Memorandum from Hallward Library, University
of Nottingham, SHERPA Project
1.1 The current system of scientific publishing
has some key strengths. One strength is the rigour of the scientific
process itself and the professionalism of those who practise it.
Another strength is the robust system of quality control that
has been developed. Quality is assured by peer reviewthe
process by which scientists scrutinise each other's work before
publication. But despite these strengths, there are a number of
structural problems in the existing system of scientific publishing
which mean that it is currently operating at a sub-optimal level.
The evidence presented in this document briefly outlines what
the problems are and discusses some of the ways in which they
can be addressed whilst at the same time maintaining the system's
key strengths. It suggests that scientific publishing should take
full advantage of the opportunities provided by the World Wide
Web by making high-quality research freely available online.
1.2 Providing free and unrestricted access
(so-called "open-access") to scientific papers has the
potential to make scientific publishing more effective and efficient.
Supporters of this approach advocate two complementary strategies
open-access journals and open-access repositories. Both strategies
have realistic business models associated with them and have already
begun to be implemented in various ways. This document concentrates
on the case for open-access repositories. These repositories can
be set up by individual institutions to store and disseminate
the published work of their academic staff. This approach maintains
the strengths of the current system, while making research available
to the widest possible audience.
1.3 This submission makes three recommendations:
(1) The setting up of open-access institutional repositories should
continue to be encouraged within universities and other appropriate
research organisations. (2) Authors should be discouraged from
signing over exclusive rights to publishers and should retain
(at least) electronic distribution rights for their papers. Where
research work is publicly funded, it should be made a condition
of grant that authors cannot sign-over copyright. (3) Public funding
agencies should mandate (as a condition of grant) that work they
have funded must be made publicly available either in open-access
journals or in open-access repositories.
1.4 This document is divided into a number
of sections. After this introduction, section 2 provides details
of the perspective from which this document has been written.
Section 3 outlines some of the problems associated with the current
system of scientific publishing. Section 4 discusses possible
solutions to these problems, concentrating on the idea of open-access
repositories. Section 5 provides more detail on how these repositories
operate. Section 6 outlines the role government might play in
developments, and this is followed by specific recommendations
in Section 7. Background information is given in the appendices.
2.1 The call for evidence states that the
Science and Technology Committee "will be asking what measures
are being taken in government, the publishing industry and academic
institutions to ensure that researchers, teachers and students
have access to the publications they need in order to carry out
their work effectively?" This submission addresses that question.
2.2 This evidence is submitted by the SHERPA
project. SHERPA (Securing Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation
and Access) is a development project investigating the future
of research communication and publication. In particular, it is
initiating the development of openly accessible institutional
digital repositories of research output in a number of UK research-led
universities. These so-called "e-print archives" will
contain published (and in some cases pre-publication) research
papers by academics from the participating institutions and will
be made freely available on the World Wide Web. SHERPA is funded
by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Consortium
of University Research Libraries (CURL).
2.3 Because of the remit of the SHERPA project,
the evidence presented here is limited to discussion of institutional
e-print repositories. We understand that other organisations,
such as CURL and SCONUL (Society of College, National and University
Libraries) will be submitting evidence addressing all of the questions
raised by the Inquiry. Institutional e-print repositories are
part of a bigger picture of the possible future of scientific
publication and we suggest a very important part. We believe that
a strategy to reform research publication incorporating such repositories
has the potential to make major improvements in the efficiency
and effectiveness of the existing system.
3. PROBLEMS WITH
3.1 There are a number of problems associated
with the existing system of scientific publishing which means
it operates inefficiently and is getting worse. There are problems
for researchers, research institutions and society as a whole.
These are discussed in turn below.
3.2 Researchers communicate their research
results in a number of ways, the most important of which is the
peer-reviewed journal. In their capacity as authors, researchers
give their articles to journals in order to achieve "impact"
not income. They want to be influential in their field so that
their work will be cited by colleagues. It is therefore in authors'
interests that their work should be disseminated as widely as
possible. However, publishers of journals want to generate income
from research papers and so charge (substantial) subscription
fees for journals whilst restricting their circulation (to subscribers
only). Publishers also often require authors to sign over copyright
completely, preventing authors from disseminating their work in
other ways. This practice takes ownership of the work away from
the researcher and the institution.
3.3 There are also problems for researchers
in their capacity as readers of the journal literature. With over
24,000 refereed journals now being published,
any one UK institution struggles to subscribe to a third of these.
The effect is that most of the refereed literature is not easily
available to most researchers. Such inefficiencies in the scientific
communication process can hold back scientific progress itself.
