Memorandum from Peter Howgate
For 35 years I worked at the Torry Research
Station, Aberdeen, a government institute specialising in R&D
in fish processing and handling. In the later years of its existence
it was part of the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Food. It was closed in 1996 and the residue of its functions dispersed
to other government departments. I retired at the end of 1989
on reaching the retirement age of 60 though I have retained my
interests in food science. I engaged in some part-time consultancy
including preparation of reviews and reports for international
agencies like FAO, and for six years, 1996-2002, I was one of
the deputy editors of the International Journal of Food Science
and Technology. As a deputy editor I was responsible for the initial
scrutiny of papers submitted for publication in the journal and
forwarded to me by the main editor as being within my expertise,
seeing suitable papers through the refereeing process, and returning
acceptable papers to the main editor for publication. While at
Torry Research Station and in retirement I have authored or co-authored
papers in refereed scientific journals and have contributed chapters
to books. I am also used as a referee by scientific journals.
I have noted the contents of your Press Notice
of 11 December 2003 announcing the inquiry on Scientific Publications
and would like to make some personal comments. I work from home
and would like to draw attention to some aspects of your inquiry
that might have relevance to "home workers".
The second paragraph of your press release asks
about access to journals. Throughout the, almost, 50 years of
my professional experience I have not had any difficulty in accessing
journals or contents of journals, though there might be some expense
or inconvenience in doing so. TRS, as befitting a research institute,
had a comprehensive library of literature on the subject of its
interest, and material which it did not hold in its library could
be obtained on loan or as photocopies from libraries in academic
institutes, research institutes, including occasionally libraries
in commercial research institutes, or the British Library.
In my experience as a member of staff at TRS
I always found this system of interlibrary loans, including the
BLL service, to be extremely effective and efficient. It is a
national asset and must be boon to researchers and scholars in
academia and in industry. The Select Committee might wish to review
this service to determine if there are any restraints or limits
to the service as viewed from the perspective of providers and
users of the service.
When I retired I still wished to have access
to the scientific literature as an essential requirement of writing
reports and papers and for my duties as a deputy editor of a scientific
journal and as a referee of papers submitted for publication.
I was permitted to have access to the library at TRS to consult
journals and other literature there, though this facility was
obviously no longer available when the laboratory closed in 1996.
I was also allowed access to the library of the Marine Laboratory,
currently a laboratory operated by the Scottish Executive Environment
and Rural Affairs Department. I also used the libraries of the
two universities in Aberdeen and since I moved to West Sussex
a few years ago I have used the library of the University of Surrey
It seems to be the policy of universities to
allow public access to their libraries. I do not know whether
this concession is a privilege or a right, the latter bestowed
because universities are largely funded by the state. I assumed
that access to the libraries of the two research institutes in
Aberdeen, TRS and the Marine Laboratory, was more of a privilege
because of my previous contacts with these institutes. The Select
Committee might wish to consider whether libraries of government
or agency research institutes, (other than defence or similar
laboratories), and of government-funded bodies such as research
councils should also allow access to bone fide researchers and
scholars on a similar basis as access to university libraries.
The libraries of such research institutes are often repositories
of specialist "grey" literature not available at academic
libraries nor at the British Library. The library catalogues of
university libraries are accessible on the Internet and the Select
Committee might wish to consider whether government-funded laboratories
should also make their library catalogues so available.
The Internet has made the content of the scientific
literature even more accessible than perusal in libraries. The
publishers of scientific journals have internet sites for their
journals which lists the contents of the journals, and in almost
all cases I have come across, the abstracts of the papers. The
full texts of the papers are also available, but see my next set
In summary, there is no difficulty, even to
a home-worker, of accessing the scientific literature, though
there might be some inconveniences in consulting it.
As well as just consulting the literature a
researcher or scholar will frequently wish to obtain a copy for
more detailed study. If the literature is accessed in an university
library a copy can be made there within the provisions of the
copyright acts. These allows a person to make a single copy of
an article in a serial publication, or of a single chapter in
a book, without payment of a copyright fee provided it is for
their own personal study. My experience is that a notice to this
effect is prominently displayed at photocopying machines in academic
libraries. Libraries levy a charge of around five pence an A4
sheet for photocopying.
I consider the restrictions on photocopying
copyrighted material are reasonable and I have no objection to
Copies of articles can be obtained through the
British Lending Library (BLL), which provides a very comprehensive
and efficient service. In my experience requests sent by e-mail
are delivered within one or two days. The catalogue of journals
and other holdings can be searched on the Library's web pages.
