Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence from the University of Hertfordshire

1.   What proportion of the publishers from whom you purchase digital content would refuse you access to the back issues you had previously subscribed to if you cancelled your digital subscription? Which publishers have this policy?

  The arrangements for access to back issues previously subscribed to on cancellation of a digital subscription are as varied and complex as the licence terms and pricing arrangements.

  The detail provided below is based on existing University of Hertfordshire licences. Generally it seems to be the smaller publishers and societies that make no provision for continued access.

  Most large publishers do make some provision for continued access to the backfiles after cancellation. Licence agreements list several options such as continued access to the publisher's own server, or via a third party server, or provision of files to the local subscriber on CD Rom. The actual method is presumably dependent on the publisher's circumstances at the time of cancellation. These options do not seem to represent a choice for the subscriber and are clearly not equitable alternatives, in that the provision of files on CD Rom would require the cancelling subscriber to put a potentially expensive local CD Rom network delivery mechanism in place to maintain the availability of the backfiles.

  Publishers who make some provision for continued backfile access on the basis of the subscriptions already paid include:

    —  American Chemical Society (but on basis of a forward moving wall of the past 5 years only, with a separate fee for leasing the previous archive);

    —  American Physical Society (CD Rom but only from year 2000);

    —  American Psychological Society / PsycArticles;

    —  Blackwell;

    —  BMJ;

    —  CUP;

    —  Elsevier (but only to the original print journal subscriptions that pre-dated the e-journal bundle);

    —  Kluwer;

    —  Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins;

    —  OUP;

    —  Springer; and

    —  Wiley

  In addition, HighWire Press who publish biological journals make all their backfiles available on open access after a defined period eg 12 or 18 months.

  Publishers who do not provide any continued archive access after cancellation include:

    —  American Mathematical Society;

    —  American Medical Association;

    —  American Meteorological Society;

    —  British Standards;

    —  Ecological Society of America;

    —  ESDU;

    —  IEEE (separate one-off fee per annual backfile volume);

    —  Institute of Physics (separate fee for archive access);

    —  Nature Publishing (we believe a 10 year archive may be available for separate purchase);

    —  Optical Society of America; and

    —  SAE for Technical Indexes.

  There are also archive only services for which an annual subscription is payable eg Annual Review, American Physiological Society, JSTOR. As the subscription does not relate to current year publication, the concept of continued access after cancellation, cannot apply.

  Continued access to backfiles after cancellation is not a major issue for this University as our Information Resources Policy is predicated on collections to support the current learning, teaching and research of the University. A cancellation decision usually mean the title is no longer relevant here.

  Our main concern lies with the lack of transparency of publishers' journal pricing and licensing terms. These appear not to be designed to promote availability and access.

2.   How easy is it for you to use material from digital journals for teaching purposes, as compared to material from print-only journals?

  Many universities, including the University of Hertfordshire, are using managed and virtual learning environments (MLE/VLE) to enhance learning and teaching. MLE/VLE's are accessible to all staff and students and operate within the university's intranet. This on-line provision is not only for the delivery of distance learning, but more frequently for "blended e-learning" to support traditional face to face delivery and to meet student expectations of on-line access to the materials they need for study in a 21st century modern university environment. Lecturers use the MLE/VLE to make handouts, reading lists and other learning materials available electronically to their students, to hold on-line discussions with students, and for the submission of coursework. Content from digital materials subscribed to by the university is often unavailable for use in the MLE/VLE. This is because many publishers prohibit, through their licensing terms, the circulation of their material to groups of students over university networks in such an intranet environment.

  At the University of Hertfordshire we have identified that approximately 50% of our e-journal titles (4000) are covered by licences that DO allow the uploading of the licensed e-content to our StudyNet MLE. This comprises mainly journals from the large publishers who have adopted the NESLi2 model licence where clause 3.1.2 `The Licensee may make such electronic copies of all or part of the Licensed Material as are necessary to ensure efficient use by Authorised and Walk-in Users, provided that such use is subject to all the terms and conditions of this Agreement' provides the flexibility for a university to manage effective internal delivery of the licensed content to its authorised staff and student users to support their learning and teaching. The piecemeal approach dictated by the inconsistency of publishers' licences, makes it difficult for librarians to advise on what is permissible and for lecturers to know what they may and may not use in conjunction with their online handouts and learning materials in StudyNet.