3.4 Research institutions, of course, want
to provide their members with access to as many journals as possible.
This is essential if researchers in the institutions are to keep
up-to-date in their field. But with growing lists of `must have'
journal titles, universities have for a long time been struggling
to keep up subscriptions. Journal price inflation is a major problem.
Between 1986 and 2000, journal price inflation in the UK was 291%,
while the retail price index rose by only 74%.
Even the development of e-journals has not helped to lower prices,
in spite of reduced production costs for publishers. There is
often a misunderstanding that all material available through the
web is somehow free. In fact, publishers are attempting to establish
e-journal-pricing models that maintain and increase their income.
The `Big Deal' is an example of this. Universities may experience
the short-term gain of access to more titles. However, there are
long-term problems of having to pay more for a bundle of titles
only some of which are needed and where there is little flexibility
to cancel individual titles.
3.5 From a corporate viewpoint, university
institutions are currently in a position where they produce research
output, then give it away free of charge to publishers, and then
buy it back at high prices. Universities pay researchers to give
away their services as authors and also as editorial board members,
referees and journal editors (editors sometimes receive an honorarium
from the publishers). This is in effect a massive subsidy to commercial
publishers. Furthermore having handed over copyright to publishers,
universities often have to buy back the content several times
over: in journal subscriptions, photocopying licences, study pack
3.6 The problems for researchers and their
institutions create problems for society as a whole. Most academic
research in the UK is funded from the public purse and yet the
public does not have access to it. Furthermore, public money is
being used to fund not just the research itself but also the buying
back of that research by universities in the form of journal subscriptions.
There is a strong argument which says that publicly-funded research
should be made freely available to the public in general. The
current system of restrictions on access to research output weakens
the potential for knowledge transfer, acting as a brake to the
take up of new technologies by industry. It also has the effect
of hiding many of our cultural and intellectual assets behind
commercial "toll-gates". The public understanding of
science could be greatly enhanced by improving access to the scientific
4.1 There is now an international movement
aiming to address the problems associated with the current scientific
publishing system. A key objective of this movement is that content
should be made freely available wherever possible on the World
Wide Web. The increasing ubiquity of the web has created a new
opportunity to distribute content quickly and cheaply (without
having to pay for production and distribution costs of printed
paper). Such a strategy, it is argued, would increase the efficiency
of scientific research communication and create wider economic
and social benefits (by promoting knowledge transfer between the
academic and commercial sectors and improving public access to
4.2 There is growing support world-wide
for this `open access' approach. A number of research funding
agencies in the USA
have, for example, recently released statements supporting open
access. In the UK, the Wellcome Trust has expressed its strong
support for open access.
Other funding agencies and research organisations are investigating
the issues. There is also growing support at the ministerial level
of world governments for the importance of open access to research,
as shown at the recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD) meeting where "Ministers recognised
that fostering broader, open access to and wide use of research
data will enhance the quality and productivity of science systems
Government action in the UK at this stage would undoubtedly help
to increase the momentum for change.
4.3 The movement for open access has focused
on two strategies: open-access journals and open-access repositories.
The two strategies are complementary and not competitive. Both
achieve the key aim of improving access to the scientific literature.
Both offer the potential for major efficiencies in scientific
4.4 Open-access journals are currently being
set up from within the research community. These include PLoS
and BioMed Central
journals. They continue to provide rigorous peer review but then
make papers freely available on the web. They can afford to do
this because they operate a new business model, one in which payment
is shifted from the output to the input stage. In other words,
rather than readers (or their institutions) paying for content
through subscriptions, instead authors (or their institutions)
pay for publication. Such a strategy still means institutions
(and their funders) pay for the publication process but the current
evidence suggests that if this model was widely adopted they would
pay considerably less whilst at the same time achieving the widest
possible dissemination of content. We understand that evidence
for these conclusions will be presented to the Committee by a
number of open-access publishers. The evidence presented here
will therefore concentrate on the second open-access strategyopen-access
4.5 Open-access repositories are a practical
solution to the current problems in scientific publishing, which
could have an immediate and positive effect on the scientific
process. The number of open-access journals is still small compared
with the number of subscription-journals, and they are likely
to take some time to establish themselves. However, institutional
repositories can be set up relatively quickly and can act as an
effective and efficient means of distributing and preserving content.
4.6 At the heart of the open-access repository
agenda is the view that researchers should be encouraged to continue
to publish in peer-reviewed journals but at the same time put
copies of their published papers in a repository. The repository
makes the papers freely available to all at the point of access.
