Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from NHS National Core Content Project Team

1.   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?

  1.1  The cost of journals has far outstripped the rate of inflation and library budgets. Figures compiled by Loughborough University show that between 1991-92 and 2000-01 the price of journals in the UK increased by 158%, compared to an increase in the retails price index of 28% over the same period. [185]

  1.2  The result for individual NHS libraries is that journal collections are under constant pressure, with year-on-year reductions in local holdings. Only those who subscribe to the relevant journals can access publicly funded research. This means a large proportion of research can be difficult to access.

  1.3  Some publishers issue subscription criteria that result in multiple subscriptions to the same journal title. Purchasing authorities are required to guarantee that paper subscriptions will continue, as well as a subscription to the electronic version.

  In the case of national procurement, this has resulted in some journals being paid for three times:

    1.  paper subscription

    2.  local subscription

    3.  national subscription

  1.5  Some publishers impose embargoes on electronic print, which might not be available until six months after publication. In a research environment, this is not acceptable and library will continue the paper subscription in order to allow access to the latest published information.

  1.6  "Big deal schemes" from publishers may seem advantageous at first sight but typically bundle together some high value titles which would be core to any collection with a large number of titles of lesser worth, unlikely to appeal to a large audience.

  1.7  "Big deal schemes" are also typically structured around electronic journals, with no guarantee of access to the archives of these titles once an institution terminates its subscription to the deal. Moreover, the volatility of the publishing world means that significant component elements of any "big deal" can be withdrawn at short notice if a publisher changes hands or adopts a different policy towards a given aggregator. Again, this has the effect of denying ready access to the knowledge base to teaching and research communities, as well as undermining their confidence in the online environment.

2.   What action should Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific publications?

  2.1  The NHS Core Content Project Team supports the open access-publishing model, and has paid for institutional membership for the whole NHS to the Biomed Central, to encourage authors to publish in open access journals.

  2.2  A Government statement in support of the open access model would encourage researchers to publish in open access journals.

  2.3  We ask the Government to recommend that all public funding bodies require that authors deposit a copy of their final, refereed paper in a suitable, fully-searchable, freely accessible internet repository or archive.

  3.  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?

  3.1  The RAE is currently based on journal impact factors. It can take three to four years for a new journal to build up impact factor discouraging publication in that journal. The RAE should be modified to support publication of articles in an open access environment.

  3.2  Government support for open access may help mitigate perceived risk of publishing in open access journals.

  3.3  Open Access publishing needs to be endorsed by the Government as the preferred mode of publication and an amount included within research grants towards this purpose.

  3.4  Publishers could be restricted in the terms of copyright obtained from Authors as a move towards Open Access—allowing the deposit of papers elsewhere.

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?

  Unable to comment.

  What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?

  Unable to comment.

February 2004

185   Library & Information Statistics Unit (LISU), Loughborough University. Back

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