Memorandum from the Royal Society of Chemistry
1.0 Executive Summary of Major Points [section
number in brackets]
1.1 Open access models provide industry
with a free information ride [4.6].
1.2 Author-pays models are elitist and discriminatory
[4.3; 4.4; 6.3; 6.4].
1.3 The rejection of previous author-pays
models resulted in the growth and success of the current commercial
journals and publishers [2.5; 3.1; 4.4; 4.10].
1.4 New models (eg pay-per-view) are constantly
being introduced and tested, without legislative bias [4.1].
1.5 Infrastructure investment and innovation
are crucial and are at risk [2.6; 3.5; 4.1].
1.6 Competition needs to be on the basis
of quality not quantity [2.2; 4.5; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4;].
1.7 UK Plc is at risk of losing jobs and
export earnings [4.12; 4.13].
1.8 Export earnings from STM publishing
either contribute to UK tax or are invested in (primarily) UK-based
charitable activities [4.12; 4.13; 7.0].
1.9 Several major UK charities will be crippled
and their charitable activities curtailed if new pricing models
would not generate similar incomes to current models [7.0].
1.10 Proposed new business models require
more people not less, with higher attendant costs [4.7; 4.10;
4.11; 4.13; 6.1; 6.2; 6.5].
1.11 Journal/publisher costs rise with the
world's scientific output, not with UK or US inflation or library
budgets [2.4; 3.1].
1.12 Why should the suppliers of the cheapest
component of the scientific effort be legislated against, while
those that make the most money are not? [3.1; 3.3; 4.15].
1.13 Library and information services funding
does not keep pace with the growth of world scientific output
[2.1; 2.4; 3.1; 3.4].
1.14 Industry standards facilitate information
usagepublishers facilitate their development [2.6; 3.5;
1.15 "Big deals" improve access
to information (particularly specialised, niche information),
stabilise prices through collective bargaining, but favour large
(primarily commercial) publishers [2.7; 2.8; 2.10; 2.11; 2.12].
1.16 "Big deals" allow information
usage to be monitored more effectively [2.9; 2.10].
1.17 Most people who want access to specialist
scientific information already have it [2.1; 2.10; 2.11; 4.5;
1.18 VAT regulations need improvement [3.1;
1.19 Current models are market driven with
none of them unfairly favoured by legislation [3.5; 4.1; 4.2].
1.20 Copyright protection is threatened
by new models [5.2].
1.21 The legal deposit of electronic material
requires serious consideration [5.1; 5.2; 5.3].
1.22 A UK national licence for scientific
information should be considered and funded [2.12].
1.23 The maintenance of the scientific record
is under threat [4.7; 4.8; 6.1].
1.24 New models pose the threat of additional
bureaucracy [4.9, 4.11; 5.2].
2.0 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?
2.1 Not all current policies on pricing
and journal access provision are the same. Under-funded libraries
are forced to provide sub-standard services. Information access
in teaching and research is greater than ever before.
2.2 Although in many subject areas scholarly
societies are responsible for publishing a high proportion of
the best and most highly cited work, in most areas commercial
publishers are responsible for the dissemination of the largest
proportion of the published record. Journal for journal, like
for like, paper for paper, journals published by learned societies
are generally much cheaper than commercial ones and, of course,
whatever surplus made by the society is returned to its subject
area through subsidy of its other activities. However, libraries
have to continue to subscribe to expensive commercial journals
because some work of high quality does get published in them,
and just because some research results are not exciting doesn't
mean they are wrong and scientific research is about getting right
and complete, not superficially exciting.
2.3 It would obviously be of benefit to
academics generally if their best work were published in cheaper
journals, but there is currently no economic drive that encourages
the individual researcher to do so. His or her decision about
place of publication is not necessarily influenced by consideration
of the common good, but rather by factors such as the likelihood
of personal recognition and advancement.
2.4 It is true that increases in journal
prices have for many years on average outstripped increases in
library budgets, but it is also true that the volume of research
output has consistently increased at a much greater rate than
library budget increases. Neither have increases in university
library funding kept pace with increases in university research
funding. There is insufficient funding for academic libraries
to purchase the burgeoning research output.
2.5 The rejection of the first "author-pays"
model occurred in the 1970s when many academics began to support
the many new commercial niche journals with their article submissions
in place of the largely society-dominated publishing environment.
There were likely many factors involved in the decision to publish
in and thereby inadvertently develop these commercial journals,
but one of the reasons cited most often is that the new commercial
journals did not charge authors page charges.
2.6 Development of the scholarly publishing
environment has proceeded at a far greater pace since the inception
of the web than at any other time since journals were established.