As a result, institutional repositories can maintain the strengths
of the existing system (quality control via peer review) but also
create new benefits. The new benefits are that research can be
made available to the widest possible audience (because of open-access)
and also that it can be disseminated quickly (a paper could be
mounted on a repository as soon as it was accepted for publication
for a journal, for example).
4.7 Open-access repositories already exist.
A number of subject communities have been using them for sometime
and proved the utility and sustainability of the idea. The arXiv
service for physicists has been running since 1991 and now has
over 300,000 papers freely available online.
Many of these papers are high quality articles which have been
published in peer-reviewed journals. Others are provisional version
of papers not yet peer-reviewed (so-called `pre-prints') but which
it is still useful for researchers to see.
4.8 Since the development of open-access
repositories was until recently limited to small numbers of subject
communities, a number of institutions have set up repositories
to encourage a wider range of disciplines to contribute to the
open-access literature. In the USA, MIT
have been running repositories for about two years. In the UK,
the SHERPA project is one of a number of open access institutional
repository initiatives currently taking place. SHERPA (Securing
a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access) includes
18, research-led universities and other research institutions
as partners (a complete list is given in Appendix 1). We would
recommend that the UK government and government agencies should
continue to support the setting up of open-access institutions
repositories in order to accelerate these developments.
4.9 One of the major strengths of the open-access
repository movement is its technical infrastructure. Repositories
can be easily set up in such a way to ensure they can talk to
each other. When compliant with the Open Archives Initiative (OAI)
protocol (details of which are given in Appendix 2) all of the
different repositories world-wide can effectively form a single
virtual research archive. The contents of the different repositories
can be searched simultaneously by using special OAI Service Providers
(of which there are now several) or even using mainstream Web
Search Engines (such as Google).
5. KEY ISSUES
5.1 A number of key issues are currently
being addressed as part of institutional repository initiatives.
These are discussed as follows: copyright and IPR, quality control
and peer review, the relationship with journal publication, costs
and sustainability, and preservation.
5.2 Copyright and Intellectual Property
Rights (IPR) are an important and (sometimes) complex part of
the debate currently surrounding scientific publishing. However,
one thing is clear: there is no practical need for exclusive rights
to be transferred to publishers in order for material to be published
in their journal. Although the practice is still common, many
journal publishers now do not require the transfer of exclusive
rights, and some funding agencies do not permit it (for work they
have funded). Many funding agencies in the US, for example, do
not allow copyright to be signed-over to private companies. We
would recommend that authors of scientific papers should be discouraged
from signing over copyright to publishers and should at least
retain the right to disseminate their paper online for non-commercial
purposes (by, for example, depositing it in an institutional repository).
5.3 Since the taxpayer funds the majority
of the research in UK institutions, government could kick-start
open-access at the funding stage. Firstly, OST funding agencies
could prevent the copyright of work they have funded being given
away by researchers. Secondly, they could mandate (as a condition
of grant) that copies of all papers generated from publicly-funded
research should be made publicly available on open-access, such
as in an institutional repository. We would recommend that these
developments should take place. If implemented, they would have
an immediate beneficial impact on scientific communication.
5.4 Any new developments should not be allowed
to undermine the quality control of scientific literature. The
most important form of quality control is currently peer review
and there is no reason for this to change. The process of peer
review is currently administered by journal publishers and carried
out by researchers. This process is independent of institutional
repositories. Different subject disciplines follow subtly different
models of quality control and have different traditions of circulating
work-in-progress. Institutional repositories can be structured
to support any or all of these. Repositories can be set up to
allow biomedical practitioners to only deposit peer-reviewed papers,
whilst at the same time allowing physicists to deposit peer-reviewed
papers and un-reviewed "pre-prints" (a normal part of
that discipline's communication culture).
5.5 Whilst journal publishers continue to
administer the peer-review process, researchers should of course
submit their papers to high-impact journals. The acceptance of
a paper by a peer-reviewed journal is currently a well-understood
`quality flag'. Authors should continue to publish in such journals
and can include details of the place of publication on the paper
when it is deposited in an open-access repository.
5.6 There is no evidence to suggest that
such a practice would destroy journals. On the contrary, the empirical
evidence from the physics community shows that arXiv has not undermined
journals. Physicists continue to submit their work to peer-reviewed
journals as well as contribute to arXiv. Authors continue to value
the quality control function the journals provide but also the
rapid and wide dissemination that arXiv provides.
5.7 The widespread adoption of open-access
repositories may, however, over time change the role of journals.
