Memorandum from the International Union
1. The real value to research of scientific
literature has enormously increased in the past decade through
technical innovations and the rise of the Web.
2. The IUCr is a specialist learned-society
publisher that has worked especially hard to provide such added
value in the field of crystallography.
3. Such improvements do not come cheaply.
However, we have succeeded by exploiting the full benefits of
new technology in keeping our production costs down.
4. Despite this, pressure on finite acquisitions
budgets may leave libraries unable to afford our journals in spite
of their high intrinsic value.
5. The open-access funding model helps in
this respect because it removes the cost burden from the end user,
as well as making the results of scientific research available
to the widest possible audience.
6. Assessment, selection and improvement
of the content of scientific articles by peer review must remain
paramount in future developments of scientific journals.
7. Of equal importance for the growing numbers
of journals that are available only in electronic format is the
need to ensure their availability to future generations.
8. Any economic restructuring of the scientific
journals market (eg to promote open access) must guarantee the
quality and longevity referred to in (6) and (7)).
9. Learned-society publishers have an especially
important role to play in defining and maintaining the standards
of academic research, and in promoting and distributing the research
literature in their own fields of interest.
1. The survival of small and learned-society
publishers must be encouraged to sustain the diversity of producers
of scientific journals.
2. Adequate funding must be made available
to allow an orderly transition towards open-access provision.
3. Government should actively support measures
that ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of electronic-only
contributions to the literature.
1. The International Union of Crystallography
(IUCr) has operated as a learned-society publisher in the UK for
over half a century. Over the last decade we have embraced the
opportunities presented by electronic publishing, and have pioneered
novel methods of data handling and analysis as part of our quality
control and content delivery. We welcome the opportunity to present
to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee the views
of a particular learned-society publisher on the present state
of scientific publications.
2. We are members of the Association of
Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), and are aware
of the submission presented by that Association to this Committee.
This document was prepared independently of the ALPSP submission,
and we feel that it complements the Association's overview by
illustrating the concerns, opinions and practices of just one
among the many diverse societies it represents. We shall make
reference in this document to the ALPSP submission where we feel
that it particularly well reflects our own position.
3. In this document we explain who we are,
and describe our purpose and mission. We explain our economic
basis, as a scientific organisation committed to maximising the
accessibility and usefulness of research literature at the lowest
attainable cost consistent with maintaining the highest academic
standards, and we describe in some detail the considerable value
that we add to the articles we publish. We discuss our position
regarding the adoption of new funding models for scientific journals,
and we consider some of the financial and technical implications
associated with the new players who might take part in scientific
publishing activities through open-access or self-publication
initiatives. Throughout, we shall try to present our own response
to these initiatives. We shall then present our own thoughts on
the specific questions raised in the Committee's press release
announcing the scope of this inquiry.
4. The International Union of Crystallography
(IUCr) is an international scientific union incorporated in Geneva.
It was formed from an International Crystallographic Committee
in 1946, and was admitted in 1947 to the International Council
of Scientific Unions. Its primary objectives are laid down in
its statutes as
to contribute to the advancement of crystallography
in all its aspects, including related topics concerning the non-crystalline
to facilitate international standardization of methods,
of units, of nomenclature and of symbols used in crystallography;
5. From its outset the Union decided to
undertake the publication of the results of primary crystallographic
research in a journal of international reach. It first published
Acta Crystallographica in 1948 under an arrangement with
Cambridge University Press; publishing arrangements were transferred
to the Danish publisher Munksgaard in 1951 and publication has
continued in collaboration with Munksgaard (now part of Blackwell
Scientific Publishing) under the Blackwell Munksgaard imprint.
6. To keep pace with the growth of crystallography
as a scientific field, the IUCr now publishes seven titles and
is considering launching an eighth. Details of the current journals
publishing programme are given in the Annex. All of the titles
are available online. One is published only in that format (Acta
Crystallographica Section E: Structure Reports Online). It
is likely that new journals will be published only in online form.
7. The partnership with Blackwell Scientific
Publishing is unusual among learned-society publishers. The IUCr
is fully responsible for the editorial management of the journals
and for their production and typesetting, and it publishes the
online editions on its own server. Blackwell provides services
for managing subscriptions, distribution of hard-copy editions,
and selling online access through large-scale consortial packages.
Since the beginning of 2004 it also provides a second platform
for online access. However, the IUCr online server provides richer
content to the target scientific readership of the journal than
is available from the Blackwell Synergy online platform.
