Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 19

Memorandum from the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers

1.  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  1.1  ALPSP represents learned society and other not-for-profit publishers in the UK and overseas.

  1.2  Not-for-profit publishers own and publish at least half of all peer-reviewed journals, while many more journals are owned by learned societies, and published on their behalf by commercial publishers; there is strong evidence that not-for-profit journals are both more reasonably priced and more highly cited than their commercial competitors.

  1.3  There is much more to the publication process than peer review—publishers also add value through editing authors' text and maximising visibility through links to and from articles; in addition they invest considerable sums in the creation of new journals in response to market demand, and in the systems which make possible speedy and high quality publication.

  1.4  Publishing costs money, and the costs need to be recovered by one business model or another; publishers also need to make profits, whether to support the activities of learned societies and universities, or (in the case of commercial publishers) to provide dividends to shareholders.

  1.5  UK journal publishing, much of which is exported, also contributes considerably to the wealth of UK plc.

  1.6  The acquisition budgets of libraries in the UK and elsewhere have failed for many years to keep pace with the constant growth in research output which finds its way into journal articles, and publishers are therefore exploring many alternative business models to address this problem.

  1.7  The move to electronic publishing, though it does not significantly reduce costs, does make possible a variety of new approaches, including innovative approaches to licensing; but it also brings with it certain problems, particularly the effects of VAT and the difficulty and expense of permanent preservation of electronically published content.

  1.8  Open Access is one alternative model which might help, but, as yet, there is little factual information about its behavioural or financial effects; ALPSP is devoting considerable resources to analysing what data is available.

  1.9  ALPSP therefore makes the following recommendations to the Committee:

  1.9.1  Library acquisitions funding should be improved.

  1.9.2  In the short term, non-commercial educational and research establishments should be exempted from paying VAT on electronic information; in the longer term, the UK should lobby within Europe for lower VAT rates to be applied to electronic information, as is already the case for print.

  1.9.3  National licences should be investigated.

  1.9.4  Collaboration between publishers, particularly SMEs, should be encouraged in order both to "level the playing field" and to improve efficiencies.

  1.9.5  Open Access journals should be considered in exactly the same way as other journals in the evaluation process.

  1.9.6  Research Councils should be encouraged to permit (but not to mandate) the use of a portion of research grants for the payment of Open Access publication charges.

  1.9.7  The collection and analysis of data about Open Access publishing should be encouraged.

  1.9.8  The British Library and other Legal Deposit Libraries should be adequately funded to ensure the long-term archiving and preservation of digital publications.

2.  WHAT IS ALPSP?

  2.1  The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) is the international trade association for not-for-profit publishers. Total membership at the time of writing is 277, in 28 different countries; 75% of these are based in the UK. Members vary in size—while many are small, a significant proportion publish large numbers of journals. Full Members are not-for-profit publishers of all sizes and types—predominantly learned societies and professional associations, but also university presses, research organisations and inter-governmental organisations; there are currently 182 Full Members, 132 of which are based in the UK. Associate Membership is open to commercial organisations providing services to the scholarly and professional information chain, and Associate Members include a number of commercial publishers, including some of the largest players. See current list of members at http://www.alpsp.org/membership/members.htm.

  2.2  The Association is active on a number of fronts.

  2.2.1  Representation of and advocacy for not-for-profit publishing in particular, and publishing in general; major international research projects are regularly undertaken in order to improve the knowledge base about our sector and its customers; the Association also works actively with many other bodies, including—in the UK—the British Library, JISC, SCONUL and SPARC.

  2.2.2  Development of publishers' skills and knowledge through the industry's most extensive programme of seminars, training courses and other events (see www.alpsp.org/events.htm and www.alpsp-training.org)

  2.2.3  Dissemination of information and advice through a quarterly journal, Learned Publishing (www.learned-publishing.org), a monthly email newsletter, an online discussion list, and an extensive website (www.alpsp.org).

  2.2.4  Support for smaller publishers in particular through collaborative initiatives such as the ALPSP Learned Journals Collection (www.alpsp-collection.org).

3.  HOW JOURNALS WORK

  3.1  The system whereby the work of researchers is accredited through publication in peer-reviewed journals is long-established; the first true learned journal, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, started in 1665. ALPSP has carried out two major international research studies[9], which show that scholars continue to value publication in high-prestige journals as the best way of advancing both their own careers, and their own and their institutions' funding.

  3.2  When a research project is completed, the researcher writes a paper (or more than one) about it and submits this to the learned journal of his or her choice; that choice will be determined by (a) the journal's appropriateness to the readership the author wishes to address and (b) the prestige of the journal within its own field. The cost of the journal to subscribers rarely enters into the author's decision (though this disconnection could be addressed by the Open Access model—see below). A relatively objective measure of journal prestige is the "Web of Science" citation index published by ISI (part of Thomson), which indexes some 8,500 of the leading journals. Citations (references at the end of papers) are analysed to calculate the frequency with which papers in one journal are cited by other journals. This produces the "Impact Factor", from which in turn a ranking can be derived in each specific discipline; the figures are not generally comparable across disciplines, since authors in some disciplines tend to give many more references than others, so a figure which would be high in one field may not be so impressive in another. Authors are not, and do not seek to be, paid for their research papers; publication is necessary to them (authors of commissioned papers, however, such as reviews summarising the existing literature on a topic, are generally paid).

