Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from University College, London


  Founded in 1826, UCL ( became the first University to welcome all people—regardless of their class, race, religion or sex—dramatically expanding access to higher education. The University's teaching, research and community continue to be inspired by this radical tradition: the refusal to let convention inhibit progress. UCL is one of the major research-led Universities in the United Kingdom, and is acknowledged as such in activities such as the Research Assessment Exercise and Institutional Audit by the Quality Assurance Agency.

  2.  In terms of the specific questions posed in the Inquiry's documentation on the web, UCL associates itself with the joint response of CURL and SCONUL, in the compilation of which Dr Paul Ayris, Director of Library Services here at UCL was involved as Chair of the CURL Task Force on Scholarly Communication. UCL would, however, wish to make the following points to the Inquiry.


  The present arrangements for copyright in published research literature do not work in the interests of the public purse. Academics and researchers are paid from public funds to produce research. As a condition of being published in commercial journals, academics sign copyright away to publishers. As a result, Universities have to buy this material back—in the form of journal subscriptions, licences with the Copyright Licensing Agency and clearances for digital study packs. This model is illogical and does not represent Value for Money. UCL suggest that the Parliamentary Inquiry should recommend to the Funding and Research Councils that a copy of every piece of research funded from public funds—in the form in which it is accepted for publication—be mounted on an open access server. Such servers can be discipline based or mounted institutionally. In this way, research funded by the public purse can be made freely available to all researchers in the UK, forming part of the emerging UK Knowledge Economy, and globally to all those who wish to use the materials. The Wellcome Trust has already issued such a statement, which can be found at the following URL (


  Open Access is an emerging model which is challenging the more traditional subscription model for the purchase of content in UK Universities. The principle behind the Open Access model is laudatory—that subscription is a barrier to access for many, since not all institutions can afford to purchase all the journals its researchers need. In an Open Access environment, access to the material is no long governed by an institution's ability to subscribe to titles. Rather, the publication costs are met by author payment charges (commonly ranging from $500 to $1,500 per article), payments which usually come from an individual's research grant.

  5.  UCL welcomes the move to Open Access, but has reservations. First UCL submits that it is not in the interests of UK academic researchers to move from the present subscription-based model to an Open Access model without more testing and evaluation of the latter. Open Access is not currently underpinned by a sustainable financial model. Not all academics carry out research bolstered by research grants from Research Councils. This is certainly true in the Arts, Humanities and many areas of Social Science. Peer review is all-important as part of the research process. This independent scrutiny exists as an important quality assurance mechanism to monitor the value of an academic publication. In Biomedicine, to take just one example, peer review is essential since the sheer number of papers being produced mitigates against the ability of individual academics to read everything. Peer review acts as a quality filter, helping to ensure that the validity of a paper is assessed before it is published. Peer review is a cornerstone of the current publishing model, based on subscription journals, and must not be lost. All academic research would be impoverished without it.

  6.  In an Open Access environment, it is not always straightforward to replicate the peer review process. Pre-print articles stored on an Open Access server are no substitute for the final version of an article, which has been peer reviewed. In terms of Open Access Journals, the Lund Directory at lists 739 journals (as of 11 February 2004), but this is currently a small fraction of the total number of journals which are available to the world of scholarship.

  7.  UCL suggests that, across the range of all academic disciplines, there will be hybrid models for publication and access for the next 10-20 years. ELSSS, the Electronic Society for Social Scientists ( represents such a hybrid model in that it is forming a partnership with a commercial publisher to publish a new peer reviewed journal in economics (Review of Economy Theory) based on a low-cost subscription model, but which incorporates important features of the Open Access movement. These include more flexibility in copyright assignment and free access for all developing countries to the content of the journal. The Director of Library Services at UCL is a Trustee of ELSSS.

  8.  UCL urges the Inquiry to encourage, via bodies such as the Funding Councils and JISC, the funding of a range of studies on the impact of the Open Access model on the traditional pattern of publishing across all disciplines. Such studies are vital before the possibility of a paradigm shift from subscription-based models of publishing and dissemination to Open Access Models can seriously be contemplated. The end result of the publication of academic research should in part be to enrich the UK Knowledge Economy. Such work will be impoverished if present models of dissemination are suddenly abandoned for new, untested models.

