Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from John Wiley & Sons

  We acknowledge the financial challenges that have become apparent in the scholarly journals environment, which we believe arises from the failure of library funding to keep pace with R&D funding and primary research output.

  The STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publishing industry can validate its recent claims that access to and use of its content have dramatically increased as a result of investments in technology platforms, linking protocols, and in the content itself, turning journals into highly functional databases, and enabling us to demonstrably increase their outreach and utility. Easy access to scientific publications at a fair price and the maintenance of their credibility and integrity as we move into the age of e-publication are our paramount concerns.

  We welcome the opportunity to experiment with new models of information dissemination (such as open access), bearing in mind the following key issues:

    —  the importance of an independent system for publishing high-quality science, free from government or charitable subsidy or mandated submission, and irrespective of discipline, provenance of authorship, or ability to pay;

    —  the sustainability and scalability of publishing models to ensure the continuity and accessibility of the authentic scientific record—a simple pared-down cost-recovery business model does not give sufficient opportunity to invest in product development and content delivery technologies or to ensure that due care and attention is given to important legal issues relating to fraud, malpractice and plagiarism; and

    —  an equitable relationship between producers and consumers of scientific information, such that current net producers of research (eg the academic community of "UK plc") do not subsidise net consumers (eg the pharmaceutical industry or low-primary-research countries who currently purchase more research publications than they produce)


  1.  John Wiley & Sons is a publicly quoted (JWa, NYSE) publishing house headquartered in the USA but with a major presence (as John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.) in the UK, employing nearly 600 people in Chichester, Bognor Regis, Guildford and Ealing.

  2.  Wiley was founded nearly 200 years ago (in 1807). After seven generations, the Wiley family are still very actively involved in the company, with Peter Wiley the Chairman and Deborah Wiley Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications. The family give the company stability, a sense of history, and impeccable integrity.

  3.  We are proud to include dozens of Nobel laureates among the authors, editors, editorial boards and scientific advisors with whom we have worked over the years.

  4.  Our Publishing (Editorial, Marketing and Production) staff are almost exclusively graduates (and higher), many with degrees in scientific disciplines. We are the largest private employer in Chichester with a reputation amongst the local population of being the employer of choice, as evidenced by our relatively low staff turnover of under 10% per annum.

  5.  John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. publish (produce, market, sell and distribute) our own indigenous product; market, sell and distribute the publications of our parent company; provide a global corporate support service in areas such as journals fulfilment, web-delivery technology, and IT; and distribute books published by a number of the most prestigious American university presses (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago) and other reputable publishers such as Norton, O'Reilly and Sybex.


  6.  We produce books, journals, major reference works and web-based products and services for scientific, technical, professional and consumer markets. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.'s STM and other academic output is about 200 books and 125 journal titles (approx 10,000 articles) per annum.

  7.  In revenue terms, Wiley STM (globally) is currently Number five in the world, after Elsevier, Springer, Wolters Kluwer (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), and Blackwell, although it is not always easy to tease apart the STM portions of all of these businesses. Our market share is 5-6.5%, depending on whether the primary STM book and journal market is reckoned to be $4.6 billion or $6.5 billion—estimates and classifications vary.

  8.  We are a broad-based scientific publisher, with particular strengths in Life and Medical Sciences (especially molecular biology, bioinformatics, oncology, medical imaging, neurology, psychiatry, pharmacology, diabetes, and arthritis and rheumatism; we have recently expanded via prestigious society contracts into surgery, hepatology and gastroenterology); Chemistry (especially chemical engineering and organic, bioorganic and analytical chemistry); Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Telecommunications (including computing, maths and statistics); and Materials Science (ie all aspects of the chemistry, physics and engineering of materials, with a special strength in polymers).

  9.  The large investments made in transitioning our journal publishing to a digital environment have enabled us to undertake similar developments for our book and major reference work programmes in a way that would otherwise not have been possible. We believe that books and other non-journal product types continue to fulfil an important role in the process of scholarly communication.