8. The IUCr remains unique among scientific
unions in operating as an active learned-society journals publisher.
It is a member in the UK of the Association of Learned and Professional
Society Publishers. As an organisation it also has wider roles
in representing the interests of scientists and determining science
policy: within its own scientific field, through a structure of
Committees and Scientific Commissions; and between scientific
disciplines, through its membership of the International Council
for Science (ICSU), the International Council for Scientific and
Technical Information (ICSTI), and the Committee for Scientific
9. Crystallography is the branch of science
dedicated to the study of molecular and crystalline structure.
Its fundamental theories are based on atomic physics and mathematics.
Applications of crystallographic research cross the boundaries
of all conventional scientific disciplines. Research based on
or using crystallography is today of immense importance in such
diverse fields as biotechnology, pharmaceutics, genomics, semiconductor
research, nanotechnology, materials science, metallurgy, mineralogy.
The elucidation by X-ray crystallography of the structure of DNA
is acknowledged as one of the milestones of 20th-century science;
more recently, fullerene chemistry, high-temperature superconductors
and the design of antiviral AIDS medication are among the topics
in which crystallography has played a vital role.
10. The cross-disciplinary nature of crystallography
ensures that our journals have potential reach to a very wide
readership. Certainly we have no difficulty in attracting papers,
and the existing seven titles each have their own specialised
topic area, so that individual titles may appeal to specific research
communities. However, the cross-disciplinary nature of the subject
has its drawbacks. Relatively few universities support formal
full crystallography departments. Our journals may be purchased
by or on behalf of departments of chemistry or physics, and be
vulnerable when budget restraints cause departmental librarians
to focus on "chemistry" or "physics" journals
and consider crystallography to be an ancillary or merely "related"
subject. Typical print runs for the journals have been around
1,000 copies (there is some variation by title). In common with
all scientific publishers, we have been seeing a continuing erosion
in the number of subscriptions, with a persistent annual downward
trend of 3-4% (although this is less severe than for many other
11. With its particular focus on the international
dissemination of scientific knowledge, the IUCr wishes to see
its journals widely read throughout the world. Traditionally its
main subscriber base has been in Europe and North America, but
the World Directory of Crystallographers lists active scientists
on every continent and in many developing or small nations. Penetration
of the journals into Asia, South America and Africa remains below
what we would like to see. The IUCr maintains a Journals Grants
Fund for subsidising institutions unable to meet the full cost
of subscriptions. This still places a financial burden on the
qualifying institutions to meet the residual cost (which can be
up to 75% of the list price); and since it is administered from
the IUCr's central funds it is both limited in extent and carries
an administrative overhead.
12. We perceive the attractiveness of online
delivery of content to the user's desktop. This is especially
beneficial in remote countries where the cost and delivery time
of hard-copy distribution are both high. Additionally, we have
carried out a complete digitization of the back-catalogue of our
printed journal content to 1948. Delivery of this material online
benefits new institutional subscribers, and is perhaps especially
important again in offering access to archival material in developing
13. In seeking to further the cause of its
science, the IUCr is not motivated by profit maximization. However,
it does need to operate at a surplus to ensure
the health and resilience of its
commercial operation (including the employment of its 20 staff
members in the UK)
research and development of its publishing
investment for future growth
support of educational activities
14. The IUCr, as a scientific union, obtains
a modest income from fees paid by National Adhering Bodies (typically
crystallographic associations or professional science bodies with
national standing). The Adhering Bodies form the membership of
the IUCr; we do not have individual memberships, and consequently
there is no income from individual membership fees.
15. The major part of our income comes from
our publishing programme (the seven journal titles described in
the Annex and a small number of reference books and monographs).
The journals are sold on the basis of annual subscriptions, mostly
to institutions such as university libraries, science departments,
government and industrial laboratories. A small proportion is
sold at reduced price to individuals. Since the beginning of 2004
we have introduced a hybrid open-access model in which individual
articles may be made available to non-subscribers via the Internet,
where the costs of production of such articles have been met voluntarily
by the authors.
16. Electronic editions offer great benefits
in terms of delivery costs, but only very modest savings in production
costs. We therefore price subscriptions for the electronic editions
only of our journals at 90% of the cost of print subscriptions
to reflect this. (On the other hand, print subscriptions automatically
include access rights to the online content at no additional cost.)
