Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence from the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport

1.   You stated that DTI/OST may, in future, make funds available for individual authors to pay for Open Access publishing. Is it envisaged that these funds would be transferred across from HEFCE, or would they represent a separate investment? (Q 333)

  This question is related to issues such as the current requirement on scientists in some journals to pay page charges, funding which often will come from an existing grant. However, often the current charges may be accounted for within a larger budget such as consumables, making it difficult to fully assess the current level of these charges.

  In response to this question, RCUK have told us that: "Although an overnight revolution in publishing seems unlikely, there is already a need for scientists to be able to pay some publishing fees; Research Councils will need to ensure that this can be met, within reasonable limits. Research Councils will look at the scope for a pan-Research Council policy on publication—there is as yet no such policy, and each Council has its own approach."

  The issue is to determine what these reasonable limits should be and this is still under discussion, the question of transfer of funds itself may be decided at that time should the issue arise.

2.   What representations has DTI made to the Treasury regarding the VAT charged on digital publications, and what was the outcome? (Qq 349, 352)

  DTI is in regular contact with HM Customs & Excise, to ensure that they are fully aware of publishing industry views on the question of VAT charged on digital publications. In addition, the industry has had the opportunity to discuss these issues directly with HMC&E through its eVAT.Forum, a body set up to consult businesses on VAT and e-commerce, and in individual meetings. The issues have also been discussed with HMC&E and DTI at the Digital Content Forum, an umbrella body of industry organisations.

  Following from these contacts, we understand that HMC&E is also taking steps to ensure that the wider economic and policy issues are fully considered in the context of the UK strategy for VAT in the EU, and developments in cross-border trade in electronic services. They will, of course, include other interested departments in this work. The HMC&E's note of 5 April to the Science and Technology Committee gives the background and explains some of the considerations relating to equality of treatment.

3.   What studies has DTI carried out of the ways in which a UK move towards Open Access would impact on the UK economy? (Q 365)

  The DTI has been investigating the issues of open access over the last few months, partly in response to the enquiry called by the committee and we have spoken to a number of people across all sides of the open access "spectrum". STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) publishing is an industry of major importance to the UK economy. The majority of UK STM revenue is generated from outside of the UK. EPS (Electronic Publishing Services) estimates that the output of UK based STM publishers is currently between £1.7 and £1.8 billion per year and that the UK spend on STM content is between £170 and £200 million. The STM market globally was worth $7 billion in 2002.* (* EPS Market Monitor)

  We are aware of a number of published reports, for example the recent Wellcome report: "Scientific Publishing: Costs and business models", and of a number of academic papers looking at the costs of Open Access. However, none of these address the wider issues of overall impact on the UK economy and to the best of our knowledge, we are not aware of any that do.

4.   How has DTI followed up the Office of Fair Trading's report on the market for scientific, technical and medical journals, which concluded that the market "is not working well"? (Q 367)

  The DTI is aware of the OFT report and has been in contact with officials at the OFT. The OFT are the statutorily appointed competition authority and they have told us that they will keep the market under review.

5.   What measures has the Government taken to "organise effectively to reduce the total publishing costs and [. . .] actively ensure that other public bodies do as well"? (Qq 411-414)

  It should be noted that this point concerns the cost of access to journals and not about the cost of producing Government publications themselves.

  JISC fund the NESLi2 agreement to negotiate with publishers on behalf of the UK Higher and Further Education communities. In 2003, negotiations with 11 of the largest global STM publishers were undertaken by the JISC's Negotiation Agent in order to achieve the best possible financial and access terms for UK universities and the research communities in the light of budget difficulties and the increasingly high cost of publishers' content. The NESLi2 initiative employs a model licence as the basis for negotiations with publishers, which provides institutions with better terms and conditions on a range of issues (such as access to the licenced material beyond the end of the licence term) than could otherwise have been achieved. The model licence is available for institutions to use directly with a publisher, where a NESLi2 agreement does not exist.

  The NESLi2 negotiations are on the basis of "bundled" deals. The JISC is therefore actively exploring the benefits and disadvantages of a wide range of alternative business models for journal content through a comprehensive study, expected to start in June 2004 and report by January 2005.

May 2004

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