Traditional journal publishing bundles together peer review with
distribution of content. These functions could, however, be unbundled.
If open-access repositories increasingly become vehicles for content
distribution, publishers could re-focus their missions to become
managers of peer review, and also providers of other appropriate
5.8 Scientific publishing will of course
continue to cost money. Even in a model where access is "free",
production is certainly not. Institutional repositories may, however,
help to minimise production costs whilst at the same time maximising
the impact of the research. Many of the key production costs are
already borne by research institutions (and their funders)carrying
out the research, writing the papers, refereeing papers, providing
editors and editorial board members. The key remaining cost is
peer review (plus smaller costs for copy editing and document
formatting). In the long-term, these also could be borne by institutions,
perhaps at the input stage rather than as subscriptions (as in
the open-access journal model discussed above).
5.9 In the short-term, the costs of setting
up open-access repositories are minimal. Universities already
have good IT infrastructures in placelocal area networks
which connect to the internet and widespread use of computer workstations.
Given this provision, the connection cost and use of repositories
is absorbed within existing overheads, so accessing the material
is effectively free. Mounting a paper on a repository takes no
more than 10 minutes, which is insignificant compared with the
time spent on its creation. Maintaining a repository is less significant
in scale than maintaining an institutional web site.
5.10 Institutions will have an interest
in maintaining repositories, a fact that will help to ensure their
sustainability. An open-access repository can help to raise the
profile and standing of an institution. From a practical point
of view, a repository could also be used as an effective way of
managing an institutions "information assets" for submission
of work as part of the research assessment exercise, consultancy
work or other out-reach activities.
5.11 Institutions will also have an interest
in preserving the digital content within repositories. The preservation
of research material in the long term is something that currently
lies outside the publication process per se. Long term
access and preservation of articles and journals as material of
record has traditionally been left to libraries. Preservation
has always required continual investment in facilities for storage,
curation and access and this has traditionally been handled by
libraries as part of their base costs. As such, this is often
a hidden and additional cost of the traditional publication process,
which has been borne by research institutions. Digital preservation
is likely to be more costly. The widespread adoption of open-access
repositories offers the chance to make the preservation of material
a fully integrated part of the scientific communication process
for the first time, since institutional repositories would have
responsibility for both distribution and preservation of content.
5.12 Institutional repositories have a greater
potential than just distributors and preservers of scientific
papers. There is also the potential to use them to store and provide
access to scientific data and other related digital files. This
would mean that a published scientific paper could sit alongside
the data upon which it is based, giving other scientists access
to the raw material of the research, as well as its published
output. Such a scenario is very attractive to many scientists,
although as yet not widely implemented. However, the success of
projects such as the human genome initiative has illustrated that
making scientific data available on open access has led to rapid
6. THE ROLE
6.1 The principles of the open-access initiative
have growing support within the scientific community. However,
there are often few real incentives for individual scientists
to adopt this approach when many of the current reward-structures
in science are tied closely to the traditional print-based system
of communication. Scientists are often reluctant to depart from
this without real personal incentives. Clear and active support
from government and other nationally funded agencies is required
to encourage the widespread adoption of open-access strategies.
Such support would help to accelerate the transition process.
Since the UK contributes a significant proportion of the scientific
output of the international research community, progress in the
UK would have a major international impact.
7.1 The setting up of open-access institutional
repositories should continue to be encouraged within universities
and other appropriate research organisations.
7.2 Authors should be discouraged from signing
over exclusive rights to publishers and should retain (at least)
electronic distribution rights for their papers. Where research
work is publicly funded, it should be made a condition of grant
that authors cannot sign-over copyright.
7.3 Public funding agencies should mandate
(as a condition of grant) that work they have funded must be made
publicly available either in open-access journals or in open-access
Appendix 2The Open Archives Initiative
Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH)
Appendix 3A Selection of Existing Repositories
and Service Providers
SHERPA: Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research
Preservation and Access.
SHERPA aims to investigate issues to do with
the future of scholarly communication and publishing. In particular,
it is initiating the development of openly accessible institutional
digital repositories of research output in a number of research
universities. These so-called `e-print archives' will contain
papers by researchers from the participating institutions.
The project partners now include the majority
of members of the Consortium of University Research Libraries
(CURL) who represent a significant proportion of the research-led
universities in the UK. This shows a level of effort and commitment
that will make a substantial contribution to the development of
the e-print archive network.
The project will investigate the IPR, quality
control and other key management issues associated with making
the research literature freely available to the research community.
It will also investigate technical questions, including interoperability
between repositories and digital preservation of e-prints.