9.  VAT

  One of the features most desired by UK academics in STM is a move away from accessing journals in print form to electronic access from their desktops 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In terms of sustaining research and stimulating academic creativity this is clearly a desirable goal.

  10.  Print journals are currently zero-rated for VAT in the UK. This position on behalf of the UK Government is supportive in terms of bolstering a University's ability to purchase a wide range of content. Electronic Journals are not zero-rated for VAT purposes and this hampers the ability of University Libraries to dispense with paper copy and to deliver electronic-only content (the e-only option) to its users. Even where a publisher offers a discount to Universities for e-only delivery, the saving can be more than outweighed by the imposition of VAT at 17.5%.

  11.  In terms of University Libraries, librarians need to support their academics' research and, through the acquisition of publications, to support the UK Knowledge Economy. It would be beneficial for UK Universities if they could be zero-rated for the acquisition of educational materials in electronic form such as E-Journals, E-books, databases and other digital objects. Such a move would support University Libraries by giving them greater control over their existing budgets, sustain the publishing industry through a greater ability to acquire content and encourage the move to e-only delivery, which many academics strongly favour.


  There are special concerns where NHS staff and HE (Higher Education) staff use the same libraries and wish to have access to the same resources. UCL has one of the largest Medical Schools in Europe and has developed partnerships with a large number of NHS Trusts in London. In UCL, there are therefore well-established patterns of joint working between the NHS and HE; all UCL's biomedical libraries are already, or are planned to become, joint HE/NHS Libraries.

  13.  In the UK, NHS staff using HE libraries are precluded from access to electronic resources purchased by HE as a condition of the licence which HE signs from the commercial publisher. Consequently, the NHS has to purchase many of the same resources for the use of its staff. This duplication in purchasing effort does not represent Value for Money for the public purse.

  14.  There are a host of technical barriers, even if licences actually do permit NHS access to HE-purchased resources. It is not unknown for NHS staff to require two computers on their desk, one attached to the NHS network run by the local NHS Trust and one supported by HE. This again represents wasteful duplication of money and effort.

  15.  Access and authentication to e-resources is often controlled by Athens identifiers and passwords. Staff who work in both HE and the NHS will commonly have two sets of identifiers and passwords, along with a number of other identifiers and passwords to access materials and servers on NHS and HE networks.

  16.  It is well known that the NHS itself is not one homogeneous body, and that the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are at different stages in developing joint patterns of working with HE. There is, in addition, a strategic alliance between the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the NHS over patterns of joint working (

  17.  At a national level, there is an informal NHS/HE Forum—led jointly by the NHS and UCL (on behalf of HE)—which is trying to tackle the technical and content issues across the NHS/HE divide. UCL urges the Parliamentary Inquiry to issue a statement encouraging procurement bodies in the NHS and JISC to look at joint procurement activities, since such procurement would enable HE and the NHS to offer Value for Money in the acquisition of content. Bodies such as the NHS/HE Forum and JISC should also be funded at an adequate level to identify the barriers between closer joint working, in the spheres of both technical connectivity and content, and to identify solutions which can be scaled up across the whole of the UK.


  UCL welcomes the recent Act of Parliament which will enable the British Library to acquire digital publications by legal deposit ( The lack of a secure, long-term digital archive is one of the main barriers in Higher Education to the move to e-only delivery to support research in Science, Technology and Medicine. There is also a danger that research which is currently published in electronic formats only will be lost to future generations of scholars if such an archive is not created.

  19.  The creation of bodies such as the Digital Preservation Coalition ( and the pioneering work of the Consortium of University Research Libraries in its CEDARS project on digital archiving ( have raised awareness and contributed to a blueprint for the creation of digital archives. UCL urges the Inquiry to fund bodies such as the National Libraries, the JISC, and the emerging RLN (Research Libraries Network) at an adequate level to put in place a sustainable, long-term digital archive for UK researchers. This more than anything will allow University Libraries and researchers to make a shift from the present hybrid model of print and digital content to an e-only environment—to the benefit of UK research output, its dissemination and availability—and to help ensure that present research output is not lost for future generations of scholars.

February 2004

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