  3.3  Once the paper has been received by the journal's editorial office, two or more appropriate experts are selected (sometimes by the journal editor, sometimes by the publishing staff) and the paper is sent to them for "peer review". The referees are asked to assess not only the quality of the research study itself and the way it is reported, but also its relevance to that particular journal's readership, its novelty and interest; they may also provide detailed suggestions for improvement of content, structure and even language. Their feedback will determine whether the paper is accepted as it stands (this is very rare), accepted after revisions, or rejected. The percentage of papers accepted varies from journal to journal, but is often lower than 50%. Many publishers have now invested in software to enable the processes of submission and peer review to be carried out online. Referees are rarely if ever paid, other than by covering their expenses; most journal boards feel that payment could risk tainting the process. Journal editors, on the other hand—who are usually eminent practising or recently retired academic experts in the subject of the journal—are generally paid an honorarium or royalty in addition to covering all their office expenses, accommodation and support staff.

  3.4  Accepted papers will then be passed to editors employed by the publisher—either in-house or, very commonly, specialist freelance staff. They will ensure that the language is clear and unambiguous, that standard style and nomenclature is consistently followed, and that illustrative material is of an appropriate standard (it will be redrawn if not); papers by non-native speakers require particularly close attention. ALPSP's own research shows that authors are very conscious and appreciative of the value of the editorial function. These days, the publisher will also wherever possible establish live links, in the electronic version, from references to the actual material cited (which necessitates checking and correcting references which have been imperfectly cited by the author), as well as links to other material such as data files; this is perceived by readers as one of the most useful features of electronic journals.

  3.5  Preparation of the content, up to the point of publication, is generally carried out on computers. At the point of publication, however, there is a bifurcation; one set of suitably coded files will go to the printer, to produce the paper version; the other will be specifically formatted for the online version. Almost all Science, Technology and Medical journals are now published in electronic as well as print form (indeed, a few have no print equivalent), although this is far from universal yet in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The electronic version will usually be published either shortly before or simultaneously with the print version; some electronic journals publish each paper separately as soon as it is ready.

  3.6  Although they are not paid a fee, in the print world, authors are normally provided with a number of free copies, or "offprints", of their paper; these they send out in response to direct approaches from interested colleagues. In the electronic world, publishers are experimenting with equivalent arrangements, for example by supplying a secure electronic PDF file of the article to the author, or by providing a fixed number of free online accesses to that paper via a special internet address (URL) which is given to the author.

  3.7  It is worth bearing in mind that research and its publication operate internationally. Large research projects are frequently carried out by multinational teams; the community of peers with which researchers communicate both informally and formally is entirely international. Journals, too, are international; both authors and subscribers tend to come from all over the world. Typically, a UK research journal will sell some 60-75% (sometimes considerably more) of subscriptions outside the UK, and is likely to draw a similar proportion of its authors from outside the UK; conversely, UK libraries almost without exception spend more on journals published outside than within the UK.

4.  THE ROLE OF THE PUBLISHER

  4.1  There is a great deal more to publishing than the management of the peer review process; publishers add value to the content provided by authors in a variety of ways:

  4.1.1  Publishers create new journals, after substantial market research; their initial investment is unlikely to be repaid for five to seven years, and not every new journal will succeed. New journals, created in response to market demand, give authors more choice when selecting the most appropriate place to publish, and can actually help to focus and foster the development of new communities of researchers. Continuous development of existing journals, and creation of new ones, is essential as scholarly disciplines evolve.

  4.1.2  Some larger publishers—both not-for-profit and commercial—also offer a contract publishing service to smaller societies, taking over some or all of the processes of publication after the editorial office has accepted papers for publication, although typically the societies remain closely involved with publication policy; this is one way of helping smaller society publishers to compete more effectively. These contract publishers pay back a substantial royalty or profit-share to the society which owns the journal.

  4.1.3  Publishers actively market both new and established journals. New journals need to be drawn to the attention of potential authors and readers, as well as librarians; these days, no library can afford to subscribe to a new journal unless an existing title is cancelled. Marketing is done by means of mailings, email communications and attendance at scientific conferences and exhibitions. Even more important, however, is ensuring that journals are included in the key "abstracting and indexing" databases which scholars use to identify at least half of the papers which   they read. Making sure that functional links are in place to and from such databases, and to and from other journals via citation linking, is a crucial aspect of making a journal visible to its readers.

  4.1.4  Publishers provide technical customer support (often on a 24/7 basis) for electronic journals.

  4.1.5  Publishers administer the peer review process; larger publishers may employ subject specialists who work with a sophisticated electronic database of referees, freeing journal editors from the task of identifying appropriate, and available, referees for each paper. They also generally cover the referees' expenses.

  4.1.6  Publishers develop and manage systems to ensure rapid, high-quality publication, with particular emphasis on maximising the speed of peer review. For the majority of publishers, these systems are computer-based; they are necessarily expensive to develop, staff and manage.