  10.  About a third of our journals are published on behalf of or in affiliation with learned societies—we proactively work with our society partners to develop their titles in the light of scientific progress, as new disciplines emerge and research foci shift. Key society journals that we publish in the UK include the British Journal of Surgery, Child Abuse Review (on behalf of the British Association for the Study of Child Abuse and Neglect), Journal of Gene Medicine (the official journal of the European Society of Gene Therapy), Journal of Pathology (for the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland), Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and four titles for the UK's Society of Chemical Industry. We also publish the Cochrane Library, a regularly updated collection of evidence-based medicine databases that is available to all users in the UK under the terms of a national provision agreed with the National Health Service. In addition, we have strong long-standing relationships with a number of prestigious European and international societies, especially for example the German Chemical Society.

  11.  Many societies specifically approach us to publish on their behalf, in recognition of our editorial, content management and production skills; our ability to reach the maximum number of people with dedicated sales and marketing staff; our fulfilment, customer service and e-support; our investment in a state-of-the-art web delivery platform (Wiley InterScience, see; our integrity and founding leadership role in technology initiatives such as the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and CrossRef (the free service that links citations to articles); and our economies of scale.

  12.  We see ourselves as part of the scientific community—we employ many scientists and our commercial venture is driven by anticipating and responding to the requirements of our customers in developing journals. Take as an example our highly successful journal Prenatal Diagnosis, which brought together papers on genetics, imaging, and obstetrics in a way that had not been done before—a typical entrepreneurial development that also had a profound impact on real-life diagnosis.

  13.  We also serve and protect our authors' interests by granting back to them many rights (such as the ability to post preprints of their articles; to distribute copies of the published article to colleagues for their personal or professional use in the advancement of scholarly or scientific research; to republish all or part of an article in a book written or edited by the author of the article; to use selected figures, tables and text for incorporation into another work by the author as part of an edited work published by a third party; and to include the article in a coursepack, an electronic reserve room, or an in-house training programme), and we may pursue legal actions on their behalf in the event of infringement by a third party.


  14.   The transition from print to digital has required significant investment, with the creation of a specialist software engineering team based in Ealing working on behalf of the whole corporation. We have also completely re-engineered our production, marketing and customer service/technical support departments, and just about every back-office function has been impacted. Investment in our electronic delivery platform and content functionality has been of the order of tens of millions of pounds over the last eight years. Commercial publishers such as ourselves have been at the forefront of these industry developments, and we still need to support both print and electronic versions of our material. We believe this is an excellent example of a business that has rapidly and efficiently converted its mode of operation to take advantage of the Web while simultaneously continuing its traditional activities.

  15.  In response to customer encouragement, we have pioneered enhanced features, such as optimal browse and search facilities, EarlyView (articles published before needing to wait for print-issue compilation), ContentAlert (notification of newly published articles matching a customer's specific search criteria), Mobile Editions (tables of contents and abstracts delivered free to personal digital assistants (PDAs)), and Roaming Access (access to content by users from outside their usual IP address range). Customers are also provided with in-depth web application and user behaviour statistics, in compliance with industry standards such as ICOLC (International Consortium of Library Consortia) and COUNTER. We are also still investing in new print technologies such as print on demand, short-run and distributed printing, as well as building digital asset repositories and supplying our editors with the latest editorial office and web-based peer review systems.


  16.  Our business as a whole is profitable, as can be seen from our financial accounts, but we have three core businesses (STM, Professional and Trade, and Higher Education) and we do not separate these out since many of our activities (general administration, HR, publishing technologies, finance, legal, rights and licensing, advertising sales, publicity, exhibitions, warehousing, occupancy, IT, customer service, fulfilment, distribution and general management) support all of them.

  17.  Our journal prices have increased over the years in line with increased output, market conditions, allowance for attrition, and the need to make a sufficient return to support new product development and to invest in significant technological development at the same time as maintaining a print business. The increased output has been brought about by consistent increases in the volume of primary research activity and the emphasis placed by researchers, their institutions and grant-awarding bodies on publishing in the most authoritative journals in their field.

  18.  We do not believe that comparisons with UK RPI are meaningful—the RPI measures a static family basket of goods and services that has little bearing on any specific niche product, with its own characteristics, influenced by output, currency fluctuations, risk profile and investment requirements.

  19.  Our journal revenues are almost completely (85%) reliant on subscriptions, not, for example, membership fees, endowments, advertising or sponsorship.


