Memorandum from the George Green Library,
University of Nottingham
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?
Price increases have been well above average
inflation and have put severe pressure on library budgets. This
has forced a transfer of funds from spending on other areas eg
books in order to sustain essential periodical subscriptions.
Big deal schemes had advantages in the early
days of electronic journals, because they quickly created a substantial
body of electronic titles to "kick-start" the acceptance
of the new technology. However, libraries now wish to be more
selective in the titles they take and in their commitments to
certain publishers. The ability to change or cancel the titles
purchased and to move from print to electronic format is not always
possible under the terms of publishers' licences.
New pricing models are tending to place a greater
emphasis on the electronic component which, being subject to VAT
also pushes up costs. Government should consider removing VAT
liability from electronic information.
The effects are a lack of freedom for libraries
and a loss of control over their spending. Funds have been tied
to supporting journal packages under licence terms of varying
degrees of restriction. This has had the effect of stifling the
full exploitation of other new electronic information resources,
such as e-books, because there are insufficient funds to invest
in these areas. It has limited our ability to respond to changing
research interests because libraries are not easily able to cancel
unwanted titles in order to take new subscriptions or to save
funds by cancelling print and relying on electronic formats. Money
committed to the support of journals has been at the expense of
other materials and services, eg. book purchasing, thereby affecting
students' access to materials to support learning.
What action should Government, academic institutions
and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific
Large publishing houses are developing powerful
monopolies which can impose unrealistic price increases and licence
restrictions on libraries. Government should investigate proposed
mergers and support smaller publishers in retaining their independence.
These may often be learned societies, educational establishments
or not-for-profit organisations. Large publishing houses have
been praised for generating high profits but this should be seen
in the context of where the money has come from (often the public
purse) and how it is used (invested or distributed to shareholders).
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?
Traditional journals publish research results
and charge individuals and libraries for access and this may severely
restrict the transfer of information, much of which has been generated
by public funding. In some cases the author may even be unable
to provide copies of his research articles to his students because
of the transfer of copyright to the publishers and their inflexibility
on waiving restrictions. Open access journals typically charge
the researcher to publish their work and then distribute it freely,
thereby widening access for other researchers and students to
the results of research.
Researchers are under pressure to publish in
established, prestigious journals and are wary of new open-access
journals unless they can see that these are accepted equally by
the scientific community. The RAE could give equal weight to publication
in such journals and this may help them gain recognition.
Researchers could be entitled to receive funding
to pay for publication in open-access journals. Government could
provide financial support to open-access initiatives.
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?
Open access journals, and other alternative
publishing initiatives, have the potential to open up information
to the benefit of researchers and students. However, they need
to be integrated into established scientific publishing practices
such as inclusion in the major bibliographic indexes, catalogues
etc., rather than relying on simple Internet search engines for
information retrieval. This is especially important in science
where searching needs to be possible by data as well as text.
There must also be a reliable archiving policy
to ensure continued access to the information in perpetuity.
These tasks may well be beyond the scope of
legal deposit libraries, though their involvement should help.
What impact will trends in academic journal publishing
have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
Mechanisms need to be set up to ensure the continuation
of peer-review. This is not without its failures in traditional
journals and could work as well in electronic models. Secure archives
and mechanisms for tracking publication-sequences are important
in this context.