  4.1.7  Publishers not only pay journal editors' expenses, including office accommodation and office staff, but also (in the UK at least) a royalty or honorarium as well.

  4.1.8  Publishers both administer and pay for all the post-acceptance editing and preparation for publication; this may include the preparation of an annual index to the year's issues of the journal.

  4.1.9  Publishers commission, and pay for, editorials, review articles and the like which complement the primary research articles in the journal.

  4.1.10  Publishers have invested substantially in the creation of online publishing systems; these need continuous maintenance and upgrading.

  4.1.11  Many society and other publishers are investing large sums in creating a complete digital archive of their journal, from the very first issue (in some cases this means going back for a century or more); while few may be in a position absolutely to guarantee accessibility for future generations, almost all are working closely with national libraries and other organisations to ensure that the digital archive is preserved.

  4.2  It is also perhaps worth pointing out the importance of the UK journal publishing industry to "UK plc". It is a very important source of both direct and freelance employment, and of exports—of the estimated £1.5-2 billion turnover, 60-75% is exported.

5.  NOT-FOR-PROFIT PUBLISHING

  5.1  There are some 21,000 current or forthcoming peer-reviewed journals listed in "Ulrich's", the industry directory. Of these, at least 9,250—probably more—are published by learned societies, professional associations or university presses. In addition, a significant number of societies contract out all or part of their publishing to larger publishers (themselves either not-for-profit or commercial), which enables them to compete more effectively with the largest players, through economies of scale; however, they normally continue to direct the journal's editorial policy, to appoint the editor and editorial board, and to have significant influence over pricing and other aspects of publishing policy. They receive either a share of the profits or a royalty from the contract publisher. Numerous studies have indicated that not-for-profit journals are typically significantly more reasonably priced than those from commercial publishers[10] (they also tend to be more highly cited). Print runs may be larger, as copies are typically supplied to all members (though usually for a nominal, if any, charge). In general, societies and university presses do not seek to maximise their surplus from publishing—profit margins are typically much lower than those of the leading commercial companies, and some have a policy of simply covering their costs (while others, particularly smaller university presses, are in fact subsidised by their parent institutions). Publishing is first and foremost a means of furthering the objectives of the society—to foster and disseminate knowledge of the particular subject. For example, the mission of the Royal Society of Chemistry is "to foster and encourage the growth and application of [chemical] science by the dissemination of chemical knowledge" (see http://www.rsc.org/members/aboutus2.htm#charter); that of the British Ecological Society is "to advance and support the science of ecology and publicise the outcome of research, in order to advance knowledge, education and their application" (see www.britishecologicalsociety.org/articles/about/thebes/); and that of the Society for Endocrinology is "the advancement of public education in endocrinology" (see http://www.endocrinology.org/sfe/memart.pdf).

  5.2  Those which do make a surplus, however, are exempt from paying tax. This is because, rather than needing to pay dividends to shareholders, they are bound by their charitable status to plough all the money they make back into the activities of the society: for example, conducting public education in their subject, keeping membership rates low, subsidising conferences and other meetings, funding research and offering scholarships and travel bursaries.

  5.3  Not-for-profit publishers are typically small; many have just one journal. This makes it difficult to compete with the largest players, who may publish hundreds or even thousands of titles. The difficulty is exacerbated in the electronic environment, where the largest publishers can offer packages of large numbers of journals. Although librarians are beginning to resist these "big deals" because—in a situation of limited funds—they restrict choice and tie up funding for several years, they are still generally popular, as they do provide libraries with a cost- and time-efficient method of purchasing; usage statistics also show that the previously unsubscribed material is surprisingly heavily used. Several organisations, including ALPSP, have created multi-publisher packages to help small—and particularly not-for-profit—publishers to compete with the "big deals", and these are warmly supported by libraries.

6.  THE ECONOMICS

  6.1  The processes of publishing all cost money. There are the direct per-paper costs to do with peer review, editing, preparation for publication, and online posting; surprisingly few customers are yet willing to do without print, so there are also costs of typesetting, paper, printing, binding, storage and distribution. There are also indirect costs, not just of the journal editor and editorial office, but also in-house staff, accommodation and shared systems. Furthermore, every publisher, whether commercial or not, needs to recover more than its costs, in order to provide for reinvestment in the business—particularly necessary at a time of such rapid technological change. All commercial publishers are naturally required to make a sufficient profit to satisfy their shareholders. Not-for-profit publishers, too—with very few exceptions—look to the proceeds of their publishing operation to support the other services which they provide to their community: these may include low membership subscriptions, free or nominally priced journals, subsidised conference fees, travel bursaries and research grants.