The bulk of the cost of producing the journals remains in the
labour-intensive addition of value to the author's submission
(as detailed in paragraphs 18-41 below).
17. We perceive from our current subscription
renewals that there is still active demand for print subscriptions,
either because of conservatism or fears about long-term preservation.
New journals in electronic-only format are popular, but existing
print subscriptions have not collapsed. We currently exercise
a policy of bundling new titles (which are available in electronic
form only) with subscriptions to existing titles. This means that
print production is still a factor in subsidising the pricing
of new titles. However, in spite of this apparent conservatism,
there is an obvious concern that if we were to provide all our
electronic editions as fully open-access (that is, free of charge
to the recipient), there would be an immediate collapse of print
production and income from subscriptions.
18. Scientific publishers believe that they
add value to the scientific articles in their journals through
many services they provide. In this section we itemise the ways
in which publication in our journals enhances the value of the
19. First and foremost, the Editorial Boards
of the journals ensure that each article undergoes a detailed
and exhaustive peer review. It is generally accepted that scrutiny
and moderation by fellow scientists of experience and expertise
helps eliminate gross errors, misinterpretations and misrepresentations
in the scientific literature. The first recommendation of the
1996 ICSU Press/UNESCO Conference on Electronic Publishing in
The Conference overwhelmingly recommends that
strict peer review should be applied to all scientific material
submitted for publication in electronic journals.
For the journals of the IUCr, each article is
handled by a Co-editor who is responsible for appointing referees,
collecting reviews and liaising with the author to determine the
appropriate response to the referees' recommendations and suggestions.
A substantial number of submitted articles are rejected (or voluntarily
withdrawn by authors) as a result of such scrutiny; nearly all
accepted articles are subject to some measure of revision based
on the referees' comments. Co-editors receive a small honorarium
to compensate for the heavy burden of administration involved;
referees provide their services voluntarily. Editorial policy
for each title is determined by the journal Editor and the board
of Co-editors. The editorial boards collectively form the IUCr
Commission on Journals, which reports through its Chair, currently
Professor John Helliwell of the University of Manchester, to the
IUCr Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is ultimately
answerable to the IUCr General Assembly, which is formed of National
delegates from the countries represented within the Union. In
this way the authority of the peer review process is guaranteed
through the consensus of practising professional scientists within
20. Copy-editing of the submitted articles
by a skilled professional editorial staff improves the linguistic
and grammatical presentation of many articles. The IUCr editorial
staff are all science graduates, many with higher degrees, and
all with English as a mother tongue. Together with voluntary help
freely given by Co-editors, they provide an important service
in clarifying the language of technical articles. This of course
is especially important for authors whose mother tongue is not
English, but is often helpful even for native English speakers.
(In fact the IUCr also permits publication in French, German and
Russian, and has in-house expertise in these languages; but in
common with most scientific literature English is overwhelmingly
the main language of communication.)
21. Improvements are also made to graphs
and illustrations in such ways as relabelling or redrawing of
diagrams, correcting annotations, scaling, cropping or adjusting
the resolution of photographic images.
22. Traditionally, journal publication has
been held to improve accessibility through the adoption of standard
formats of presentation. In the modern world where there are so
many different formats, especially online, this is perhaps of
less importance. Nevertheless, care is still taken in the choice
of a design style for the journals, both in print and online,
to enhance the readability and ease of use of the content. In
print, this is achieved through a clean, open layout and typography.
Online, much effort has gone into designing an easily navigable
browser-independent web site. This included a great deal of labour
in creating very readable images of complex mathematical equations
within articles. The standard of these is higher than is found
on the web sites of many other scientific publishers.
23. Crystallography is a data-rich science,
and many articles that we publish report the results of the determination
of a crystal structure, based on the data from a scientific experiment.
For many years Co-editors or referees have laboured to check the
consistency of the reported results. Now we have successfully
automated the in-depth checking of structural data to provide
the Co-editor with a very detailed analysis of the internal consistency
and correctness of the data. While the results rarely of themselves
are decisive in determining the acceptability or otherwise of
an article, they provide an exhaustive analysis that allows the
Co-editor to judge the extent to which the scientific arguments
in the paper are consistent with the result of the experiment.
We are not aware of any other journals that scrutinise the experimental
data so closely as a matter of routine.