This has led to a huge increase in investment in all processes
and outputs related to publishing. Publishers, both commercial
and not-for-profit, have had to invest extraordinarily heavily
in electronic publishing to stay in business, and all at a time
when attrition of journal sales is at its highest level. This
investment has to be paid for somehow, and it has impacted on
the pricing policy of all publishers. Publishers have adopted
standards for more effective interoperability (CrossRef) and standards
for electronic usage are in development (COUNTER). Further enhancements
to interoperability are on the cards with projects such as CrossSearch.
Without the profit margins they have currently, publishers would
not be able to invest in these developments which enhance greatly
the scientific record and its functionality.
2.7 There is no doubt that the big deal-type
arrangements, if taken up, do tend to top-slice money out of the
library system though it must be remembered that there is no compulsion
to sign up. The top-slicing has had several negative effects,
including: leaving insufficient funding available to purchase
similar services from other publishers, thus, increasing the reliance
of academics and students on journals in the big deal; risking
the continuance of smaller publishers, especially not-for-profit
society publishers, as the collection development strategy has
usually been to sign up to the biggest deals in size order, rather
than on the basis of quality of content. It thus disadvantages
society-based publishers who habitually provide journal publishing
services at the best value to the purchaser.
2.8 Many of the original big deals signed
up are now at the end of their first contractual period and under
re-negotiation. This has had some interesting effects. The larger
consortia have found that they are well placed in these discussions
to influence changes in charging and business models; they have
considerably more clout that the individual purchasing organisations
would have had. There have been some high-profile cases of institutions
or groups in the USA saying they will drop out of Elsevier's big
deal. Many purchasers are taking advantage of the re-negotiations
to change their model from a basis of existing print holdings
and extra for widespread electronic access to the "flip-over"
model where the basis is for electronic access and deeply discounted
2.9 The availability of electronic versions
and consortium deals coupled with the development of reliable
electronic usage statistics has for the first time given those
responsible for purchase an accurate idea of how much the products
and services they are buying are being used. This information
is being used to inform collection-based decisions.
2.10 Big deals have increased access to
journals enormously and usage reports from large consortia such
as OhioLink have shown that usage of journals available through
big deals that were not accessible in print previously is considerable.
2.11 In terms of increased or widespread
access, many publishers report very low turn-away rates with respect
to access denied that are referred from Google or other searches,
for example Nature reports a turn-away rate from Google of less
than 10%, implying that nearly all those who have an interest
in looking up an article can gain access.
2.12 Some countries (examples include Finland,
Canada, Denmark, Taiwan) have developed national site licences
and purchase information centrally and make it available freely
to all within that country. UK higher education has been rather
backward in developing a site licence. The NESLI model was inappropriate
as it depended on an opt-in model. The development of a UK national
site licence has been mooted again, but will depend on RLSG. This
is one area where the Government could and should take action:
to encourage the development of a UK national site licence and
provide centralised funding for it.
3.0 What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
3.1 Government should not legislate against
one supplier in the scientific endeavour, and should not artificially
support a single previously rejected and failed economic model.
It should sort out the VAT discrepancies between print and electronic
versions of the same information. Funding of information provision
in academic institutions should keep pace with output and consumption.
Publishers should continue to innovate with their products and
services, should compete to publish the best work, and should
charge prices which are regulated by the market not by the Government.
3.2 A factor that would aid the evolution
of business models that are appropriate for all is the settlement
of the question of VAT on electronic publications. Publishers
in the UK firmly believe that as journals and books are VAT-exempt
their electronic versions should be also. Taxing the higher education
community on information provision is adding another burden and
is preventing movement to online-only options for delivery which,
barring VAT, would be cheaper than print plus electronic options
from most providers. Government action on this would be appreciated.
3.3 Peer-reviewed scientific information
in journal is a cheap resource compared with the other items in
the overall science research budget: staff, materials, equipment,
etc., and information provision accounts for only a small proportion
of either university or industrial research costs. Presumably
the Government is not considering that instrument manufacturers,
for example, who also take advantage of academic research advances,
should not be expected to make a profit on any goods sold to universities
or industry. Why should publishers, who freely compete for the
best authors and content and revenues just as suppliers of other
services, be singled out?