  6.2  How much does it cost? Estimates differ; a recent analysis by the Open Society Institute[11] put the cost at $3,750 per published paper, but this may be an over-estimate. Other studies[12] suggest a more credible average figure of between $800 (excluding overheads) and $1,545 (including overheads). The actual cost per published paper varies with a number of factors. In particular, the percentage of papers rejected significantly affects the cost per published paper (as all papers received have to be processed up to the stage of acceptance or rejection); while the average rejection rate may be 35-50%, the top-ranking journals typically reject a very much higher percentage of the papers submitted. The total circulation of the journal also has a marked effect; because of the degree of specialisation, the typical research journal has a remarkably low circulation—the median figure in 1995 was just 1,900[13], and in many cases only a few hundred[14].

7.  COPYRIGHT

  7.1  Although the legal ownership of a researcher's work arguably lies with the employing institution, most universities have implicitly or explicitly waived this right. Traditionally, journal authors have transferred copyright in their papers to the publisher of the journal (or to the society which owned the journal, if the publisher was different); copyright transfer is much less common for books, unless they have multiple authors. Ownership of copyright simplifies matters for the publisher, enabling it to deal most straightforwardly with cases of copyright infringement as well as with the granting of permissions or licences for re-use. However, it is not absolutely necessary (as the books situation demonstrates). In recent years, publishers have become much more aware of the rights which authors and their universities wish to retain: in particular, the right to post their own work online, and the right to re-use it for educational purposes within the institution, and in the authors' own subsequent publications and presentations. This can be achieved in one of two ways: if the author transfers copyright to the publisher, those rights can be explicitly granted back; if the author retains copyright, limited rights can be granted to the publisher (in the form of a licence). The key realisation has been that who actually owns copyright is not the point; it is the ownership of specific rights within the copyright "bundle" that is significant. ALPSP has been instrumental in introducing a model form of words for both situations[15], which is now widely used or adapted by many publishers.

8.  THE "LIBRARY CRISIS"

  8.1  For some years now, librarians have been unable to subscribe to all the journals that their patrons might wish to access. The most important contributory factor is the steady increase in research output ever since the Second World War; more research (and more researchers) produces more papers, which find publication either in existing journals (which therefore become larger) or in new ones. But library acquisitions budgets have not kept pace—indeed, they have often fallen in real terms. Thus libraries have been forced to cancel their least important subscriptions, and to rely on other means—such as the system of "inter-library loan"—to supply papers from journals not held in the library. This disconnection could, of course, be corrected by the Open Access model (see below) to the extent that publication costs became a normal part of research funding.

  8.2  Journal prices have certainly increased more steeply than the general rate of inflation[16]; it is not, however, the case that publishers have all been pushing up journal prices as steeply as they can. One factor seldom taken into account is the increase in the number of articles and thus the number of pages—the price per article has not risen anything like as steeply. In addition, the steady decline in subscription numbers inevitably reduces profitability, unless prices are increased. However, many publishers, and particularly not-for-profit publishers, do their best to minimise price increases—they are well aware that an unreasonably steep rise will lead to a fall in subscriptions, thus leading to a "vicious spiral".

9.  ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING

  9.1  Both publishers and librarians welcomed the advent of electronic publishing, hoping that it would make possible significant cost savings. Both have to some extent been disappointed. The costs of electronic publishing are higher than anticipated; not only do electronic publishing systems require a high level of continuous investment, but additional costs of customer support and the negotiation of licences were unexpectedly high. And customers have been reluctant to give up their print copies—understandably, given the uncertainties about long-term preservation and the punitive effects of VAT on electronic publications; thus publishers have yet to see the savings in paper, printing, binding, warehousing and delivery costs which might be realised by dropping print entirely.

  9.2  Publishers have, however, made the most of the potential of electronic publishing to explore ways of offering customers better value for money. They have developed creative licensing models, permitting access to all their publications ("bundling") and/or access for all those in a group of universities ("consortial licensing"), for little additional expenditure; they have also supported the creation of schemes to provide free or inexpensive access for users in less developed countries[17]. Many—particularly learned societies—have invested in digitising the entire back-archive of their journals, thus providing a readily accessible historic archive sometimes going back hundreds of years. Publishers have also worked closely with librarians to develop licences for electronic journals, which permit the subscribing institutions to use the licensed content much more freely than was possible with print.

10.  OPEN ACCESS

  10.1  "Open Access", at its most fundamental, simply means free, unrestricted access for everyone to online research information. The term is commonly used in two distinct ways. The first, sometimes known as "self-archiving", refers to authors making their own papers freely available online; this may be done on a personal or departmental website, in a subject-based repository (notably the long-established ArXiv[18] in high-energy physics and related disciplines), or—more recently—in an institutional repository[19]. Papers may be deposited as "preprints"—that is to say, in a pre-publication form—or as "postprints"—the final version which has undergone all the processes of peer review and editing and is identical to the published version. Perhaps surprisingly, publishers have in general responded positively to authors' wish to deposit their work in one or both forms; half or more of publishers[20] explicitly permit this in their agreements with authors (although it appears that far fewer authors actually take advantage of this right). The development of "Open Archives" standards and software[21] makes it increasingly possible to find and retrieve papers which have been deposited in this distributed manner; to date, however, journal subscriptions and licences do not appear to have been affected—the steady rate of decline has not accelerated—although some publishers fear that it could ultimately damage sales.