24. Part of the editorial procedure for
each article describing a structural study involves checking for
prior publication or database deposition of the same or related
structures. While this is properly the responsibility of the author,
some authors may not have ready access to all the relevant databases,
and others may not use sufficiently thorough search strategies.
We have established relationships with the major curators of databases
of structural studies that allow these searches to be routinely
25. Alongside the published article, we
collate and present supporting materials. These include experimental
data sets, supplementary explanations or illustrations, and dynamic
or multimedia files that can only be of use in the electronic
medium. This allows researchers with a particular interest in
the work reported in an article to study and obtain the data they
need for their own researches with the minimum of effort. While
our journals have for a long time made such supplementary materials
available (in the past by deposition of supporting documents at
the British Library Document Supply Centre), the one-click access
made possible by the web has become a very effective research
tool in its own right.
26. Because of the durability of the print
medium, hard-copy publication has often been relied upon as an
authoritative record. In the electronic environment, files are
easy to modify, and although technology is developing for digital
certification and validation of documents, practice still lags
behind what is possible. At present, therefore, established publishers
can contribute towards the authority of a file on their web sites
through their existing reputation and the technical mechanisms
they have in place for the production and storage of articles.
27. Related to the authenticity of an article
of record is the ability to track authorised modifications. We
establish and maintain web links between a published article and
subsequent corrigenda or addenda. This allows a
reader who has discovered an article to know of any formal changes
made after the initial publication date. In principle the existing
technology could be extended to permit access to different revisions
of a published article. However, we believe that at present the
readers of our journals value the permanence of the published
article as a statement of record, and that the existing linking
to corrigenda is sufficient.
28. The publisher can add value to a single
article through its publication in a journal that caters for a
particular audience. The organisation and aggregation of related
articles in issues of journals with different titles and prospectuses
remains an effective tool for discovery through association. We
produce regular (monthly or bi-monthly) issues of our journals,
with associated email alerting of tables of contents to anyone
who signs up for this service (it need not be a paying subscriber).
We provide RSS feeds for users with software news aggregators
who wish to have new issues brought to their attention. This is
in addition to the facility for anyone (again, not only paying
subscribers) to browse the journals contents listings on the web.
In addition, the web table of contents of some of the journals
carries a personal selection by the Editor-in-Chief of links to
papers of related interest in our other journals.
29. One of the most welcomed features of
web publication is the ability to provide hyperlinks from the
article reference list to cited documents, where they are also
available on the web. The IUCr provides links: to articles in
its own journals; to articles in the PubMed database of the US
National Library of Medicine; to articles in the Chemical Abstracts
database. It is a member of CrossRef, an association of over 270
publishers that contribute to a centralised link resolver and
citations database. Through these services we have the potential
to link to more than 10 million articles.
30. We are also working actively to provide
links from our articles to relevant information in chemical, molecular
and structural databases. We provide direct links to macromolecular
structures in the Protein Data Bank and Nucleic Acid Data Bank,
and we provide links to molecular structures in the Cambridge
Structural Database. We are actively working with the Inorganic
Crystal Structure Database to provide direct web links to inorganic
31. We provide full-text searching of the
content of our own journals, and explicit links to related papers
and papers by the same authors.
32. We are participating with certain other
CrossRef publishers in the full-text indexing by Google of our
journal content. This will make our content fully searchable by
any web user. Collaboration with CrossRef allows the search to
be restricted, if the user so desires, to material belonging to
the CrossRef publishers (that is, in effect, to the traditional
peer-reviewed formal scientific publications of those publishers).
33. We feel that access to all published
scientific literature is an ultimate goal, and we have therefore
undertaken the digitisation of our back catalogue of published
journal articles since 1948. This was a substantial project, involving
the scanning to PDF format, optical character recognition and
text indexing of over 50,000 articles in 200,000 pages, together
with metadata generation and database loading.
34. Equally essential for the health of
future scientific research is the long-term preservation of, and
access to, material in electronic format. We have published a
policy on our approach to long-term digital preservation, and
are investigating strategies for making our material secure for
35. A novel feature of the distribution
of literature via the Web is the ability to log accesses and create
usage statistics for the material we publish. This allows analysis
of patterns and volume of access to individual articles and to
the collections. We provide aggregated statistical summaries of
their access to subscribers upon request; this is a service that
librarians in particular find helpful in assessing the usage of
36. Although it is convenient to retrieve
page images of published articles from the Internet (typically
in PDF format), the content of scientific articles is increasingly
prepared by the publisher using a structured markup language such
as SGML or one of its variants, eg XML or HTML. Such markup adds
functionality to the document, and allows it to be stored in databases,
re-ordered, incorporated in different document collections, and
delivered in different formats and representations. The more structured
markup that is added to the document, the more potential there
is for its re-use in different contexts.