  It is debatable whether other publishers who prohibit the uploading of content into a university's MLE/VLE have deliberately done so or have just not bothered to address the needs of a modern university. The licence terms one would expect to see prohibiting the re-publication and re-sale of the licensed e-content are deemed to extend to preventing uploading to an internal university MLE/VLE. However, in reality re-sale and re-publication are very different activities and imply commercial gain by the licensee to the detriment of the licensor.

  (It should be noted that the insertion of web links from a MLE/VLE to e-journals held on the publisher's server are not prohibited, but do not provide the flexibility and immediacy of access required).

  For printed materials, multiple copies for teaching purposes in higher education may be made under a standard licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA). Until recently this was also a complex and restrictive arrangement which involved constant permission seeking. Such barriers to the effective use of material from print journals to support learning and teaching culminated eventually in a major Copyright Tribunal ruling in 2001 in the case brought by Universities UK against the CLA. The Copyright Tribunal ruled against the "complex, costly to administer, inefficient and burdensome" licensing arrangements and commented that the CLA arrangement "was not meeting the needs of the universities and placed a heavy administrative burden on them".

  It is highly regrettable that these pertinent points remain unheeded in respect to e-journal licensing. Remedying them would be an even more costly and lengthy process since the nature of the e-contract would require multiple cases against individual publishers rather than against one UK-wide licensing agency. The restrictive terms of many licences currently prevent today's higher education students from gaining full benefit from the advantages of e-journals in the on-line e-learning environment.

  We would urge the Committee to ensure that all publishers address this issue. Universities have after all already paid the licence fees for use of the e-content by their authorised users. Surely the university as licensee should determine how this licensed content is best delivered to its staff and students, as authorised users of that content.

3.   What proportion of your library's costs are spent on overheads?

  In 1997, the University of Hertfordshire implemented a learning resources strategy to support student learning for the 21st century through the delivery of fully integrated computing, library and media services, 24 x 7, on and off campus. This strategy also recognised the need for sustained investment in information provision.

  For the answer to this question from the Committee, we have therefore used the financial data as separated out each year from our integrated services for the national SCONUL statistical return for comparative library provision purposes.

  For the University of Hertfordshire (2002/2003), this shows the following proportions:

Information provision


  This compares with a figure of 35% for information provision ten years ago in 1993-1994.

  The University's LIS staffing has been re-structured rather than increased to address changing requirements during the past decade; for example a focus on providing more user support and on the delivery of digital materials was achieved by reducing in-house cataloguing through buying-in the `shelf-ready' book with the electronic catalogue record; for example by re-directing staffing resources to create a post to manage copyright and licensing matters. For 2003-2004 there has been an increase in the Information Provision budget, but a decrease of 5% in the actual staffing budget; this has involved staff redundancies. Unlike commercial publishers, the University does not have the option of passing the costs of e-development and digital delivery on to the customer through higher prices.

4.   Does your university have an institutional repository in which academics can archive their research papers? Does it have any plans to establish one? Does it have a view on such repositories?

  The University of Hertfordshire does not currently have an institutional e-print repository. We are aware that repositories have been set up recently by a number of universities and we are monitoring this trend. If this arrangement becomes the practice amongst our peers, then we will also set one up.

  However, the University takes the view that as this localised provision is inherently fragmented, it presents unwelcome barriers to the easy retrieval of materials. E-print repositories can play a key role in disseminating and preserving scientific research, but this needs to be done in a co-ordinated manner. We would urge the development and implementation of a national strategy. The British Library (or the British Library jointly with the Research Libraries Network) should have a major role in setting up and running national e-print repositories to provide this co-ordinated approach, to balance discipline-based, international and national requirements, to ensure inter-operability to agreed international standards and to provide content cross-searching for efficient retrieval of relevant material. It will need funding to do this.


  The University welcomes the opportunity to make a brief closing statement.

  The issues the Committee seeks to address are complex, but in drawing up its recommendations we would ask that consideration be given to expedient and practical measures to tackle the long-standing financial burden of substantial year on year journal price increases and the barriers to access presented by the many current complex and restrictive licensing practices.

  We would draw the Committee's attention to the points made in our initial submission and at the session on 21 April. In summary we would ask that specific attention be given to the following issues:

    —  A requirement for publishers to have transparent pricing and licensing arrangements which address the needs of a modern university;

    —  The promotion of competition as a means of curbing prices, for example through support for open archive arrangements;

    —  A reduction in the VAT burden through exemption arrangements; and

    —  The funding of national strategic developments.

May 2004

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