  10.2  The second sense of "Open Access" refers to traditional peer-reviewed journals which are made freely available online, rather than limiting access to those who are covered by a subscription or licence. Clearly, the costs of publication still need to be recovered in some way, and the most usual method is to make a charge for publication. Currently, charges seem to range between $500 and $1,500, although it is often suggested that for such a model to be viable, the charges would really need to be higher—particularly since not all authors are likely to be able to pay, particularly if they come from a less developed part of the world (it is assumed that, as with the existing system of "page charges" which is used to reduce subscription prices by a number of (mainly US) journals, charges would automatically be waived in such circumstances). Some open access journals are supported, totally or in part, by grants; some derive a certain amount of income from other sources, such as advertising. Some publishers are offering a hybrid model, where only those articles whose authors have paid the charge are made freely available; the remainder are only accessible to subscribers.

  10.3  To date there are 5-600 Open Access journals[22]; ALPSP has recently announced a research project to analyse the data which is emerging from many of these experiments, in order to establish whether, and if so in what circumstances, the "Open Access" model can be viable. Publishers have already taken many steps to widen access, such as new licensing agreements, provision of free or very inexpensive access for developing countries, or free access to online back issues after a relatively short period. However, a number of publishers are interested in going further; Learned Societies take a particular interest in the Open Access model, since maximum dissemination of information about their discipline is precisely what they are about (see the "Mission Statements" quoted earlier).

  10.4  The financial feasibility of Open Access may well vary between disciplines; in some areas, particularly in the sciences, research is expensive, research grants are accordingly large, and a few thousand pounds to publish a couple of articles may make little difference to the total sum funded. In other areas, however, such as the humanities, research is relatively inexpensive and grants are therefore small or even non-existent. In addition, some articles are based not on funded research but on experience in clinical practice; and others, such as review articles, are actually commissioned (and frequently paid for) by publishers. Costs also vary between journals; a high quality journal, as mentioned above, may reject a high percentage of the papers submitted, but the costs up to the point of acceptance or rejection are the same in either case. A fee charged per published article would therefore need to be considerably higher for such journals (although alternative approaches, such as charging a submission fee, could of course be considered). The data analysis which ALPSP will be conducting this year will, it is hoped, shed considerably more light on both economic and other aspects.

  10.5  A number of the existing Open Access journals are run on a volunteer basis by individual academics. While this may appear to make it possible for the journals to be free both to authors and to readers, this is perhaps misleading; the academics' time is being paid for with their university salaries, as are their support costs and overheads. This is unlikely to be an approach which could be scaled up to include a significant proportion of existing journals without placing an unreasonable financial burden on the "parent" universities; and it is debatable, too, whether this is the best use of academics' time.

  10.6  There are various "definitions" of Open Access, some of which include additional elements such as the retention of copyright by the author (or even the abandonment of copyright by placing the work in the public domain), deposit of the work in a publicly accessible database, and the ability of others to re-use and re-sell the work without permission or payment. In our view, however, these are "optional extras" and the core of Open Access is simply, as stated above, free and unrestricted access for everyone to research information.

  10.7  However, there is in fact little evidence that the majority of journal authors are in any way dissatisfied with the present system. Numerous studies have been carried out[23] which suggest that the vast majority of those who contribute articles to learned journals are broadly happy with the way things work (their concerns are mainly to do with such matters as fairness of peer review and speed of publication); indeed, in many fields there is little or no awareness of, let alone demand for, alternative models. It is also notable that, although more than 50% of publishers permit authors to self-archive their own articles in either preprint or published form, an extremely small proportion of authors are actually doing so[24]. Thus, while there are some very vocal enthusiasts for self-archiving, Open Access journals and so forth, they would appear to represent a very small minority of the academic community.

11.  SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

  11.1  What impact do publishers' current policies on pricing and provision of scientific journals, particularly "big deal schemes", have on libraries and the teaching and research communities they serve?

  11.1.1  Publishers are all too well aware of the growing divergence between the amount of research seeking publication and the money available to buy it. They know, too, that their customers' budgets are unlikely even to rise by the rate of inflation. Most publishers—particularly not-for-profit publishers—therefore try not to increase their journal prices more than is necessary to stay in business (although different publishers have different expectations of the profitability that "staying in business" requires). It is, however, almost impossible to restrict price rises to the rate of general inflation, because of the increase in the number of papers, and the steady decrease in the number of subscriptions. The cost savings (up to 20-25%) which might be realised by the abandonment of print would be welcomed by publishers, but the current VAT situation means that most of the saving is negated; full-rate VAT is charged on information, although the lower rate is applicable to print (in the UK, print is zero-rated).

