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 RLNResearch 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