37. The key to reusability is the adoption
of extensible open standards for content markup and management.
This ensures that different sources can mark up content in the
same way, unrestricted by commercial or platform-specific constraints.
In our production process we use open and documented standards
such as SGML
for document markup, TEX
for mathematics, TIFF
for illustrations, and PostScript
for page images. Despite the popularity with authors of word-processing
tools such as Microsoft Word, these generally use proprietary
formats, poorly documented and unsuitable for standard interchange
and long-term access.
38. We also track the development of new
technologies such as MathML
which have potential for embedding meaning (in mathematics or
graphics respectively) as well as presentation.
39. Crucial to crystallography is the ready
availability and interchange of scientific data sets, and the
IUCr has been instrumental in establishing its own standard for
crystallographic data interchange, known as the crystallographic
information file (CIF) .
This format has revolutionised the handling of crystallographic
data. For small-molecule crystallography it is now the universal
way to store raw and processed experimental data, and to output
the structural models from the computer programs that analyse
such data. It is sufficiently rich that it is the mandatory and
sole acceptable format for submitting articles reporting crystal
structures to two of our journals, and it is the preferred format
for depositing data with the major public structural databases.
It is also an important vehicle for storing and exchanging macromolecular
structural data. The CIF format predates the development of XML,
but is formally equivalent and can be converted into XML representations
40. The IUCr also cooperates with other
scientific unions and learned societies in the development of
related information-handling technologies, such as Chemical Markup
Language (CML, an application of XML) 
and IChI, the universal chemical identifier under development
by the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry.
41. An issue of importance in the actual
reuse of scholarly material is copyright in the source material.
For some time it has been the practice of authors of scientific
articles to transfer copyright to the publisher. Such a practice
makes it easier for publishers to reuse material in different
collections. However, there is an increasing trend for authors
to retain copyright, or in the case of US federally-funded research,
to waive copyright altogether and place materials openly in the
public domain. The issues are complex,
but the IUCr takes the view that it publishes under licence, whether
implicitly given by a full transfer of copyright, or as otherwise
agreed with the authors. We believe that it is quite possible
to safeguard the rights of the author and to promote the dissemination
and proper use of the fruits of research in this way. We do note,
however, that the need to negotiate with individual authors for
specific types of reuse of published material may hamper the potential
for repurposing that is inherent in the electronic form of a publication.
42. As explained in paragraph 15, the IUCr,
like most scientific publishers, currently relies on annual subscriptions
to its periodicals as its main source of income. A small amount
comes from individuals, but most comes from academic and industrial
libraries whose subscription in effect buys the right of access
to the material for their community of users. In the traditional
print media, access is moderated by the availability of the single
physical copy of a journal issue. In the electronic era, multiple
simultaneous access is possible. In common with most other publishers,
we do not place restrictions on such simultaneous access within
an institution; instead we license full institutional access,
controlled by the Internet addresses available to the subscribing
43. It is a truism that the money available
for institutional library budgets, especially in the academic
world, is increasingly constrained, while the volume of material
available for subscription and the unit costs of subscriptions
to individual titles continue to increase. However, publishers
find themselves obliged to increase unit subscription costs to
offset declining circulations. It is of interest to note that
the IUCr's total income per page published in 2002 was almost
exactly the same as the corresponding figure in 1993 (a period
during which the retail price index rose by over 25%). It may
also be of interest to note that during this period the IUCr's
production cost per page has actually fallen, by some 10%, in
spite of the great increase in value made possible by electronic
44. A superficially attractive response
to declining library budgets has been the offering by large publishers
of "packages" of journals to individual libraries or
consortia in the so-called "Big Deal". The typical model
for such offers is that the library pays a small surcharge on
top of its existing subscription to the publisher's titles, and
in return is granted access to a large number of extra titles.