  11.1.2  Publishers have attempted to create new ways of licensing which enable libraries' budgets to go further, given that access can be provided for more people at minimal extra cost to the publisher. However, working out how to price licences for electronic journals is difficult—one licence can take the place of multiple subscriptions, particularly if a group of universities is involved; various methods are being explored to reflect the different sizes and types of institutions. Consortial licensing—selling a journal, or more usually a collection of journals, to a group of university or other libraries, possibly even on a regional or national basis—has provided access for many more people to many more journals; acting in consortia, libraries have for the first time significant bargaining power in negotiating prices and conditions with publishers. "Big Deals"—selling a collection of journals, or possibly all of a publisher's output, for little more than was previously spent to subscribe to just a few of them—also significantly increase access. The result of the widespread uptake of such licences has been that library users now have access to significantly more journals than in the past. However, libraries do perceive two problems with "Big Deals": they are obliged to buy (albeit for a nominal extra payment) journals which they would not otherwise have selected; and they are often tied into a multi-year agreement with a non-cancellation clause.

  11.1.3  Publishers and libraries are therefore beginning to explore different pricing and charging models, moving away both from print-based pricing (which is clearly not sustainable for long in the electronic environment) and from "Big Deals". The development of international standards for usage statistics[25] makes it possible to envisage a usage-based component in future pricing. In the UK, the PALS[26] collaboration between ALPSP, JISC and the Publishers Association recently commissioned a study of new pricing models for information, and is currently evaluating their potential for experimentation.

  11.1.4  Under both existing and new pricing models, national licences merit further consideration. These are arrangements where a licence is negotiated and paid for at national level, giving country-wide access to all universities, all educational institutions, all public libraries or even the entire population; cost per user, and cost per use, is thus minimised. Such licences could make it possible for a single cost- and time-effective negotiation to secure access to one or more publishers' content for all researchers in the UK. This is already happening in some other countries (eg Iceland, Greece, Korea), and publishers were disappointed that the UK Pilot Site Licence Initiative (which was centrally funded—in effect, a national licence) was replaced by the National Electronic Site Licence Initiative (which was not, as each participating university can opt in or out, and pays its own share).

  11.2  What action should Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific publications?

  11.2.1  In one sense there is no competition in the journal market, as was observed by the OFT report[27]. One journal, let alone one paper, cannot be substituted for another; in reality, journals compete for authors—primarily, on grounds of prestige. In the current economic climate, however, publishers are undoubtedly competing for libraries' limited funds. The prevalence of consortial licences and "Big Deals" tends to favour the largest publishers, for understandable reasons; if it takes just as long to negotiate a licence for one journal or for a hundred, the library will choose the latter—with the result there may be no negotiating time, or money, left for the smallest publishers. Although no player actually has a majority share of the market, each of the three largest players (Elsevier, the newly merged Springer/Kluwer, and Taylor & Francis) has more than a thousand journals, whereas few learned societies have more than 20, and the lists of the majority of publishers are in single figures. In addition, the largest players would appear to command a greater share of libraries' funds than sheer journal numbers would indicate. This was the main reason why ALPSP recently set up its ALPSP Learned Journals Collection[28]; we realised that libraries were tying up more and more of their available budgets with the largest publishers and found it quite impractical to deal with many very small publishers, much as they wished to continue to take their journals.

  11.2.2  The most positive steps that can be taken are therefore those which "level the playing field" between different sized publishers; encouragement of the various collaborative ventures which already exist between small-to-medium sized publishers might be one way of doing this.

  11.3  What are the consequences of increasing numbers of open-access journals, for example for the operation of the Research Assessment Exercise and other selection processes? Should the Government support such a trend and, if so, how?

  11.3.1  There is no reason why Open Access journals should not be considered equally with subscription/licence journals for the RAE and other such exercises; the key measure—citation—is unaffected. Open Access journals do not necessarily abandon any of the traditional processes of peer review and editing—the only difference is that, instead of being "free-to-publish" they are "free-to-access"; in some cases, indeed, they are the same journals which have converted to an alternative cost-recovery model. It has been suggested that citations might in fact be higher for a journal which was freely available to all, although statistics are not yet available to demonstrate whether this is in fact the case. Certainly it is desirable that assessment and evaluation exercises should consider papers published in all peer-reviewed journals, regardless of medium or business model, provided only that they are of high quality.

  11.3.2  There are different ways of supporting the development of Open Access journals. Some funding agencies have committed extra support for publication in Open Access journals of the results of research they have funded; others have made no additional funding, but have explicitly permitted this use of existing research funds. Clearly the Open Access model cannot ever become widely adopted unless authors have access to the necessary funds to cover publication charges; indeed, in some disciplines (for example, those where research budgets are typically low or non-existent) this may never be the case; thus, encouraging research councils and other funders to permit the use of their grants for publication charges may be helpful. Mandating the use of Open Access journals in general, or even specific titles, however, is less likely to succeed; we are not convinced that authors will be persuaded to publish in those journals if they are not their journals of choice.

  11.3.3  JISC has recently announced the provision of funding for a small number of Open Access journals to cover the publication costs of UK authors. However, funding for authors from the UK would not necessarily benefit libraries and readers in the UK—their work will appear in the most appropriate journals, which may be published, and which will be read, anywhere in the world. As mentioned above, research and its publication operates internationally; thus any steps taken on a purely UK basis will have only a partial effect.

