Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)

  1.  The four UK funding bodies (Higher Education Funding Council for England; Scottish Higher Education Funding Council; Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for Employment and Training, Northern Ireland), the British Library and the Scottish and Welsh National Libraries are the seven bodies which collectively commissioned Sir Brian Follett to review the issues surrounding the availability research information (both printed and electronic form) for the research community. Sir Brian's report recommended the establishment of a small strategic body [the RLN—Research Libraries Network] to develop a UK-wide strategy for research information resources. Scientific publishing is one aspect of research information.

  The sponsors of the Follett Report are currently in discussion with Research Councils UK about their involvement. It is our intention that the sponsors of the Follett Report together with RCUK will announce the establishment of the RLN in June. We would not however wish the probable involvement of RCUK to be public knowledge sooner while our discussions continue.

  I attach, for the information of members of the committee, a draft Memorandum of Understanding associated with the RLN (Annex A)

  2.  The RAE expert/peer assessment process is about assessing the quality of research outputs. The RAE does not discriminate against open access publications or new journals. Certain established journals have gained a high academic reputation resulting from both rigorous and robust peer review of their articles as well as through a consistent record of publication of high quality articles resulting from major advances in knowledge. It is the aspiration of many academics, world over, regardless of the RAE, to publish in the journals that they know to have the highest reputation within their community.

  Achieving greater consistency across the processes operated by RAE panels is a major feature of the next RAE. A two-tier panel structure has been established with a main panel having oversight of four or five cognate subjects with common research methodologies. These main panels will be tasked with ensuring that the assessment criteria are even more consistent than in previous exercises. As part of this remit the main panels will ensure that no subject area discriminates against articles solely on the grounds that they were published in new journals or open access journals. The exercise will not however establish codified hierarchies of esteem between journals either within or across the subject units of assessment.

  In its present form the Fund provides grants to 49 institutions in the UK —a list is attached. The purpose of these grants is to recompense those institutions that have particularly strong research libraries and have incurred significant extra costs by opening their doors to visiting researchers from other UK institutions. This is an important form of collaboration. Other types of collaboration were encouraged through a parallel stream of project funding within the UK wide Research Support Libraries Programme that has now come to an end.

  We welcome the opportunity to provide a closing statement. As can be seen from both the oral and written evidence HEFCE has made a significant contribution to increasing accessibility to research information, both electronic and printed materials. Through our funding for the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) we continue to promote a range of initiatives in enhancing access, through electronic means, to a range of research publications and information as well as enhancing scholarly communications more broadly. We have also provided targeted support to libraries through the RSLP (as described above) and through continuing special funding to support the national copyright libraries within HE.

  More recently HEFCE together with the British Library has taken a lead in developing a UK-wide strategy for making available research information. This strategy will be launched shortly.

May 2004

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