree if asked. Government should do whatever is in its power to persuade all UK publishers to support self-archiving and all research institutions to set up open-access archives.

    Although a substantial proportion of the publishing community may be expected to lobby in favour of the status quo, there is little evidence that open-access archiving damages sales of toll-access journals. Open-access archiving increases the readership of research far beyond the individual institutions that can afford to buy subscriptions.

    The extension of open-access models would lead to a more efficient use of public money in terms of both research grants and academic library budgets. It would also do a great deal to bridge the divide between information-rich countries and those in the developing world.

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?

    We welcome the recent Legal Deposit Libraries Act. Long-term preservation of the scholarly record of digital publications is a vital concern, and the national libraries are well placed to take a leading role in initiatives in this area. This responsibility requires sufficient funding from Government.

    Legal deposit libraries store copies of records, for archival and preservation purposes. They are not open-access providers. What should be mandated is that all universities make their "own" published research articles openly accessible by publishing them in an open-access journal and/or depositing them in their own university open-access archives.

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

    We are not clear why the issues of access and impact are being considered at the same time as issues of fraud and malpractice. Fraud and malpractice has been known in both paper and online journals.

    It is true that it is easier to plagiarise, or to otherwise misuse, an online text than a paper one, but plagiarism and misuse are more easily detectable online. So the format is irrelevant.

    Fraud has on occasion come to light in the traditional world of print journal publishing, and it is equally possible in open-access online publishing. Therefore it is essential that a robust system of peer review be maintained for paper-based materials while additional methods of quality control are developed for an online environment.

February 2004

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