  11.3.4  If the number (and quality) of Open Access journals does increase, there will clearly be less pressure on library acquisition budgets, but more pressure on research funds or other sources of support for publication charges. The overall cost to the system could potentially be reduced if the effect on publishers were to oblige them not only to make savings (if necessary reducing quality in the process) in order to make their charges affordable, but also to reduce their profit margins (although this would have a negative effect on the other activities of learned societies). This would not necessarily be the case, however—conceivably the publishers of the highest quality journals would actually be able to increase their profits through charging high publication fees; there is simply not enough hard information yet about the economic effects either on individual players, or on the system as a whole. The cost to the system would not, of course, be stabilised; it would continue to grow pari passu with research output, although there would seem to be a better chance of publication funding keeping pace, if it is seen as a necessary part of research funding, than has been the case with library budgets. A hybrid environment seems quite possible in the longer term, with Open Access becoming a (or even the) dominant model in certain disciplines, but not in others. However, the key will be authors' behaviour; only if they perceive that their objectives in publishing will be better served by Open Access journals, are they likely to try to find the funds to cover publication charges.

  11.3.5  At this juncture, ALPSP would not recommend that Government should take any direct action either to encourage or to discourage the growth of Open Access journals; publication in such journals should be evaluated by exactly the same criteria as publication in traditional subscription/licence journals. However, it would certainly be helpful to encourage UK research councils to permit (but not to mandate) the use of grants to cover publication costs. The most constructive action of all might be to support research into the economic and other aspects of Open Access journals, in order that publishers and academics alike can make future decisions on a basis of factual evidence.

  11.4  How effectively are the Legal Deposit Libraries making available non-print scientific publications to the research community, and what steps should they be taking in this respect?

  11.4.1  Non-print scientific publications are not yet subject to the requirement of legal deposit. The recently passed enabling legislation will, however, now make it possible for regulations to be passed relating to specific publication media, and electronic journals are likely to be one of the first media so regulated. Publishers have worked with the legal deposit libraries for some years, prior to the legislation, on a voluntary scheme of deposit for hand-held media, and are about to embark on a similar pre-legislation project for electronic journals. It is not, however, the intention of the legislation that access to the deposited works should undermine publishers' normal sales; access will be restricted to terminals in the reading rooms of the libraries.

  11.4.2  However, the Legal Deposit Libraries are in many cases already subscribing to electronic journals; publishers have worked closely with the British Library in particular to ensure that appropriate licence terms are available which permit the library to provide much wider access for users than would be possible under Legal Deposit, although unlimited remote use (which would make it possible for a single licence to substitute for sales to every user in the country) is naturally not permitted.

  11.4.3  Legal Deposit (and other) libraries are entitled to supply "Fair Dealing" copies of individual journal articles and book chapters for research and private study under the "Library Privilege" regulations (although they undertake not to use Legal Deposit copies for this purpose); copies which do not fall under the non-commercial rubric of "Fair Dealing" (as defined under the 2003 copyright regulations) may be supplied under licence, with the payment of a copyright fee to the publisher. Electronic delivery of such copies has been the subject of much discussion and collaborative work with publishers, and the British Library has recently launched a secure means of electronic delivery with which publishers have declared themselves satisfied. Thus every UK researcher can speedily obtain, at the desktop, any article or chapter which they should require.

  11.4.4  Publishers' greatest concern is that the Legal Deposit Libraries—in particular, the British Library—should be adequately funded to permit storage, access provision and long-term preservation of the deposited material. With that assurance, we believe that publishers would readily licence the libraries to do more with the deposited material than the legislation allows, such as providing more users with access to the deposited material, in return for appropriate payment. In addition, many publishers see the Libraries as the best "archive of last resort" if they become unable (for technical or commercial reasons) to continue to provide access to the material which they have published; the Dutch Royal Library is beginning to perform this function for a few publishers.

  11.5  What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?

  11.5.1  The system of peer review, though not perfect, has proved fairly robust in detecting unsound research results; most Open Access journals maintain the same processes of peer review as their predecessors. While there are occasional proposals to reform Peer Review, none has received enthusiastic support from the academic community. Whether a journal is "free-to-access" or "free-to-publish" does not in itself affect the risks of fraud and malpractice. Indeed, the Internet permits more rigorous checking for textual plagiarism.

  11.5.2  However, when unreviewed "preprints" are posted on the Internet, these controls are not in place; and if a preprint does turn out to be false, or indeed actionable, it is by no means clear who bears the legal liability.

  11.5.3  The extreme ease with which students and less experienced researchers can access information via Internet search engines such as Google predisposes them preferentially to use freely available content, which may or may not have been subjected to the quality control functions of peer review; while this does not amount to deliberate fraud or malpractice, it nevertheless risks lowering standards. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to find ways of identifying, and directing these users to, peer reviewed information.

12.  CONCLUSIONS

  12.1  Publishers are experimenting with a number of alternative business models, of which Open Access is one. Open Access does have a certain appeal (particularly for learned society publishers); however, much more needs to be learned about the circumstances in which it is or is not a viable alternative to subscription/licence journals. It would undoubtedly be premature to advocate Open Access—or any other alternative model—as a solution to the "Library Crisis".