3.4 Government and academic institutions
should fund their information provision, not as the runt of the
litter but rather as the crucial enabling technology which it
is. Efficient information provision saves research costs long
term, and is the basis of improved learning. Funding has in no
way kept pace with the amount of research, teaching, or learning
3.5 A recent (5th November 2003) statement
of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and
Medical Publishers (STM) is of relevance here:
"Scientific research has never been more
accessible than it is today. In recent years, STM publishers have
been working closely with scientists, researchers, and librarians
to lead the ongoing revolution in the dissemination of scholarly
information. We have leveraged emerging technologies and invested
hundreds of millions of dollars to make more scientific research
information more accessible to more people than ever before. In
the process, we have developedand continue to developinnovative
and accessible business models to broaden information access.
Recent developments such as flexible subscription licensing arrangements
customised to meet the needs of libraries and consortia; "pay-per-view"
article access at prices within reach of non-subscribing individuals;
and implementation of standards such as cross-linking protocols
(such as CrossRef) and enabling technologies (such as the digital
object identifier) have made seamless navigation and discovery
possible across a growing web of published resources. The HINARI
and AGORA initiatives are examples of how publishers are bringing
current research information within the reach of those who need
it in low-income nations worldwide."
"Scientific disciplines differ in their
scholarly communication practices. Journals differ from one another
in their editorial content, features, sales models, and how they
serve the needs of their specific research communities. STM applauds
the multiple journal business models that have successfully emerged
to serve the needs of authors and customers by ensuring the wide
and continuous dissemination of consistently high-quality, independently
validated research. We welcome additional publishers to our markets.
As publishers of science, we naturally look forward to any new
experiments in our field."
"Abandoning the diversity of proven publishing
models in favour of a single, untested model could have disastrous
consequences for the scientific research community. It could seriously
jeopardize the flow of information today, as well as continuity
of the archival record of scientific progress that is so important
to our society tomorrow."
"It is the competitive and well-functioning
market, and not governments, that must choose which business models
and which publishers are best equipped to stay apace of the ever-increasing
demand for information exchange."
4.0 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?
4.1 Open-access journals will succeed or
fail on the basis of the quality of their content which will determine
whether someone in the world is willing to financially underwrite
the process. The RAE should be based on quality not pricing model,
and Government should allow market forces to prevail.
4.2 Traditional publishing, whether by societies
or commercial organisations, is well funded, well organised and
has a strong interest in developing and implementing new technology.
There is no certainty that open archiving without publishers will
be cheaper for the users. Interoperability of journal content
could be a much bigger issue than open archiving or pricing by
commercial publishers for the next 10 years. However, open archiving
presents an opportunity to develop useful dissemination routes
alongside traditional quality journals, which do seem still to
meet some important needs of the community that are not obviously
met by open archive alternatives.
4.3 A serious concern with the open access/archive
proposals is that they have an inherent bias. Many of the arguments
from the proponents are academic-centric, first-world-centric
and English/American-speaking-centric. Many speak of `nuisance
authors' with a rather unsympathetic implication that these are
authors from developing nations and that the open archive should
not be littered with lower-quality submissions. However, China,
for example, is a major developing area in terms of publishing,
both in scholarly output and in terms of a developing market for
information. The RSC's experience is probably reasonably typical
in that receipts of articles from Chinese authors have increased
from around 1% to around 20% of total submissions over a period
of two years. The acceptance rate for these articles is currently
low, but increasing, and is not expected to remain low in the
medium to long term as the general quality of submissions will
undoubtedly improve in novelty at an impressive rate. However,
for those authors the importance of publishing in high-profile
journals is of crucial importance, just as much if not more so
than for their western colleagues. Since China joined the WTO
paid subscriptions from there have increased significantly to
the extent that China has become a major market for scientific
4.4 It is possible that someone will wish
to subsidise the publication of work from developing nations.
It seems very unclear that an author-pays model would work in
this respect. Many of the last bastions of page charging (for
example the American Physical Society and American Chemical Society)
have stopped levying page charges because they have become so
unpopular with authors and they have had difficulty collecting
them from non-US authors. The incentive to levy a different author
related charge does not seem to be sufficiently strong at present
to make it a viable alternative to offsetting even the peer review
costs. SPARC has proposed a transition model for existing journals
to move to open access by asking authors to pay a charge to provide
open access to their article and suggests that this model could
in time support maybe 10% of authors in any journal from developing
countries who could not pay. They suggests that raising the author
fee for those who can pay will cover this. The problem here is
that there could be many more than 10% of authors who cannot (or
will not) pay. In any case the overall scheme is then not very
different from that which pertains now, that is that those purchasers
that can (or will) pay subsidise access for those that cannot.
4.5 Currently most authors care where their
work is seen and who it is seen by far more than they care about
how many people have seen it. Quality wins hands down over quantity
where authors are concerned about readership. Society journals
often have wider circulations than commercial journals to start
with, and with the liberalisation of licensing agreements and
the access arrangements for developing countries through schemes
such as HINARI and INASP/PERI, the access to these journals is
more widespread than ever before.
