Memorandum from the Institution of Civil
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is
a UK-based international organisation with over 75,000 members
ranging from professional civil engineers to students. It is an
educational and qualifying body and has charitable status under
UK law. Founded in 1818, ICE has become recognised worldwide for
its excellence as a centre of learning, as a qualifying body and
as a public voice for the profession.
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) was
founded in 1818 "for the purpose of mutual instruction in
that knowledge requisite for the profession". In 1828 it
was granted a Royal Charter "`for the advancement of Mechanical
Science, and more particularly for promoting that species of knowledge
which constitutes the profession of a Civil Engineer, being the
art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the
use and convenience of man". These purposes remain at the
core of the Institution's activity.
Today ICE seeks to advance the knowledge, practice
and business of civil engineering, to promote the breadth and
value of the civil engineer's global contribution to sustainable,
economic growth, and ethical standards, and to include in membership
all those involved in the profession.
In order to fulfil its objectives the Institution
maintains a Library, organises meetings and publishes scientific
journals and books.
The Institution of Civil Engineers Library was
the first engineering Library in the British Isles and is one
of the oldest in the world. It has been subscribing to scientific
and technical journals since 1819 and today subscribes to over
1,000 titles, and has backfiles of a further 2,000. The objective
of the collections policy, in furtherance of the Institution's
core purpose, is to reflect the progress of civil engineering
all over the world; to, as far as is possible, collect all civil
engineering periodicals in the English language, with a representative
collection from elsewhere. Given the multi-disciplinary nature
of civil engineering, the library collects not only engineering
journals, but those in related sciences such as geology, hydrology
and physics. With an international membership foreign language
material is important. It is believed that the Library, in terms
of its breadth of coverage, is second only to the national libraries
in its importance in its field.
Since 1836 ICE have been a learned society publisher,
its Transactions being the world's first specialist engineering
journal to be published in English. Today its commercial arm,
Thomas Telford, publish 16 specialist journal titles for the ICE
and other specialist civil engineering societies. The Institution's
proceedings are published in nine parts, with most of the circulation
being subscribed to by individual ICE members.
The Institution and its membership have always
placed great importance on the inter-relationship between research
and practice. In the early 1830s the first President, Thomas Telford,
organised research into the resistance of canal boats, and since
then the Institution has organised research into a range of subjects
as varied as steam boilers, deterioration of concrete, metals
and timber in marine structures, design of piled foundations etc,
etc. It played a leading role in the establishment of research
facilities such as the National Physical Laboratory, Hydraulics
Research Wallingford etc. Its Research Committee established what
is now known as CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information
Association), and continues to offer research funding. A constant
theme of its reports on civil engineering research are the need
for long term research, the importance of dissemination of research
results, and the need for research to be linked to industry needs.
Since the mid 1980s the ICE have been developing
a range of electronic services for its stakeholders including
an online library catalogue, an online index to all ICE publications,
and a "virtual" library of downloadable papers from
ICE proceedings. All these developments have been financed through
the Institution's own resources.
What action should Government, academic institutions
and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific
The Government should recognise that investment
in electronic publishing is expensive and likely to undermine
the role of smaller scientific publishers who are not privy to
the e-subscription deals being negotiated between academic consortia
and publishers. It should also recognise that this is not simply
an issue for the academic community. For society to fully benefit
from academic research it is important that it is effectively
disseminated to all who might benefit. Premium prices for e-journals
are making it very difficult for specialist libraries such as
ourselves to maintain our subject coverage. In our attempts to
maintain our subscriptions our book purchases have halved over
the past five years. Permitting learned societies to accede to
academic networks which are essentially publicly funded would
help us to continue to fulfil our role as laid out in our charter
to promote engineering science.
What is the impact of the current trend towards
e-publishing on the integrity of journals and the scientific process?
Developments in publishing generally associated
with IT have made it easier to produce specialist journals and
newsletters. These developments are making it more difficult for
traditional bibliographic controls to cope, and for researchers
to keep up to date.
Major publishers like Elsevier may be able to
provide directly downloadable pdfs of papers from their own databases,
but generally specialist publishers will not be able to afford
to invest in the infrastructure to disseminate themselves and
this trend is likely to lead to increasing volumes of material
being supplied via aggregators as fragmented titles.
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?
The Institution of Civil Engineers has a membership
of c 73,000. Of these perhaps 5,500 are students, and perhaps
1,000 are academics; however the overwhelming majority are practising
engineers without direct access to the big deal schemes being
formulated by major publishers for an academic audience. The pricing
structure of these schemes is beyond the budget of a relatively
small Institution such as ours, and discussions with most publishers
to negotiate a realistic budget figure have largely been unsuccessful.
The range of titles we are interested in is too small and the
general demand for civil engineering titles too low to encourage
publishers to take an interest in our sector. Discussions have
focussed on absolute membership numbers rather than the numbers
of likely users of the journals on a daily basis. These figures
may be realistic in an academic environment, but not where many
of the potential audience are out on site or involved in management
rather than project research. The pricing structure takes no account
of the fact much of the research in the journals is generated
out of public funds. The Institution of Civil Engineers manages
to make its business work charging significantly less than purely
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?
There are very few e-journals in the civil engineering
sector. ICE believes that the refereed journals the Institution
publish are fairly priced, and are not the target of the movement
for open-access journals and will remain a reasonable benchmark
It is evident however that many academics resent
the way in which commercial publishers exploit their work, and
fail to disseminate it effectively. It is the refereeing process
that gives the commercial academic journals credibility, encouraging
a refereeing system that matches RAE expectations for open access
e-journals would be of general benefit. Those publishers investing
heavily in electronic dissemination such as Elsevier may well
be able to keep academics on side, but those who are making large
mark ups for electronic products with little added value, are
likely to lose subscribers and should be penalised by RAEs accordingly.
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?
It would appear that recent attempts by the
British Library to satisfy copyright concerns of rights holders
in e-publications have been reasonably successful. Smaller organisations
such as ourselves are however experiencing problems with e-delivery
due to the structuring of our firewalls.
What impact will trends in academic journal publishing
have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
E-publishing and scanning and web-publishing
make it all but impossible to prevent pirating of intellectual
copyright. However the recent changes to copyright law, which
mean that libraries such as ours have to both pay a premium for
e-subscriptions but also levy an additional commercial copying
charge on our members are likely to encourage breaches of the
law. Most researchers are keen to have their ideas propagated,
but unrealistic charging policies by publishers are likely to
mean they will lose both credit and income.
Some commercial publishers are devoting considerable
resources in digitising our "literary" heritage, and
selling it at considerable cost, beyond the resources of most
libraries outside consortia. These publishers are likely to dictate
what is to be made available, and its price.
While civil engineering is a small sector in
terms of its "literary" heritage, and thus unlikely
to command the attention of these major digitisation initiatives,
it is an important sector in the UK economy. More than 40% of
construction expenditure is in maintenance and renewal; there
is thus a strong case for digitising relevant older civil engineering
publications. The ICE have digitised their own publications, and
offer these collections at considerably lower prices than purely
commercial publishers (the Institution's regular journal prices
are also <50% of comparable journal published by the larger
non-institutional commercial sector).
A national strategy for the nation's electronic
library of the future should be developed as soon as possible
to ensure that the only gateway to our nation's heritage is not
through profit-motivated multi-nationals, but rather more freely
available through "libraries".