Memorandum from the Society of Chemical
The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI, www.soci.org)
is a not-for-profit learned society that was established in 1881
to provide a forum for scientists and people from business and
industry to share information and foster innovation and enterprise.
We own four scholarly journals.
As an international organisation
that aims to foster scientific innovation worldwide we are concerned
about: maintaining quality and reliability of published scientific
information; and sustainability over the long term to protect
continued access to scientific information.
We are against any move to a publishing
system that relies on authors being able to afford publication
fees in order to get their work recognised. Such a business model
is likely to silence the work done by scientists in the developing
world, particularly in certain topics where a large proportion
of research comes from poorer countries.
Revenue from our journals is fed
back into the Society and is a vital part of funding a range of
educational activities, awards and bursaries both in the developed
and developing world.
1. THE SOCIETY
1.1 SCI is a unique international forum
where science meets business on independent, impartial ground.
Members include consumer representatives, environmentalists, industrialists
and academic researchers. The Society offers a chance to share
information between sectors as diverse as food and agriculture,
pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, environmental protection, energy,
materials and chemicals. Founded in London in 1881, today SCI
is a registered charity with members in over 70 countries. SCI's
charter requires that the Society shall "advance the science
of applied chemistry and related sciences for public benefit by
. . . publishing appropriate journals, books and other communications".
1.2 SCI is a small publisher, owning four
peer-reviewed journals: Journal of the Science of Food &
Agriculture, Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology,
Polymer International and Pest Management Science.
The journals are well-respected niche titles with Impact Factors
ranging from 0.98 to 1.4 (JSFA is ranked second in its field category).
Both the author and subscription bases are highly international
(eg, authorship across all four journals is at least 90% non-UK).
SCI's journals provide a unique "Technical editing"
service for all accepted articles; this is especially helpful
for authors from the developing world. Journals provide 40-45%
of the gross revenue to SCI. The surplus (after funding associated
editorial and other services) is invested back into the society.
1.3 SCI has, for over 100 years, played
a unique role in bringing together innovators and entrepreneurs.
Members have included the inventors and business people behind
such developments as the light bulb, aspirin, the first synthetic
dye and the first plastics; this trend continues today. Besides
its publishing activity, SCI:
runs subsidised conferences and meetings
to further professional development across a wide range of scientific
awards bursaries enabling students
and young people to undertake specific projects and educational
activities, both in the West and in developing countries;
holds open debates where the public
can quiz scientists and opinion-formers;
proactively communicates peer-reviewed
research to the public via its Press Office;
provides a forum for global connections
to be made between science and business.
2.1 The number of articles published in
scientific, technical and medical (STM) journals has exploded
in the past 20 years (http://www.cas.org/EO/casstats.pdf). This
explosion in output (the result of an increased number of scientists
along with the pressure to publish; UK academics for the RAE,
US academics to gain tenure) has directly led to a dramatic proliferation
in the number and size of journals. But the budgets of university
libraries (one of the largest consumers of this kind of information)
have not increased in proportion. As a result, today's problem
with scientific information is lack of money in the demand sector
to buy the increasing research output. One reaction to the cost
of STM information has been the "Open Access" (OA) movement,
which is seen as an easy solution to the `serials crisis'. But
rarely is there a simple solution to a complex problem.
3 SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
3.1 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?
3.1.1 The relationship between publishers
and their customers is a very complex one. Because SCI is a small
publisher, in order to maximise dissemination of the content in
our journals, we have chosen to work with a succession of commercial
publishing partners, currently John Wiley & Sons Ltd. SCI
and its members (many of whom are in the teaching and research
communities) have therefore benefited directly and indirectly
from our journals being part of electronic licensing schemes between
publishers and librarians including "big deal" initiatives.