I might question the cost of the service. The price for a copy
of an article, is £8.46 inclusive of VAT. This charge does
not include any copyright fee, which for most journals available
from the BLL is around five pounds, but, as for copying in university
libraries, a copyright fee is not charged for single copies for
personal use. BLL's copying charge covers an article of up to
50 pages, but as papers in research journals are rarely longer
than about eight A4 pages the charge is high compared with making
your own copies in libraries. I have no means of judging if this
charge is reasonable. I referred above to most journals' contents
being listed on the Internet and it is also possible to download
a copy of the article in PDF format from the site for a fee. For
journals I have checked the fee is mostly in the range of 20-30
USD so perhaps the BLL's charge is fair.
The Select Committee might wish to examine the
way scientific publishers operate the provisions of the Copyright
Acts, and whether some of their actions are against the public
When an article is accepted for publication
the author or authors must sign a copyright agreement. It seems
to me that these agreements try to claim more copyright than publishers
are entitled to. My understanding is that copyright in the content
of the article rests with the authors of the paper and the publisher
has copyright only on the typographical arrangement. The situation
is summarised on the HMSO web site at http://www.hmso.gov/copyright/guidance/gn01.htm.
(I enclose a copy of the page with the hard copy of my evidence).
In fact, given that this is the legal position, I do not see why
it is necessary to have an agreement on transfer of copyright
at all; ownership of copyright is enshrined in the Copyright Acts.
An example of a Transfer of Copyright Agreement is that of Elsevier,
a major publisher of scientific journals. It states, in part:
"I hereby assign to [title of journal] the
copyright in the manuscript named above (the "article")
in all forms of media (whether known or hereafter developed),
throughout the world, in all languages, for the full term of copyright
and all extensions and renewals thereof, effective when and if
the article is accepted for publication. This transfer includes
the right to adapt the presentation of the article for use in
conjunction with computer systems and programs, including reproduction
or publication in machine-readable form and incorporation in retrieval
The explanatory page that goes with the agreement
lists "Rights of authors" which seem more restrictive
that what appears from the Copyright Acts. (I enclose a copy of
the agreement and explanatory notes with the hard copy of my evidence).
I refer to this situation because I feel the
transference of copyright and the conditions of the transfer might
discourage authors from making their papers available on the Internet.
Many researchers, especially in academia, have personal web pages
that list their publications, but rarely are these publications
made available by the author on the Internet. As copyright in
the content rests with the author and publication as a web pageprovided
it is not a copy of a published versionneed not be, indeed
is unlikely to be, in the same typographic arrangement as the
version published in a journal it seems to me that authors could
publish on the Internet without infringing the publisher's copyright.
The Select Committee might wish to take legal
opinion on whether these copyright agreements diminish, or attempt
to diminish, author's rights to publish their work in other formats,
and might be a restriction on making results of research freely
available on the Internet.
The UK public purse funds much research and
the HMSO document makes quite clear that the content of published
government work is subject to Crown Copyright. I believe there
is a strong case to be made that reports of publicly funded research
which are in the public domain by virtue of being published in
a learned journal should also be available on the Internet. It
is usual for research institutes in the publicly funded sector
to have web pages which lists publications by their staff; these
institutes should be at least encouraged, if not required, to
have these reports available on their sites. The European Commission
funds research in which many laboratories in the UK, government
and non-government, participate. These EU sponsored research projects
are also funded from the public purse and I believe collaborating
laboratories should also make published reports available on their
institute's web sites.
As I have already written above, the majority
of scientific journals are accessible on-line and articles are
available for a fee or by subscription to the journal. Over the
last couple of years open access journals have become available.
There is no charge for accessing articles in these journals. Some
journals are produced as open access journals, for example "Biology"
published by Public Library of Science, (www.plos.org), while
others are traditional journals, but no charge is made for accessing
and downloading articles. An example is the set of biomedical
journals published by BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.com).
Other journals, predominately in the medical field, allow articles
to be downloaded after a period of a few months to two years has
elapsed since publication (http://www.freemedicaljournals.com).
These initiatives are to be welcomed and I hope the Select Committee
will recommend the government fully supports the open access movement.
Another development will be the replacement
of printed journals by electronic versions in libraries. The advantage
of this to librarians is in reduction of the need for shelf space,
and the saving in subscription fees depending on the deals they
can make with publishers. The journals will then be accessible
to staff and students through terminals in offices, laboratories
and study areas. Such a development would not be advantageous
to non-academic users of an university library such as myself.
At present, if I want to conduct a literature search I can check
contents lists of on-line journals, or other resources, to produce
a reading list and then visit the university library to consult
the journals. If the library subscribes to the electronic rather
than the printed version I will not be able to consult it. There
are terminals in the libraries which give access to the library
catalogue, but it is not possible, quite rightly, to go further
into the university network without identification and a password.
I value the privilege of being able to visit academic libraries
and to consult journals and hope academic libraries will bear
in mind the wishes of non-academic users if there is a marked
switch from printed journals to on-line versions.