  20.  Wiley has worked hard to ensure a smooth transition to electronic journal publishing and, as noted previously, has committed very significant resources to increasing access to and usage of our content. The marketplace is highly competitive, both for authors and readers, with many new entrants—anyone is free to offer their services to our marketplace. During the last ten years, we have explored a number of alternative business models in the transition to both offline and online digital publishing. However, we do not believe that such experimental models can in the long term be underwritten by charitable subsidies or enforced by government mandate.

  21.  At the moment, no-one knows whether the nine million dollars-subsidised PLoS figure of $1,500 per published article is reasonable for an open access author fee. The PLoS itself admits that this figure represents the very lowest point in a putative range of first-copy costs (where "first-copy costs" means the fixed costs incurred to produce one copy of an article, excluding the variable costs of producing multiple copies). It is likely that a wholesale shift to a supply-side model as opposed to the current demand-side model would lead to higher article fees being required for the best journals since rejection rates are higher and quality processing would still command a premium. If the unsubsidised average were only $1,000 more than the current PLoS rate, and if the current 1.4 million articles published every year all switched to open access at this average rate, the total costs would be $3.5bn. This is the same as the current cost of the global subscription-based primary research journal business and would thus present no savings.

  22.   Net contributors are likely to be research-intensive countries and research- intensive institutions within those countries, and net beneficiaries are likely to be those who use more research than they generate (eg corporates such as pharmaceutical companies, and low-primary-research, high-applied-research countries).

  23.  Even amongst the small group of current open access publishers, the charging model is in a state of flux, with BioMedCentral proposing higher article fees for higher-rejection-rate titles, and PLoS recently introducing an institutional membership scheme to give a business model with upfront charges plus processing fees. We know that page charges are unpopular with authors and their institutions, and we cannot see that article charges will be any more popular. Waivers for cases of hardship raise the risk of means-testing or allowing for "free riders".

  24.  It is not in dispute that the publishing process has to be paid for, so the essential question becomes "who pays?". We think it is unlikely that authors themselves will pay; neither do we think faculty will pay; nor are library acquisition budgets likely to be repositioned as publishing-process fees. The most likely payers are the funding bodies and research councils, and although some (such as the Wellcome Trust) have announced that they would be willing to take on this extra charge as part of the research grant, we understand that the precise disposal of research funds is already not straightforward, with universities often having to negotiate over such issues as contribution to overheads, and we suspect that the funding will not be so readily forthcoming or may not be earmarked and run the risk of being spent on other research activities. Research funding also varies greatly from discipline to discipline.

  25.  Although the general public are able to access research articles via Inter-Library Loan or by being a walk-in user in a library with one of our Enhanced Access Licences, we should emphasise that the primary audience for these articles is other researchers from the same specialist field. The public (and professionals outside a given specialist field) benefit from reviews of primary research that help to explain the results in more appropriate language, and put what can often be conflicting results in context. When we publish an article that is of clear public interest (as we did recently in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, with an article on potential links between underarm deodorants and breast cancer), we seek not only the widest possible press coverage but also facilitate contact between the authors of the research and the press to ensure that the coverage is accurate and responsible.


  26.  Many of our sales models have been developed in close liaison with, and as a direct result of feedback from, our customers, both on-site in institutions and more formally through Library Advisory Boards. Customers such as OhioLink and NESLi have also helped to forge the concept of consortia licensing. We provide a rich set of options for purchasing research content: Basic Access Licences (for individual institutions), Enhanced Access Licences (for multi-site institutions), consortia deals (for groups of libraries, which can be as large as whole states or nations), ArticleSelect (a token-based system for purchasing articles in unsubscribed journals), PayPerView (individual article purchase), document delivery (purchased via the British Library Document Supply Centre or other third parties), or inter-library loan (for non-commercial research or private study). With inter-library loan, although the requesting library may charge the end customer a contribution to overheads, publishers receive no income from these transactions.

  27.  We allow access for reading-room walk-in users, and users can set up roaming access if they only manage to get to their library every three months, for example.

  28.  We have just concluded our negotiations with NESLi2 (the UK's national initiative for the licensing of electronic journals on behalf of the higher and further education and research communities) that will allow unlimited access to virtually all of our journal content to over 30 universities and research councils.