  12.2  There are, however, a number of specific actions which might help to ease the current situation:

  12.2.1  Library acquisitions funding should be significantly increased as a percentage of university spending.

  12.2.2  The problem of VAT on electronic publications should be addressed; the UK should lobby within Europe for the extension of derogations to electronic information, on the same grounds that they already apply to print; in the meantime, UK universities and other non-commercial educational and research establishments should be exempted from VAT on information.

  12.2.3  National licences should be investigated.

  12.2.4  Efforts to "level the playing field" between different sized publishers should be encouraged—for example, collaborative projects between small-to-medium not-for-profit and commercial publishers.

  12.2.5  Other collaborative projects between publishers of all sizes and types, with the aim of increasing dissemination and maximising efficiency, should also be encouraged.

  12.2.6  Open Access journals should be considered in exactly the same way as other journals in the evaluation process.

  12.2.7  Research Councils should be encouraged to permit (but not to mandate) the use of a portion of research grants for the payment of Open Access publication charges.

  12.2.8  The collection and analysis of data about Open Access publishing should be encouraged.

  12.2.9  The British Library and other Legal Deposit Libraries should be adequately funded to ensure that they can provide an appropriate long-term archive for non-print materials as these become liable to deposit under Legal Deposit regulations.

  12.3  Representatives of the Association would be very happy to attend in person to give oral evidence to the Committee, if so required.

13.  LIST OF SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

  13.1  General background.

  1.  Background document on ALPSP.

  2.  "What's so Special about Not-for-Profit Publishers" (editorial), S Morris, Learned Publishing, Vol 14 No 3 (July 2001).

  3.  ALPSP Principles of Scholarship-Friendly Journal Publishing Practice (final draft—to be formally launched in March).

  4.  Journal Publishing—briefing document for Government departments, prepared at the request of the DTI.

  5.  Electronic Publishing and Learned Societies—document prepared at the request of the Research Support Libraries Group.

  6.  ALPSP position statement on Open Access.

January 2004




9   "What Authors Want", Key Perspectives Ltd, ALPSP, 1999 and "Authors and Electronic Publishing", Key Perspectives Ltd, ALPSP, 2002. Back

10   eg Barschall, H H and Arrington, J R, "Cost of Physics Journals: A Survey", Bulletin of the American Physical Society, July, 1988. [http://barschall.stanford.edu/articles/baps8807.pdf]; Bergstrom, Theodore C "Free Labor for Costly Journals? ", Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 2001). [http://www.econ.ucsb.edu/~tedb/Journals/jeprevised.pdf]. Back

11   "Guide to Business Planning for Converting a Subscription-based Journal to Open Access", Open Society Institute, 2003 [http://www.soros.org/openaccess/oajguides/business-converting.pdf]. Back

12   "The Costs of Learned Journal and Book Publishing", A Dryburgh, ALPSP, 2002; "Towards Electronic Journals", C Tenopir and D King, Special Libraries Association, 2000; "The Peer Review Process", F Rowland, Learned Publishing Vol 15 No 4 (October 2002). Back

13   "Towards Electronic Journals", C Tenopir and D King, Special Libraries Association, 2000. Back

14   "Journal Publishing", G Page, R Campbell and J Meadows, Cambridge University Press, 1997. Back

15   See the ALPSP Guidelines at http://www.alpsp.org/htp-grantli.htm. Back

16   See, for example, "Monograph and Serial Costs in ARL Libraries 1986-2002", Association of Research Libraries [http://www.arl.org/stats/arlstat/graphs/2002/2002t2.html]. Back

17   See http://www.alpsp.org/htp-dev.htm. Back

18   See www.arxiv.org. Back

19   There is a list of such repositories at http://www.alpsp.org/htp-openarc.htm. Back

20   See "Scholarly Publishing Practice", J Cox & L Cox, ALPSP, 2003 and "Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving, Project RoMEO. [http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ls/disresearch/romeo/]. Back

21   See "Metadata Harvesting and the Open Archives Initiative", C Lynch, ARL Bimonthly Report 217, August 2001 [http://www.arl.org/newsltr/217/mhp.html]. Back

22   See http://www.alpsp.org/htp-openacc.htm. Back

23   "What Authors Want", Key Perspectives Ltd, ALPSP 1999 and "Authors and Electronic Publishing", Key Perspectives Ltd, ALPSP 2001; also large-scale international surveys currently being conducted by City University on behalf of the Publishers Association, and by Key Perspectives Ltd on behalf of JISC, both to be published later in 2003. Back

24   "Institutional Repositories", Mark Ware Consulting, PALS 2003 (to be published later this year). Back

25   See http://www.projectcounter.org/. This had its origins as a PALS initiative. Back

26   See http://www.palsgroup.org.uk. Back

27   "The Market for Scientific, Technical and Medical Journals", Office of Fair Trading, 2002 [http://www.oft.gov.uk/nr/rdonlyres/efvqwtvbz6bqcpm5vcfexjlnbl7ltb5anbnu7kuri5bhmfwx34kjdjni4qgpivcokrjdmugt4l6ic4kbokoji6a7xgg/oft396.pdf]. Back

28   See www.alpsp-collection.org for more information. Back


 
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