There are usually conditions which restrict the library's freedom
to cancel existing subscriptions. The effect is to increase the
publisher's income, while greatly increasing the amount of material
to which the library has access. There is ample evidence to suggest
that academic user bases will take advantage of greater access,
and so there is a real contribution towards scholarship. Against
this, however, the available funds are still finite, and librarians
must then choose between the broader access to a particular publisher's
offerings and the cancellation of existing titles to make up any
budget shortfall. While the surcharge is generally small as a
proportion of the library's total budget, in absolute terms it
will be the equivalent of subscriptions to a number of other titles
which become candidates for cancellation. We feel that while this
is an effective strategy for a publisher with a large catalogue,
it distorts the market in favour of those who already dominate
the library budgets, and leaves especially vulnerable the small
publisher of specialised periodicals like the IUCr. There must
also be concerns for the participating libraries over how long
such attractive deals will last.
45. We have attempted to provide enhanced
access to libraries and consortia by offering discounted electronic
subscriptions as supplements to existing print subscriptions.
An interactive form on our web site allows individual librarians
and members of consortia (existing or potential) to obtain quotes
for any combination of our journals in which they are interested.
We have found that there has been relatively little interest in
this offer. The reasons must remain speculative, but we believe
that they are twofold. (1) Since we have a small catalogue of
products to offer, we are not in a position to offer very high
discounts for the uptake of one or two further titles by a single
purchaser. (2) The package is rarely attractive to large library
consortia who may not have a specific need for the specialist
coverage offered by our titles. Such consortia expend much effort
in lengthy negotiations with the large publishers offering hundreds
or thousands of titles, and have little awareness of what we offer,
or can spend little time in investigating it. We, for our part,
do not have the staff resources to lobby for and negotiate individual
46. By way of addressing this problem, we
have since the start of 2004 made available our electronic editions
through the Blackwell Synergy service. In this way, our titles
can be sold as part of the package offered by Blackwell. However,
the Synergy service, although it offers many of the features demanded
of an online journals site, cannot provide the full range of services
available from our own web site, and so we have had to work with
Blackwell to ensure that their consortial subscribers are able
to gain the full benefits of our online editions by redirection
to our web site when appropriate.
47. There is a movement towards the open-access
model of publishing, where the reader does not pay for access
to electronic editions of scientific articles. We feel that such
a goal is highly desirable, and have already begun to take steps
towards introducing such a model into our own business.
48. Since the beginning of 2004 we have
invited authors to contribute a fixed sum per article if they
wish their published article to be freely available to any reader.
The charge is $800 (about £450) per article, and is based
on the average cost for the IUCr to produce the "first copy"
of the article. That is, we take into account the editorial and
production costs of editing, markup, hyperlinking, validation
and assembly of an article and any associated supplementary materials,
including business overheads, but without any of the costs of
printing or distribution of the paper edition. Although our published
articles are of variable length, so that a length-based cost model
may be better in the long run, this is designed to give us a feeling
for how popular such a model will prove to be with our authors.
49. In February 2004 we responded to the
Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) invitation to tender
for open access funding.
We welcome the initiative taken by JISC to support moves in the
direction of open-access publishing. We believe that it is a good
investment at this stage in seeking to determine the economic
viability of the open-access model. It will also greatly enhance
the visibility of the content made available in this way, and
an analysis of the usage and citation of these articles will also
have relevance to an assessment of the true value of open access.
50. One barrier to a rapid migration to
open-access publishing is the need to sustain print editions of
existing titles. While there is a general feeling that scientific,
technical and medical publishing is moving towards acceptance
of the electronic medium as the most efficient mechanism in the
future, our subscriptions for printed editions are still holding
up, and there is no evidence that libraries are yet ready to abandon
their print holdings wholesale. This is undoubtedly tied to concerns
about the long-term preservation of digital-only content, and
it is important that print be abandoned as a medium for scholarly
publication only when there are sufficient assurances about the
availability to posterity of electronic materials. While we take
this issue seriously and have already taken steps to secure the
long-term future of our digital holdings (see paragraph 34 above)
we understand and respect the need for caution here.
51. However, so long as print and electronic
editions are maintained in parallel, publishers must balance income
from print subscriptions against income for open-access online
publication. Initially, if open-access-based income is small,
it will not affect print subscription prices, but will instead
appear as an additional charge burden on the funding bodies. On
the other hand, if open-access publishing takes off rapidly, the
financial basis for continuing with print subscriptions will seem
very poor, and publishers may be faced with the collapse of their
52. As illustrated by the lengthy discussion
above, the current publication process has the potential to add
great value to scientific publications, but at great real cost.