University of Birmingham
University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
University of Newcastle
University of Nottingham
School of Oriental and African Studies
University of Sheffield
University College, London
Arts and Humanities Data Service
SHERPA is funded by the Joint Information Systems
Committee (JISC) and the Consortium of University Research Libraries
It is hosted by the University of Nottingham.
For further information see the web sitehttp://www.sherpa.ac.uk
Open-access repositories would be of limited
value if each repository stood in isolation and had to be searched
individually. One of the keys to the success of open-access repositories
is that they can be searched as though they were one unified repository.
This is achieved by use of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol
for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). In order for the OAI-PMH to
work each repository makes available a standard description of
every item in its collection, like a series of virtual library
index cards. These descriptions (known as "metadata")
are then collected up by third-party "service providers",
in a process known as "harvesting". This harvested metadata
is then used as the basis for search services which search the
metadata of all participating repositories.
Typically, a user will search for an item using
the author's name, or the title of the paper, or search using
keywords, associated with the article. The results of such searches
identify an item and where it is held and make it accessible through
a single mouse click. The experience for the user is a seamless
one, thus giving the effect of a global virtual archive of research
This means that a repository is very different
from academics simply mounting their research on their personal
homepages. The use of the OAI-PMH has the effect of standardising
the way material is mounted, described, searched for and accessed,
making research material far more visible and accessible.
There are therefore two types of participant
in this process:
Data Providersthe institutions
that build and populate the repositories.
Service Providersthe agents
that harvest the metadata and provide search services.
In addition to search services, service providers
can also offer a variety of added-value services. Examples of
these services include citation records and analyses, downloading
The metadata for items in repositories can also
be searched using normal search engines, like Google. However,
one advantage of using dedicated service providers is that they
need only search through registered academic repositories. This
means that the dedicated search results from service providers
are not cluttered with the thousands of junk results which are
typical from a standard web search engine. This provides quick,
clean and focussed access to research material held on open-access
There are a number of existing repositories
that are used by academic researchers. They can broadly be categorised
as in two ways:
subject-based, where the repository
contains e-prints from a single subject-discipline, or a number
of closely related subject-disciplines
institutionally-based, where the
repository contains e-prints produced by members of a single institution,
typically covering a number of subject-disciplines.
Examples of Subject Based Repositories:
Examples of Institutionally-based Repositories:
University of Bath: "ePrints@Bath"http://eprints.bath.ac.uk/
University of Glasgow: "ePrints
University of Nottingham:"Nottingham
California Institute of Technology:"Caltech
Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
A select list of institutional repositories
is available from the SPARC Europe websitehttp://www.arl.org/sparc/core/index.asp?page=m1
Examples of Service Providers:
Arc, developed by the Old Dominion
CiteBase, an experimental service
developed by the University of Southampton which demonstrates
some of the value-added features mentioned in Appendix 2http://citebase.eprints.org/cgi-bin/search
OAIster, developed by the University
172 As of August 2003. Source: analysis from Ulrich's
Periodicals Directory, quoted in online discussion forum-http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/2983.html Back
Swets Blackwell Periodicals Price Index, quoted in "Scholarly
Communications Crisis" (briefing paper) Consortium of
University Research Libraries (CURL),  Back
The Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, 20 June 2003-http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/bethesda.htm
Conference on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities,
20-22 Oct 2003, Berlin-http://www.zim.mpg.de/openaccess-berlin/berlindeclaration.html Back
Wellcome Trust announcement 12 Nov 2003-http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/1/awtvispolpub.html Back
See paragraph 17 of the document "Science, Technology
and Innovation for the 21st Century. Meeting of the OECD Committee
for Scientific and Technological Policy at Ministerial Level,
29-30 January 2004-Final Communique«" and Annex
1: "Declaration On Access To Research Data From Public Funding"-http://www.oecd.org/document/15/0,2340,en-2649_34487_25998799_1_1_1_1,00.html Back
See, for example, the Budapest Open Access Initiative-http://www.soros.org/openaccess/
PLoS Biology homepage-http://www.plosbiology.org/ Back
BioMed Central homepage-http://www.biomedcentral.com/ Back
arXiv homepage-http://arxiv.org/ Back
MIT digital DSpace repository-https://dspace.mit.edu/ Back
Caltech CODA repository-http://library.caltech.edu/digital/
Stephen Pinfield, "How do physicists use an e-print
archive? Implications for institutional e-print services".
D-Lib Magazine, 7, 12, December 2001-http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december01/pinfield/12pinfield.html