  29.   Article accesses have increased from 6.4 million in 2000, to 15.7 million in 2001, 26.9 million in 2002, and 35.7 million in 2003—these figures hardly support the "publisher as barrier to access" caricature. Recent independent studies show that authors and readers acknowledge that access has improved dramatically.

  30.  We have analysed how many users try to access our material and fail to do so because they are not personal subscribers or members of a subscribing institution or consortium, or because they have exceeded the concurrent user limit (in which case, they can return later). For 2001, 2002 and 2003, this "turnaway" figure has been around 10%. For users coming to us from well-used sites such as PubMed and Chemical Abstracts, the turnaway figure is 5%. What these figures show is that the vast majority of people who want to access our material can do so with ease.

  31.  Wiley played a leadership role in two initiatives to deliver electronic journals to the world's poorest countries—HINARI (all of our biomedical titles) and AGORA (our agriculture, food and nutrition titles). We work closely with the WHO and the FAO respectively on these initiatives, whereby access to the titles by eligible institutions in these countries is either free or upon payment of a nominal fee which is not passed on to the publisher but is put into a training fund administered by the relevant Organization.


  32.   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? We have pricing policies that are appropriate to our market offering, taking into account the quality of our publishing and the need to secure a profit that enables us to continue to develop product and enhance our service. Our Enhanced Access Licences offer our customers the ability to lock prices over a number of years, thus avoiding price increases and facilitating budget planning. Consortia deals allow many smaller libraries to have access to much more content for no more money. We offer a "big deal" option but only in response to customer demand—no customer is forced to take this option, which is based on a standard trading model that rewards volume purchase with discounted access. As an analogy, our customers can choose the table d'hôte, the a" la carte, or the eat-all-you-can option, but it would not be reasonable to expect to pay table d'hôte prices for an a" la carte service, nor to buy the all-you-can-eat option and then expect a reduction because there's a portion that you don't eat.

  33.   What action should Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market? The market is intensely competitive—the sheer number of competing publishers (both commercial and not-for-profit) and the significant investments they are making attest to this. The needs of the research community would not be better served by a more fragmented supplier base since economies of scale and dedicated publishing operations bring much-needed efficiency, competence, stability and innovation.

  34.   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? The "increasing numbers of open-access journals" should be put into context—even though the number is clearly growing, it is still very small (probably <1% in terms of peer-reviewed articles published per annum). Many open-access journals are, in our view, of poor editorial quality. PLoS Biology may be an exception to this, with high-quality material in the four issues that it has published to date, but it is sustained by huge subsidies, and charges a per-article price that by their own admission is set at the very lowest point of the cost of production—their waiver and institutional membership schemes have hardly had a chance to prove themselves as viable business models. Our response therefore would be that the increase in open-access journals is overstated and that they have a long way to go to prove themselves in the market. The Government should let market forces prevail and not intervene in a long-established and diverse sector for the sake of an untried and tested experiment. With regard to the RAE, if there were to be any mandated submission to open access journals, this could complicate the RAE since panels may be uncertain as to the stature of such journals, making that piece of the process more difficult and time-consuming. We suggest that the RAE benefits from researchers having the freedom to publish for free in the best journals of their choice, and that the selection of journal for submission should be based purely on academic reputation.

  35.   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? Wiley played a significant role in setting up the JCVD (Joint Committee on Voluntary Deposit) guidelines. We understand that precise Regulations for electronic deposit following the Legal Deposit Libraries Act will be drawn up as the result of discussions involving the major stakeholders. The Association of Online Publishers will represent our industry.

  36.   What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice? We believe that the current system protects very well against fraud and malpractice, with publishers taking responsibility for managing the authentic record. Recent concern over plagiarism and the possibility of libel concerning the world's most well-known preprint archive (ArXiv at Cornell University) and comments such as "ArXiv is just a mindless redistribution system—it's not implemented to be a global police force to detect or enforce professional ethics"[103] reveal just how little some alternative publishing models may have considered potential legal liabilities.

February 2004

103   Paul Ginsparg, the physicist who created ArXiv, as quoted in "Critical comments threaten to open libel floodgate for physics archive", Jim Giles, Nature Vol. 426, issue 7 (November 2003). Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 20 July 2004