Where the real costs are transferred to the funding agencies,
there will be a more direct relationship between the costs incurred
and the extent to which funded authors contribute. Journals that
may once have cost relatively little by subscription in the UK,
for example, may cost more through open-access charges if they
have a disproportionately high number of contributing UK authors.
Of course the opposite will hold true for other journals, but,
as publishers of journals with truly international author and
readership bases, we foresee shifting patterns of publication
based on such considerations.
53. Another effect that will be particularly
apparent to international journals is the difficulty that authors
in small or developing countries, or who are not publicly funded,
may find in meeting a substantial open-access charge. Our initial
flat-rate fee of $800 per article is likely to be impossible for
many of our international authors to meet. So long as we are providing
open-access on a per-article basis, we shall argue that inability
to pay does not preclude the publication of such articles, although
they will be seen only by paying subscribers. Eventually, however,
if the open-access model predominates, it will be difficult in
fairness to leave access barriers to contributions from developing
54. Apart from open access to formal refereed
articles, we continue with our existing practice of granting open
access to all supplementary materials and deposited data sets
associated with an article.
55. Another movement apparent among academic
authors is "self-publication", where a scholarly contribution
is posted on an author's or institution's web site, or is made
available from a preprint server. These differ in scale, and to
some extent in accountability, but all take advantage of the ease
with which material can be distributed over the Web.
56. The preprint server is a database of
articles submitted for open inspection and comment. Some, but
not all, of these articles may subsequently be published in a
conventional journal. The most successful model for this is the
arXiv server at Cornell University (www.arxiv.org), which contains
many contributions in astrophysics, high-energy physics, condensed-matter
physics, computer science, mathematics and some other disciplines.
It is apparent that the popularity of such arrangements differs
from discipline to discipline. While the arXiv server has accumulated
over a quarter of a million contributions in 12 years,
the Chemistry Preprint Server (www.chemweb.com/preprint) has collected
835 articles in four years.
We have conducted informal polls among crystallographers and find
that there is neither much participation in the existing preprint
servers, nor desire for a specific server for crystallography.
One reason appears to be suspicion of systems that do not go through
the conventional journal peer review procedures. Another is that
authors are less sure of obtaining credit for work that is not
published in the "traditional" journals. There is also
confusion over the editorial policies of journals which may decline
to consider an article for publication if it has previously appeared
on a preprint server.
57. The IUCr retains an open mind on the
utility of preprint servers. We are prepared to investigate the
establishment and maintenance of such a service for the crystallographic
community if there is a demonstrable need. We do not exclude articles
from our journals if they have previously been submitted to a
preprint server. We do, however, reinforce the importance attached
to an article that has been subjected to formal refereeing by
requesting that the version of the article on a preprint server
is amended to make reference to the published version.
58. A relatively new development is the
use of institutional servers to collect and disseminate contributions
from their academic staff. At present this is largely concerned
with collections of theses, lecture notes and informal communicationsthe
type of material commonly referred to as "grey literature".
The cultural reliance on recognition through publication in peer-reviewed
journals is still very strong within the scientific community,
and we do not see an immediate shift in this convention. Nevertheless,
new technologies for information mining (such as open full-text
indexing by search engines such as Google, and distribution of
article metadata by the Open Access Initiative Protocol for Metadata
can allow such institutional repositories to play an important
role in the future dissemination of scholarly publications.
59. The IUCr sees its role in interacting
with such institutional repositories as providing a subject-specific
view of the available materialsfor example by providing
indexes of crystallographic theses, or critical and selective
portals to the distributed informal literature. In the IUCr view,
"literature" includes the primary data sets on which
the scientific research is based. There are at present a number
of proposals concerning preservation of and access to X-ray diffraction
data sets (eg the EPSRC-funded National Crystallography Service,
which is involved in the JISC-supported e-Bank project);
it would be extremely useful, and is technically feasible, to
link to such deposited sets from journal articles describing related
60. Despite the attraction to institutions
of creating their own distribution servers for more or less informal
publications and data sets, there will in the long run be high
costs associated with the proper maintenance of such sites, andagainwith
the commitment to make the material available in perpetuity. Despite
our enthusiasm for collaborating with such institutional servers
in broadening the compass of scientific publication, we warn again
of the need to ensure that proper attention is given to preservation
aspects of any such sites.