3.1.2 Electronic licensing has opened up
access to scientific literature hugely, and was a natural extension
of much material being made available online. Page views on Elsevier's
platform ScienceDirect® grew from 30 million in 1999 to 350
million in 2002 (BNP Paribas, Professional Publishing Sector Note,
Oct 2003). A number of publishers report that their "access
denied" statistics range from 5-10%, which suggests that
access to the information is comprehensive (ALPSP/PA Forum, 28
Jan 2004, London). In addition, commercial publishers who are
members of initiatives like HINARI and AGORA enable access to
information by scientists in the developing world.
3.2 What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
3.2.1 We believe there is a competitive
market in scientific publications.
3.2.2 It is worth noting that STM journals
rely on the goodwill of academic volunteers to referee submitted
articles. This process is crucial to maintaining the quality of
peer-reviewed journals. If time to referee papers is not built
into grants, the quality of these journals will inevitably fall.
3.2.3 Any intervention in that market could
seriously affect quality of scientific journals or hinder access
to publication by scientists in all countries and all disciplines
regardless of funding. We believe that the UK Government should:
reconsider issues related to VAT
on electronic journals;
consider increasing acquisitions
budgets of libraries;
consider putting aside money to purchase
a national site license;
find a new way to measure quality
(impact factors cannot compare across disciplines); update RAE
build into funding time to referee
for journals (and recognition of this and other volunteer activity);
allow market forces to act on their
3.3. What are the consequences of increasing
numbers of open-access journals, for example for the operation
of the RAE and other selection processes? Should the Government
support such a trend and, if so, how?
3.3.1 In contrast to traditional STM journals,
papers in OA journals are freely available on the web; authors
pay for publication (currently $500-$1,500, but likely to increase
significantly). Although superficially appealing for maximizing
information dissemination, it is an economically untested model.
SCI concurs with both ALPSP and STM Publishers (see Appendices)
in welcoming new business models, but believes they should be
self-sustaining and economically viable (not dependent on donations
or special funding).
3.3.2 What will happenand who will
pay forarchiving (one of the most important features of
any scholarly publication exercise) and new features. Currently,
publishers reinvest vast sums of money to support digital conversion
and archiving and develop new and enhanced features (these have
included infrastructure for electronic journals, CrossRef www.crossref.org,
COUNTER www.projectcounter.org, etc).
3.3.3 The proponents of Open Access debate
are academics in western, developed countries, which could lead
to discrimination against research produced in the developing
world. There may be a particularly adverse impact on the ability
of scientists in developing countries to afford Open Access fees
necessary for publication. Also, some disciplines are not funded
well (eg ecology), which raises questions of who will pay for
publication of papers in those areas. Waivers cannot be made for
3.3.4 It is worth noting the results of
the Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research
(CIBER; City University, UK) on what authors know and want. Only
5% of authors feel well informed about the Open Access movement;
many authors are hostile to the idea of page charges even though
many dislike the current subscriber pays model; and as readers
they are generally content with their access to journal literature
(ALPSP/PA Forum 28 Jan 2004, London).
3.3.5 Industry tends to be a big consumer
of scientific information, but doesn't contribute many papers
(Chemistry in Britain, Dec 2003, p 33). Academia/government
might end up subsidizing industry in an Open Access world. But
longer term it is also possible that industry will lose outthe
current system (including trusted journal "brands")
provides a framework for researchers to quickly identify research
with long-term relevance. One effect of unregulated Open Access
could be that industry (and all interested parties) would have
to work harder to identify relevance. This could have a knock-on
effect on innovation and competitiveness.
3.3.6 There is concern in the scientific
community that this sort of funding model could open the door
to industrial (or political) influence over where and what material
gets published. Control over the records of research might shift
to those who can pay.
3.4 How effectively are the Legal Deposit
Libraries making available non-print scientific publications to
the research community; what steps should they be taking in this
We concur with the views of ALPSP on this point.
3.5 What impact will trends in academic journal
publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
3.5.1 The best way of preventing fraud and
malpractice is to ensure that there are robust publishing controls.
With Open Access there could be a proliferation of small businesses
running on a cost-recovery basis. These enterprises would be unlikely
to invest in costly protective and legal frameworks.