4.6 It must also be kept in mind that not
all authors, readers or members of scholarly societies are academics,
and by no means all of the work published, in chemistry journals
at least, is financially supported by funds from the tax-payer
via the funding agencies; much of it is funded by industry. Corporate
libraries stand to gain much from open access systems as their
researchers generally do not publish work but make extensive use
of work published by others.
4.7 Open access puts at risk the value publishers
currently add to the scientific record in terms of editing to
agreed standards, including nomenclature etc, which make the literature
understandable and usable by the largest number of people. Another
important aspect is that traditional journals take very seriously
their responsibility to ensure that authors disclose sufficient
information to enable the results to be reproduced by others.
All these things draw on resources of time, expertise and money.
Open archive approaches will depend on the individual/corporate
willingness to provide these services which will not at all be
guaranteed or standardised.
4.8 Institutional archives would also be
subject to access control as there is material that institutions
would not wish to make freely available, especially in any competitive
4.9 One has to question whether it is realistic
to expect the conversion of the 1220 thousand existing
paid-access STM journals to open access or the launching of sufficient
new open-access journals to make a difference. One also has to
question whether there is sufficient incentive for such a change.
After all, if authors were really that concerned about the issue
now they could very easily boycott the most expensive commercial
journals in favour of publication in better value not-for-profit
counterparts. It is very unlikely there will be a sea-change until
authors' needs are not being met by the current system, and that
is clearly not the case at present.
4.10 The cost of producing an article in
a printed journal is widely agreed to be around £2500, whereas
the author charges levied at present by open-access journals are
in the range £300-800. However, the real cost per article
increases significantly with the rejection rate as there is no
fee for rejected articles. It is claimed that for a high-rejection-rate,
high-quality journal such as Nature, the 95% rejection
rate would lead to an author-pays fee of around £6,000. There
is a real lack of evidence that the author-pays model can be self-sustaining
let alone provide any fund for future development. There is, however,
evidence that journals which have started as open access, eg Journal
of High Energy Physics, have reached a level of article submission
where they have to abandon the open access model and charge readers
in order to continue.
4.11 The collection of payments from individual
authors adds a whole new layer of bureaucracy, complication and
extra cost compared with collection of subscriptions from institutions.
Consortium arrangements have tended to reduce the number of financial
transactions related to journal article supply whereas the author-pays
model explodes the number of transactions and adds costs for the
institutions that pay and those that collect.
4.12 In terms of general financial considerations,
UK plc has much to lose from destabilising its very successful
journal publishing industry in terms of employment, exports and
revenues to the Exchequer. Another tangential issue is that pension
funds invest heavily in the larger commercial publishers, eg Reed
4.13 There is no evidence that those responsible
for funding research in the UK would achieve a net saving if the
publishing business model were to change to open access. The STM
publishing function is enormous and very valuable in all sorts
of ways. Tampering with that function is enormously risky and
could result in a major destabilisation of the publishing system
from which it might not be possible to recover, especially if
many or most of the traditional publishers have ceased as a result
of the destabilisation. The skills and experience would simply
not be there to rebuild the system.
4.14 The risk to scholarship-friendly publishing
is very likely far greater than that to commercial publishers
in the short to medium term. Interference in the system could
result in the financial ruin of many societies and the endangerment
of the very valuable service that they provide to the scientific
community and the boost to educational and other activities that
they provide. These services and activities could disappear.
4.15 The Government should not meddle in
an important industry sector that is already in a period of great
change as a result of working market forces.
5.0 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
5.1 It is in the interests of all to solve
the problem of providing a secure legal-deposit system for published
material that does not have a printed format. An Act has been
passed by Parliament, but that is merely a framework and the British
Library needs to work through the detail with the Legal Deposit
Libraries. The British Library is working on a major digital object
management system, and is also in negotiation with Government
about funding for the preservation of electronic data. It is essential
that appropriate funding be given to the British Library to enable
it to take on this task. Sadly, the incorrectly held view that
electronic = free or cheap to deal with, that is often levelled
at publishers, is in danger of affecting the consideration of
the British Library's funding requests.
5.2 Self-archiving approaches will of course
complicate copyright policing, especially for organisations such
as the British Library. By no means all information will be free,
or free of copyright, and rather than dealing with a relatively
small number of publishers the BL will have to police, deal with,
and pay millions of individuals.