61. These concerns are especially felt in
the case where authors choose to make their publications available
from private or unsupported web sites. We feel that these cannot
be trusted as repositories of lasting value. We do, however, support
the desire of individual authors to make collections of their
own publications available from their web sites, and we permit
our authors to redistribute electronic offprints of their articles
from our journals under an appropriate licence.
62. 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?
Our own policy is to maintain the price of our
journals as low as we can, consistent with the need to remain
economically viable: in short, to provide the best achievable
value for money. Since we already operate close to our financial
margins we have little scope for price reductions. Our experience
with offering consortial discounts suggests that there is limited
scope for increasing access to the small stable of specialised
titles we manage, which already occupy a well-defined market niche.
The danger to us of widespread uptake of "big deals"
from large publishers is that consequent shortfalls in finite
library budgets can have the effect of edging out individual titles
from specialist learned-society publishers like ourselves.
63. What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
We draw attention to the comments in the ALPSP
submission regarding the difficulty of characterising the scientific
journals business as a competitive commodities-style market. To
the extent that specialised and especially learned-society publishers
provide niche journals tailored to the needs of individual scientific
communities, there is in fact considerable diversity in the existing
pool of publishers. We believe that attention should be concentrated
on preserving this diversity. It is therefore important that Government
does not follow policies that discriminate against the smaller
64. The investment of equipment, resources
and especially intellectual capital in the migration to electronic
publishing has necessarily been very high during the last decade,
and may be one reason why established scientific publishers have
tended to grow by aggregation and merger. Measures that help the
smaller publishers to adapt to the demands of the new business
media would be helpful. For example, the British Library's interest
in deposit and preservation of digital materials might usefully
be developed to provide direct assistance to small publishers
who lack the experience or resources to undertake effective archiving
of their own materials. Other practical measures directed towards
the funding of small publishers' activities could include the
provision of positive tax breaks and the provision of financial
support to learned societies for research and development schemes
identified as having particular merit.
65. Government should be aware of the existence
and importance of the large number of independent not-for-profit
publishers, and open channels of communication to them. This could
be done through the appointment of officials on national bodies,
such as JISC, with responsibility for liaising with small-scale
publishers directly or through bodies such as ALPSP.
66. 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?
Provided that open-access journals exercise
the same level of rigorous peer review, they should be treated
no differently from subscription-based journals. Assuming that
the Government accepts the desirability of delivering the results
of publicly-funded research free of charge to the end user, then
it should consider allowing a component of research grants for
paying open-access fees. It may also consider the possibility
of covering the open-access contributions of all UK scientists
to individual journals through nationwide "membership"
67. Our feeling, which we note is shared
by ALPSP, is that it is still too early to predict how widespread
and popular the open-access approach to journal funding will become,
and that in practice there may be wide variation by subject or
by publisher. We encourage experimentation and initial funding
to assess the long-term development of this movement, but suggest
that developments be carefully monitored with an open mind. We
again emphasise that smaller publishers may be especially vulnerable
to sudden shifts in their business paradigms. Many learned-society
publishers will share our feeling that open-access is a desirable
end, inasmuch as it offers maximum possible exposure to research
results; but, given the necessity of maintaining income within
the narrow operating margins of many societies, the big question
is how to get to "there" from "here".
68. 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
Given the easy availability of non-print materials
over the Internet, we feel that the main role in the future for
the Legal Deposit Libraries will be in securing long-term access.
This will be achieved not simply by providing ever-increasing
amounts of hardware, but by understanding the need for portable
and durable archival formats for representing and storing information,
by developing expertise in the management of such materials, and
by encouraging the scholarly community to use such formats in
the authorship, publication and transmission of the research literature
in the future. There is a genuine role for staff at the British
Library and comparable institutions in research and development
projects in this field.
69. What impact will trends in academic
journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
We believe that the occurrence of scientific
fraud and malpractice is very low, and that the best structural
safeguard is the maintenance of rigorous peer review.
70. The mutability of electronic documents
poses a potential new threat, but we believe that the scientific
publishing community will develop techniques using current and
new technologies to certify, authenticate and track electronic
articles that will guarantee their provenance and provide a complete
audit trail for any online publication.
71. The progressive use of computers to
test supporting data would also be a practice worth encouraging.
We have described (paragraph 23) how we routinely check supporting
data sets for internal consistency and consistency with the scientific
argument in the primary publication. We would like to see such
a practice develop in other fields of science also. The primary
goal is not to combat fraud, though it would be effective in that
respect; but to improve still further the quality of published
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