Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Annex 1


  A.   Publishing initiatives

  1.  PubMedCentral (originally called E-Biomed) is an initiative, led by the US National Institutes for Health, which encourages publishers to deposit electronically copies of published papers in an archive where they are made freely available via the web[285]. PubMedCentral only contains articles that have already been published in existing journals. Although the initiative has extensive support from scientists, to date most publishers have refused to include their journals in PubMedCentral.

  2.  Highwire Press[286] is the online publisher for many learned society publishers, including some of those publishers unwilling to participate in PubMedCentral.

  3.  The Open Archives Initiative[287] encourages researchers to deposit copies of their papers as e-prints in a public repository. These can be linked so that a global search of repositories is easy to carry out. Many Universities have established repositories, as have the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (INIST—France). In physics, mathematics and computer science the arXiv repository is well-established (see Annex 4).

  4.  During 2003, publishers BioMed Central signed two agreements that have broadened the scope for biomedical open-access publishing in the UK: in March with the NHS, and in June with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Both deals mean that, subject to a flat fee from the NHS and JISC, article-processing charges are now waived for all NHS staff and UK higher education staff respectively when publishing in any of BioMed Central's 90-odd peer-reviewed journals in which all research content is free. However, although this initiative clearly has high-profile support, the volume of papers published is still quite low.

  B.   Institutional announcements and declarations

  5.  In addition to publishing initiatives, a number of recent institutional announcements and declarations are contributing to the debate, thereby accelerating the momentum in favour of open-access publication. These are listed below.

  6.  The Budapest Open-access Initiative (February 2002) is a manifesto that seeks to provide philosophical justification to the goal of generalising open-access to peer-reviewed journal literature, using two principal means: self-archiving and open-access journals.

  7.  The Bethesda Statement on open-access publishing (June 2003) is a declaration of intent that seeks to stimulate discussion on how best to achieve open-access to scientific literature. It incorporates a succinct draft definition, based on two key conditions[288], of open-access publication (since picked up by others—see below), as well as annexed statements from specific perspectives (ie academic institutions/funding agencies, publishers/libraries and scientific researchers). Most of the participants at the meeting that endorsed the statement were from the USA—although there was a small UK presence, notably the then Director-elect of the Wellcome Trust.

  8.  October 2003 saw the signature of the Berlin Declaration on open-access to knowledge in the sciences and humanities[289]. This notably commits the signatories "to promote the Internet as a functional instrument for a global scientific knowledge base and human reflection and to specify measures which research policy makers, research institutions, funding agencies, libraries, archives and museums need to consider." It reproduces the Bethesda's Statement definition of open-access publication (although importantly, it has removed the requirement to deposit material into a repository "immediately upon initial publication"). The initiative leading to the declaration was led by the Max Planck Institute and other German institutes, but the initial signatories also include other major international players, notably CNRS and INSERM from France. At this stage, there are no UK signatories, though some Research Council Chief Executives have been asked to sign it.

  9.  In the UK, November 2003, the Wellcome Trust issued a similar statement that also reproduces the Bethesda Statement's definition, including the requirement to deposit "immediately upon initial publication". The statement also commits the Trust to "meet the cost of publication charges including those for online-only journals for Trust-funded research by permitting Trust researchers to use contingency funds for this purpose."

  10.  Finally, on 30 January 2004, OECD science ministers[290] adopted a Declaration on access to research data from public funding, asking the OECD to take further steps towards proposing principles and guidelines on access to such research data; the proposals will be considered by the OECD Council at an unspecified future date. The declaration consists mostly of an outline of principles. Whilst calling for the "establishment of access regimes for digital research data from public funding", it does not specify what such regimes might be. Research Councils expect to input to any consultation leading to the formulation of the OECD proposals.

285   See Back

286   See Back

287   See Back

288   The Bethesda Statement defines an open-access publication as one that meets the following two conditions: Back

289   See Back

290   Lord Sainsbury signed on behalf of the UK. Back

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Prepared 20 July 2004