Memorandum from the Linnean Society of
1. The Linnean Society, a charitable learned
society, publishes three international scientific journals, fully
peer-reviewed, the Biological, Botanical and Zoological Journals
of the Linnean Society and a variety of occasional publications,
including the Synopses of British Fauna, which are scientific
field guides for students and others. Its Journals are used inter
alia for the dissemination of data on new species. Income
from the scientific journals is used in part to support less financially
2. Publishing is part of the Society's
charitable purpose. Its first Journal was published in 1802, but
it is only in the past 40 years that publishing has provided the
Society with a significant part of its income. Electronic (Internet)
publishing of the Society's Journals dates back only to 1993.
The income generated has allowed the Society to extend its programme
of scientific meetings, support research projects at the Natural
History Museum and elsewhere, and to catalogue, conserve, and
increase accessibility to its unique collections of plants and
animals assembled by Linnaeus and Smith (the Society's founder)
during the 18th century.
3. The Society collaborates and competes
effectively with commercial publishers. If changes to the free
market in scientific publishing are made by Government to the
detriment of authors and/or publishers, then not-for-profit UK
organizations should at least be compensated for the loss of vital
4. The Society is aware that attempts are
being made, notably in the USA, to provide open access to scientific
journals to both the public and the scientific community. This
is to be achieved (i) by charging authors to publish, something
which has not hitherto been a feature of UK scientific publishing;
and (ii) by collating and distributing copy electronically. It
is claimed that this will make the results of scientific enquiry
more globally accessible.
5. Electronic scientific publishing has
advantages, notably in added features such as ease of access and
distribution, electronic cross-referencing, and storage. Electronic
licensing can improve the financial position of hard-pressed libraries.
Currently, the Linnean Society contributes to making its Journals
available free-on-line to selected eastern European, Asian and
African users and hopes that such open access can be extended
in future to making much of its published output available free-on-line
after an appropriate interval from its first appearance.
6. It is important to recognize that some
kinds of scientific publication have a much slower "burn
rate" than others, that is to say, they are referred to regularly
over many years. That is certainly the position of some of this
Society's publications in taxonomy and evolutionary biology. The
costs of maintaining both paper and electronic publications of
this kind in print need to be recognized and paid for.
7. Open access publishing has other disadvantages.
Firstly, the cost to authors is not cheapseveral hundred
US$ per paper. There remain significant areas of the world where
such costs cannot readily be met. Such areas may also lack a reliable
infrastructure for communication thus making electronic scientific
literature less accessible.
Yet such areas are commonly of extreme importance for their biological
diversity, for biologists and for the planet more generally. To
make it more difficult to characterize and monitor biological
diversity seems perverse at the present time.
8. Other disadvantages include the lack
of any agreed electronic archiving system and limitations on photographic
and print quality in electronic publications. Authors' and publishers'
rights are by no means legally clear for purely electronic publishing.
VAT is charged on electronic communication, but not on paper copy.
113 See Down to Earth: Geographic Information
for Sustainable Development in Africa, National Research Council
of the National Academies. The National Academic Press, Washington
DC, 2002. Back