Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence from BioMed Central Limited

  1.  (Re Q179) The suggestion, by John Jarvis (Wiley, response to Q26) and Crispin Davis (Elsevier, response to Q65) that the commercial sector would gain from Open Access at the expense of the academic sector is fundamentally incorrect. In the Open Access model the funding of publishing of research results is regarded as a necessary and integral part of the funding of the research itself. The commercial sector does carry out research and publishes it, but in addition, funds (contract) research that, if published under the Open Access regime, is paid for from the money provided by the commercial sector. As generally a high proportion of research is funded by industry, so a high proportion of the publishing costs will be covered by the commercial sector. However, the `input-paid' Open Access model may redistribute the proportions of some of the costs the various players bear. If this produces unfair imbalances, they can and should be corrected. In the case of the commercial sector participation, however, we do not see a problem.

  2.  (Re Q189) It is a requirement that all research articles submitted for publication in the Open Access journals we publish are peer-reviewed by members of the scientific community that are independent of BioMed Central. This is no different from the process used by traditional publishers and adheres to accepted standards of the scientific community. Reviewers are asked and expected to make a judgement whether the manuscript is scientifically sound and coherent; does not substantially duplicate work that the authors have published elsewhere; or is such a trivial study that it does not deserve publication at all at this stage. Reviewers are also asked to declare any competing interests. Note: the current system of publishing provides a strong incentive to publish as many articles as possible, since by increasing the number of pages published the journal subscription or licence price can be increased. Indeed, this argument is often used to justify price increases (Crispin Davis, Elsevier, responding to Q64).

  3.  (Re Q202, 205) In the answer to Q65 Crispin Davis (Elsevier) states that: "We [the UK] produce 5% of the world's research and we consume 3% of the world's research." It seems very difficult to ascertain whether UK's proportion of spending on publishing will increase or decrease under the open access model, but there are many indications to suggest that the total spent will substantially decrease. However, during the transition, when savings through cancelling subscriptions does not necessarily match the spending on open access publishing, there is a chance that, temporarily, institutions will be faced with increased expenditure, and this issue needs to be addressed.

  4.  The precise cost of peer-review is difficult to ascertain in a young and still growing business. The cost is divided in two parts: the cost of the process and the cost of maintaining the system (the latter is fairly fixed and translates to a cost per article that is very dependent on scale). Our current estimate for the irreducible cost of peer-review per article is between £50 and £200. Scientists working in academia carry out the actual peer-review; we, as publishers, provide logistical and technological help to increase speed and reduce costs.

  5.  The cost per article to the publisher comprises the costs mentioned in the previous question plus the costs associated with hosting the articles on a configuration of web sites, and those of overheads. As we currently charge per published article only, yet incur costs for every article processed, the Article Charge is higher for more selective journals with a high rejection rate and lower for "archival" journals with a lower rejection rate.

  6.  The Open Access publishing model is of crucial importance to the publication of facts uncovered by research, such as in the biomedical disciplines. When it concerns opinion, such as in commentaries, analyses and reviews, the model may not apply.


  We believe the Committee has the opportunity to benefit UK biomedical research by doing two things:

    —  Recommend that it be required that research results obtained from publicly funded medical research (most urgently those from clinical trials) are published under Open Access rules.

    —  Recommend that, in the strategic long-term interest of the UK, a Repository with full Open Access functionality is created which includes mirrors of such already existing repositories elsewhere, such as PubMed Central, and which allows direct deposits of individual journals or articles.

March 2004

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