5.3 The pressure from academics for an electronic
archiving solution, the lack of which was used by academics as
an excuse for not publishing in journals without a print equivalent,
has declined. Academics are now much more familiar with and trustful
of the electronic publishing environment. However, a central solution
for provision of access to electronic data to which academics
have enduring rights of access is still a need.
6.0 What impact will trends in academic journal
publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
6.1 The issues here are mainly around loss
of quality control as a result of potential degradation of the
peer-review system in an open access environment. The control
of the scientific record moves towards the authors rather than
an organisation with industry-wide standards for archiving, with
potential loss of version control. Once an article is published
it should be out of the control of the author otherwise they can
change it or remove it.
6.2 There will be greater access to work
of poorer quality and especially to work of a quality that would
not be accepted in reputable journals. As a result caveat emptor
will apply to all users, greatly increasing the cost of assessing
the validity of information.
6.3 Turning the publishing model on its
head and moving to an author-pays model implies that the ability
of the author to pay for their submission could be a more important
criterion than the quality of the work ("those who pay get
their way"). This moves the quality control from what the
reader wants, ie authentication and a badge of quality, to what
the author wants, ie dissemination at all costs. An author-pays
model is likely to lead to low rejection (from those who can afford
to pay) and thus lower quality, whereas if readers pay one has
high rejection and filtering as the readers require quality not
6.4 Open access journal editors could be
more influenced by the ability of an author to pay than by the
quality of the work. This could lead to a very biased approach
to work from poorer countries. As there is no payment received
for rejected papers in the current author-pays model the rejection
rate is likely to be depressed, leading to lower quality and greater
difficulty in identifying the articles that are truly important.
6.5 Without publishers, who will maintain
the function of detecting scientific fraud and malpractice and
dealing with its consequences?
The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is incorporated
by Royal Charter. Her Majesty the Queen is the Patron. The RSC
is the Professional Body for chemists and the Learned Society
for chemistry in the UK.
The Publishing operation generates ca. five
million pounds per year for funding charitable activities. This
represents over 80% of the income of the Society. If this financial
contribution does not at least grow with inflation then the activities
detailed below would be severely affected. This would be true
of several major UK scientific charities.
The RSC is the leading organisation in Europe
for advancing the chemical sciences. Supported by a network of
45,000 members worldwide and an internationally acclaimed publishing
business, RSC's activities span education and training, conferences
and science policy, and the promotion of the chemical sciences
to the public.
The RSC plays a central role in fostering an
effective partnership between industry and academia.
The RSC plays a leading role in the chemical
sciences, communicating cutting- edge research and its applications
through highly respected journals and its programme of international
conferences, seminars and workshops.
The RSC's educational activities provide information
and training opportunities for both students and teachers. The
RSC is extremely active in determining the future of chemical
education, seeking to influence Government by submitting evidence
to Parliament and anticipating developments in education policy.
The RSC is the second-largest provider of in-service training
for teachers in the UK after the Government.
The RSC makes submissions on consultative documents
on proposed changes in legislation and does contract work for
the European Commission on health and safety issues, as well as
for UK Government departments.
The RSC plays a leading role among scientific
societies in building bridges between the scientific community
and Parliament, takes an active role in Parliamentary life, and
organises the largest scientific events held in Parliament.
The RSC has close contacts with other organisations
worldwide to further the cause of the chemical sciences and formulate
The RSC also maintains the largest source of
chemically related information in the UK through its databanks
and Library and Information Centre at Burlington House, which
holds 2000 journals and in excess of 20,000 books.
As the professional body for chemistry in the
UK, the RSC is responsible for maintaining advanced standards
of qualifications, competence and professional practice amongst
chemical scientists. The RSC assesses and accredits degrees and
diplomas in the chemical sciences and related courses in British
The RSC is the qualifying body for Public Analysts
through its MChemA examinations and for chemical scientists wishing
to be Qualified Persons in the pharmaceutical industry.
THE RSC AS
The RSC publishes a wide range of books, journals,
magazines, and databases, used for both educational and research
and development purposes. The mission of the publishing operation
is to promote efficient scholarly communication and produce a
surplus in order to invest in other discipline-based charitable
activities. Around 80% of the funding of the RSC is generated
from the publishing operation.
The publications are truly international: 85%
of our authors are from outside the UK, but perhaps more significant
is that 90% of our revenues come from sales outside the UK. The
surplus generated from these activities is ploughed back into
the RSC's services for members and into the chemical sciences.
Many overseas scientific societies have subsidised
publishing operations, and many societies abroad survive on government
subsidies as their revenues from membership subscriptions are
insufficient to fund their activities.