Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


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:


1.1  Pricing

  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.

1.2  Bundling

  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 relevant—but 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 electronic archives.

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.


  2.1  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.


3.1  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 to change.

  Local web publication, where this occurs in addition to conventional routes, is beneficial for information discovery.

  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 terms of use and price.

  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 Public Funding."

4.1  Government

  Set up National STM, peer-review publication system with professional management and free access, including archival provision.

  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.

4.2  Universities

  Base the publication record on the National System.

  Encourage non-commercial or pre-commercial research.

February 2004

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