Memorandum from QinetiQ
QinetiQ is one of Europe's largest science and
technology solutions companies, employing nearly 10,000 staff,
including many of the UK's leading scientists and around 1,000
PhDs. Founded from the laboratories of the Ministry of Defence,
QinetiQ today operates in such diverse markets as defence, marine,
energy, telecommunications, automotive, rail, electronics, defence,
space, health, oil and gas, aerospace, environmental management
and information technology. Its facilities include indoor and
outdoor ranges, wind tunnels, marine testing facilities, automotive
test tracks and climatic testing laboratories.
While QinetiQ has a world reputation for developing
novel technologies of its own, such as carbon fibre, thermal imaging
and liquid crystal displays, it is an outward-looking organisation
whose scientists' work is fertilised by the ideas and research
of their peers in universities, RTOs and industry throughout the
world. The quality and accessibility of scientific publications
is thus of critical importance to them.
The specific points we would like to raise with
the Committee are as follows:
Continual above-inflation, annual price increases
have forced a significant reduction in the numbers of periodical
titles purchased by QinetiQ and other research organisations as
budgets have been unable to meet user expectations.
The practice by the large publishers of bundling
titles into broadly related areas as part of a larger electronic
package, is superficially attractive. It provides access to additional
information that may well be relevantbut at a higher price.
This is potentially useful for universities and organisations
with a broad information requirement and where new areas of work
are being researched. However, it also has dangers, especially
where no alternatives supply options are offered. In any event,
it means that the increased package price must be funded by saving
expenditure, usually from other publishers. Since these packages
always contain "must-have" titles, the offers are hard
to resist and may represent the only method of gaining electronic
access. Tied in with that, is access to electronic archives, which,
at further cost, allows discovery of older, relevant material.
It is hard to resist the thought that packaging
has more to do with publisher market share than user need. However,
it may not produce the desired result unless overall funding for
information is increased.
Of greater value to the economy would be a system
whereby research workers from all environments had unrestricted
electronic access to all open research publications and associated
1.3 Larger publishers
By buying `must-have' titles, the larger publishers
are attempting to guarantee their future profitability. Packaging
deals are designed more to guarantee future funding and market
share at the expense of others.
1.4 Smaller, commercial publishers
These are generally in one of three camps: independent
publishers with one, or few, very highly prized titles with broad
appeal (eg Nature); professional societies with active membership
and respectable titles (eg AIMechE) and; independent publishers
with one or a few highly specialised titles. All of these are
vulnerable to varying degrees. At some point, they will need to
consolidate and/or merge their publishing interests to achieve
both economies of scale and competitive packages. Only in that
way can they hope to maintain profitability and remain in the
market at all in competition with the large publishers.
1.5 Open access publishers
These operate with varying degrees of success.
To be successful, the operation must be profitable. They are generally
hindered by the lack of high impact titles. They also may not
recognise the need for professional publication expertise. This
has already caused the failure or sale of reasonably respected
titles in attempting expansion from "amateur" operations.
However, these may be merely symptoms of deeper issues.
1.6 Publication agents
Agents have in the past, and still do, offer
a useful service in organising subscriptions to multiple publishers
and distributing the print material. They offer outsourced expertise
and economies of scale. However, most are struggling to maintain
their impact in an equivalent role in the electronic environment.
The larger publishers, in particular, are trying to squeeze them
out. In addition, publishers, in general, cannot agree on standard
terms and conditions for electronic access and many still try
to negotiate directly with all their customers. The reduction
in numbers and influence of publication agents only increases
the monopolistic tendencies of the publishers.
2. IPR ENVIRONMENT
2.1 The recent changes in UK copyright and
associated legislation to reflect EC directives have had an effect,
which may yet prove dramatic, on the cost and usability of information.
It certainly increases the cost of research and places further
barriers in the way of access to relevant information. The overall
effect could be detrimental to the course of S&T research
and the UK economy. This argument is put cogently by the Royal
Society in its recent report: "Keeping science open: the
effects of intellectual property policy on the conduct of science",
RoySoc, April 2003.
3. POSITION OF
3.1 Electronic access
Increased amounts of research information to
be searched and assimilated, increased user expectations of the
"Google" generation and changing patterns of work, all
favour access to STM publications by computer, generally linked
by the Internet. This is despite the marked preference for reading
paper. This argues in favour of the demise of the "title"
and access at article level.
3.2 University research and publication policy
This is probably at the root of the problem.
As long as there is a requirement to publish in high impact titles
(as determined by accepted journal "Impact Factors"),
there will remain "must-have" titles. In that case,
the dominance of large publishers will continue and increase.
On the other hand, an organisational policy comprising solely
of local, distributed publication is not the answer, as the information
will remain hard-to-find and archival access dangerously susceptible
Local web publication, where this occurs in
addition to conventional routes, is beneficial for information
Higher education is unique is that it provides
both the main author and user base but apparently exercises little
control over the whole system.
3.3 Commercial research
Higher Education provides the driver and the
system for STM publishing, and, indeed, produces by far the largest
publication record. Commercial organisations nevertheless provide
much of the funding for the research itself and, as publication
or access charges, significant income directly to the publishers.
In general, commercial organisations have very little say in the
structural design of the scientific publication system or in the
Arguably the commercial world is where much
of the value from applied research is, or should be, added.
QinetiQ strongly supports the conclusions of
the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy from
their meeting of 29-30 January 2004 and outlined in the Final
Communique of 30 January. In particular, "Co-ordinated efforts
at national and international levels are needed to broaden access
to data from publicly funded research and contribute to the advancement
of scientific research and innovation. To this effect, Ministers
adopted a declaration entrusting the OECD to work towards commonly
agreed Principles and Guidelines on Access to Research Data from
Set up National STM, peer-review publication
system with professional management and free access, including
Revise the university research funding process
to include a requirement to publish in the National system. Include
specific and ring-fenced provision for publication costs of the
research work in the research grant.
Organise a mandatory, National copyright licensing
scheme. This would require a standard, restricted copyright licence
to publishers from all UK University research authors which would
allow publication in all media, does not restrict user access
but also retains copyright ownership with the author/organisation.
Base the Research Assessment Exercise (or similar)
on publication in the National system.
Work with other Governments and the EC to make
this practice multi-national and/or international.
Base the publication record on the National
Encourage non-commercial or pre-commercial research.