Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence from the Institute of Physics

1.   When do you expect the New Journal of Physics (NJP) to break even?

  According to the current business plan the journal will meet its direct costs in the year 2008 provided three key assumptions are met:

    —  the number of published articles increases by 150%, from the present level (2003) of 161 to 400 per annum;

    —  the percentage of authors paying the publication fee increases from the present 60% to 95%;

    —  the publication charge increases from the present £350 to £600 per article.

  It should be noted that the term "direct costs", as we use it here, does not cover the whole cost of publishing the journal as it excludes any contribution to the overhead costs of IOP Publishing Ltd.

  Covering costs in the year is a very different challenge from that of starting to deliver a return on the investment. The latter will take much longer. The total invested directly in NJP by the Institute of Physics and the German Physical Society in the years 1998-2007 will be some £600,000, or more than £800,000 including allocated overheads. Repayment of this investment is estimated to take a further 5-10 years.

  In summary: the plan shows NJP reaching breakeven on its annual costs 10 years from launch, with repayment of the initial investment after 15 to 20 years. Both of these are projections that have yet to be achieved. Typically a new science journal would be expected to break even after five years and repay its investment within seven years.

  NJP has recently been awarded a grant of £38,000 for one year by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), with the possibility of three further years of funding. The grant is on condition that UK authors pay no article charge, so the overall financial effect is hard to predict.

2.   To what amount do you expect to increase your publishing charge for New Journal of Physics?

  See above, in stages from the current level of £350 to £600 per article by 2008.

3.   Can you supply figures on the proportion of IOP's costs that is taken up by the digitisation of its back catalogue and the development of new technologies?

Digitisation of back catalogue

  The costs for this project, of £500,000, were given by Sally Morris of ALPSP in her supplementary responses. The number of pages involved is actually greater than the figure quoted by ALPSP because there were two distinct parts to the project.

  The 800,000 pages published in IOP journals between 1874 and 1990 were scanned to produce searchable PDF files. All abstracts and references were rekeyed in XML mark-up language. A further 280,000 pages published between 1991 and 1995 were already in electronic form but required re-scanning to a higher standard. The total number of pages in the archive digitisation project was therefore 1,080,000, at an average cost of 46 pence per page. The journal production process for current articles (since 1995) incorporates the costs and activities necessary to produce them in electronic form and add them to the archive.

Development of new technologies

  Current expenditure on all technology-related costs represents about 11% of the cost base of IOP Publishing. This includes the provision and support of our existing electronic publishing technologies as well as the development of new technologies.


  We support the summary closing statement provided by Sally Morris of the ALPSP.

  Based on our experience of publishing one of the early "Open Access" journals we offer the following observations on the sustainability of the open access model.

  When it was launched in 1998, NJP was an entirely new, experimental model—long before the term "Open Access" was coined. We are enthusiastic about all our experiments, especially when they are well-regarded. The results to date from the NJP experiment, quoted above and included in our written evidence, are as follows:

    —  a business case—not yet demonstrated—with at best 10 years to breakeven in the year and approaching 20 years to return on investment—double the typical timescales for conventional journals;

    —  an output, after six years, of 161 articles, with 60% of authors paying—compared to a total of more than 10,000 articles in our subscription journals;

    —  readership levels for NJP no higher than those for the electronic forms of our subscription journals.

  In 1997 the International School for Advanced Study (SISSA) in Italy launched the Journal of High Energy Physics (JHEP), free online, without author charges and subsidised by grants from six funding bodies. JHEP was successful editorially but costs rapidly outstripped funds. SISSA approached IOP for assistance and since 2002 SISSA and IOP have published JHEP in partnership as a subscription-based journal. As a subscription journal more than 1,000 academic institutions have access to JHEP, the editorial success has been maintained and the journal now has the financial stability on which to develop and grow.

  The results from these two journals indicate to us that this type of open access model is not sustainable for physics journals in the current environment. However the internet and electronic publishing have delivered huge benefits to science and scientists in terms of ease of access to information. Future developments in software and tools will bring further improvements. We believe that it is important to continue to experiment with innovative approaches to electronic publishing.

April 2004

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 20 July 2004