Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence from the Research Councils UK



  One of the key issues relating to the development of an open-access publication model is the question of how research authors or funders might meet the fee raised by publishers for publishing research outputs—ie author charges. In its submission to the S&T Committee inquiry into scientific publications, RCUK has recognised that "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."

  This note summarises how the regulations and practice of the grant-awarding Research Councils (including AHRB, but excluding CCLRC) deal with such charges.

Regulations and practice

  At present, Research Council grants regulations tend to address the issue of author charges narrowly, by focusing on the payment of page charges—ie the imposition by publishers of an additional cost for instance for extra pages or extra colour figures for articles appearing in subscription printed journals—or reprint charges. However, author charges in open-access models are a broader concept than page charges, and the grants regulations do not explicitly recognise the distinction between the two.

  Most Research Councils meet page or reprint charges as a direct cost, under the heading of consumables or exceptional costs—practices vary slightly between Research Councils, but are essentially similar. The MRC is exceptional in that it specifically recognises charges associated with open-access publishing as an element of indirect costs, under the heading of central institutional libraries; other Research Councils include libraries as an indirect cost, but with no specific mention of author charges. The absence of any reference to author charges or open-access publication in most grants regulations suggests that—to date—they have generally not been a major factor in grant awards. Practice has evolved to pay such charges where this is deemed appropriate, and also varies from Council to Council. The situation is not as clear-cut as was suggested in the RCUK submission to the Select Committee, when we erroneously indicated that EPSRC is the only Research Council that allows page charges as a direct cost—RCUK apologizes for this error.

  The CCLRC generally is not a grant-awarding body and does not pay paper charges to authors for articles published in UK or European journals. However, HM Treasury rules do allow it to contribute towards paper charges for US journals at a ceiling of $200 per page and these costs are met as consumables. During the last financial year the CCLRC established its own institutional repository containing over 18,000 published reports of the scientific output of its staff and facilities. The intention is to make these reports freely available through the CCLRC external web, subject to copyright restrictions. Now that 83% of journals allow self archiving by author, CCLRC will be pressing publishers to allow completion of the repository with full text of all articles.


  It is extremely difficult to estimate the costs that Research Councils currently incur in author charges. This is because these charges are subsumed under costs such as consumables, and do not appear as separate headings on financial systems. RCUK has already committed itself to set out a pan-Research Council policy on publications, which we anticipate will be ready by the end of the year; this will include a look at how author charges might be more readily identified, as well as a possible rationalization of cross-Research Council practices relating to publications practice in general.


  RCUK, on behalf of all the Research Councils, will publish a policy statement on learned and scientific publications later this year and by way of a brief closing statement I attach at Annex 1 details of the principles upon which this policy will be based.

May 2004

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