Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary memorandum from the UK Higher and Further Education Funding Councils' Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)

1.   How much did your deal for membership of BioMed Central cost?

  The cost to JISC was £85,000 in the first year. The second year's subscription is calculated on the basis of £280 per paper published, and the quotation to cover all authors from UK HE institutions for the period 1st September 2004 to 31st August 2005—based upon experience in the first year—is just over £80,000.

2.   Which institutions are taking part in SHERPA? How were they selected? What provision is being made for those institutions that are not taking part?

  The institutions currently in SHERPA are : Birkbeck College, University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, University of Durham, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Imperial College London, King's College London, University of Leeds, University of Newcastle, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, Royal Holloway College, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of Sheffield, University College London, University of York, British Library, and the Arts and Humanities Data Service. The original bid for JISC funding came from only seven institutions and were those with an existing practical background in repositories or digital preservation. More institutions were added through a tendering process, using the original partners' experience to enable the joining institutions to leap-frog the initial stages of repository-building. As part of the SHERPA Project Plan, the experience of all the institutions currently involved is to be made available to all HE and FE institutions through presentations and reports and through materials such as copyright advice to be made available on the project web-site. Several institutions currently not participating in SHERPA have already approached the team for advice on matters such as the choice of repository software.

3.   What measures are you taking in collaboration with libraries to persuade publishers to allow self-archiving?

  Regular discussion takes place between JISC staff, JISC committee members and publishers on copyright issues, and the copyright position in relation to the deposit of journal articles in university repositories is frequently part of these exchanges. The unofficial response from publishers when this topic is raised is generally to accept that pre-prints or post-prints will be deposited in repositories, combined with a reluctance to make formal changes to their copyright policies and advice that the "de facto" acceptance of self-archiving may be withdrawn if publishers' income is threatened. In addition some of the projects in the FAIR Programme have entered in more detailed discussions with publishers. An example is the collaborative work between the SHERPA Project and Oxford University Press to explore ways of archiving OUP content in repositories. Staff managing repositories have also sought clarification from publishers on the wording of their copyright agreements in relation to the deposit of particular items. The ROMEO database is being used to inform the academic community about the formal position taken by individual publishers.

4.   What steps have you taken to implement joint procurement procedures with the NHS?

  The issues around joint procurement are being considered by the NHS/HE Forum, a body of HE IT and Library Directors and their equivalents in the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Forum's Content Group sponsored a report called "Users First" by an independent consultant and the Content Group is taking forward the issues identified in this report. One action line is to map the resources currently purchased by both HE and the NHS, and one resource common to both communities has already been identified for joint negotiation with the publisher concerned using a common licence. Another action line will be to identify a core list of journals required by NHS and FE staff. In Scotland HEIs have been able to benefit by getting access at preferential rates, if they wish, to some of the content of the NHS e-Library. Such collaboration cuts across the boundaries of several government ministries and therefore the funding stream for the investigation and implementation of joint negotiation and procurement procedures is not clear. There is a willingness to develop joint services in the interests of education, research and patient care but the current structures do not make the development of these services straightforward.

Negotiation difficulties with the American Chemical Society

  In addition to the response to these specific questions, I welcome the opportunity to clarify my reference in oral evidence to the problems experienced by JISC in negotiating with the American Chemical Society.

  My view that the American Chemical Society is a difficult publisher in negotiations for the bundling of electronic content is based upon the negotiations for UK universities under the National Electronic Site Licence Initiative, NESLI. These negotiations were completed in 2002 for access to content from January 2002 until December 2004. The negotiations—for a relatively small number of journals—took more than six months, and only the fact that the journals are very important led us in the end to agree to licensing terms with which we were not happy. We could have said "no" but our students and academic staff needed access to these journals.

  Our concerns lay in two areas. Firstly the ACS policy of asking for a separate subscription for electronic access to older volumes. The current subscription only gives library users access to the current volume plus the previous four years, and if you have subscribed to the journals for many years you have to subscribe to the "ACS Journal Archives" to continue access. The ACS policy contrasts unfavourably with the policy of the American Physical Society on this issue. At the time we were negotiating the NESLI deal ACS would not even offer access after cancellation to volumes for which a subscription had been paid, although under pressure from the library community world-wide they now offer a PDF or CD-ROM in this situation. Our second concern was and is that ACS refuse to agree to English law as the governing law in the licensing contract. This refusal could have two bad effects for UK libraries, firstly that in the case of a dispute we would have to contest the case in an American court under US State contract legislation, and secondly that legally we cannot take advantage of the provisions in UK copyright legislation for academic copying. When a UK publisher supplies to a US library, US state law usually requires the publisher to accept that State's law as the governing law, but in reverse we do not have the legal power to insist upon the use of English law.

  The significance of this situation for the Committee's Enquiry into the structure of scholarly journal publishing lies, I believe, in the power ACS and other publishers have in dictating licensing terms through the ownership of copyright, assigned to them by their authors. Some publishers exercise the ownership of copyright in a responsible way but it is used by a few publishers to dictate licensing terms which are unsatisfactory for library users. In my opinion ACS act more like a commercial publisher than a learned society publisher in their attitude to pricing and licensing issues. After many months of negotiation with ACS we were presented with a "take it or leave it" choice, and the importance of the journals left us with no choice but to accept unsatisfactory terms.

Closing statement : the opportunity for an improved journal publishing system

  The closing statement I wish to make to the Committee is not about the problems in the current publishing system, serious though those problems are, but about the opportunity provided by networked access to academic journals to make changes which will increase the value from taxpayer-funded research through higher citation of published articles and easier access for readers. The potential benefits to society and to individuals from opening access to research literature are immense. Changes in the business model to support such an open system are feasible, and publishers have an opportunity to enter into these changes in a positive way. Government support in assisting the transition from the current restrictive toll-based model to an open access model can be justified on the basis of more effective use of public funds. Funding agencies have a role in re-shaping the current academic reward system to encourage high-quality open access publication. The development of publication outlets for authors wishing to make their content available on open access is held back by the inertia in the current publishing system and positive action is required to realise the opportunity provided by the electronic networks. The opportunity exists; it requires political will to bring the benefits to fruition.

May 2004

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