Memorandum from the Council for the Central
Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) on the House of Commons
Science and Technology Select Committee Inquiry into scientific
A. 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?
1. Scientific journals are a highly specialised
resource: a particular title is only available from its publisher
and they are not interchangeable. An important part of journal
production is the peer-review system which ensures the quality
of the article and the publisher recoups the costs of this by
the cover price. Researchers use these journals to publish their
findings, discover and challenge other people's findings and to
further the development of their science. They are an important
and necessary part of scholarly communication.
2. This process forms a monopoly with no
market to restrict price rises. Scientific journals have a year-on-year
inflation rate of 7%-10% without taking currency fluctuations
into account. CCLRC Library and Information Service (CCLRC LIS)
has a budget of one million pounds of which 45% is spent on academic
journals. The average price for 2003 journals was £780 per
title, but the price of title ranges from £27 pa to £16,932
pa. Although the Library and Information Services are an important
facility to CCLRC, they are an overhead, and as such, the budget
does not increase at the rate that the journals portfolio does.
This situation has led to cuts in journal titles that the Library
professionals know are actively used.
3. There are several reasons for this higher
rate of inflation. Firstly, the amount of material published increases
significantlypartly through the "pressure to publish"
and partly because there is just much more scientific research.
Secondly, the trend to reduce the subscriptions to print journals
in favour of electronic subscriptions (or joint print-electronic
subscriptions) reduces the income without reducing significantly
the costs of publishing (the print costs are a relatively small
proportion of the total costs of publication). Many libraries
that used to take multiple print copies now take only one print
copy (and may not even place that on open display) and electronic
access. However, electronic publications attract 17.5% VAT, whereas
print publications are zero rated. This distinction has a considerable
impact on budgets. Every effort should be made to bring about
zero rating for electronic publications.
4. CCLRC LIS has signed up for two multi-year
and multi-journal deals: one with Elsevier and one with the American
Chemical Society. Both provide electronic access to more titles
than CCLRC subscribes to in print, but both have a no-cancellation
clause. This has lead to uneven cancellation of titles to make
the budget balance. The result is that the little-used Elsevier
and ACS titles must remain in our portfolio when the more popular
titles by other publishers are cancelled. The Elsevier deal was
a five-year deal and although it was a good buy when we took it
out, four years into the deal it is restricting our collection
development. The result for researchers and facility visitors
is that there is a reduced range of relevant subscribed journals
although there is more access to titles by certain publishers.
One of the pressures to provide electronic access is the quicker
access to publications, as online electronic versions are often
released before print copies are produced and circulated. This
pressure can lead to acceptance of less than ideal contractual
5. The CCLRC LIS response to this is to
investigate document delivery which provides access to the research
at the article level rather than at the journal level. CCLRC has
also noted that several prestigious American Universities, among
them Harvard and Cornell, have now opted out of the Elsevier deal
for the very reasons mentioned above, and are now paying only
for the individual titles they require. CCLRC LIS will also be
avoiding in future multi-year deals with individual publishers,
especially those with non-cancellation clauses, to ensure that
CCLRC can respond on a yearly basis to its community's changing
needs in a much more flexible manner.
6. There are some implications in the change
in publication of academic journals for the learned societies
(in the UK and elsewhere, particularly the US). For many years,
the learned societies have tried to make a modest "profit"
on the publication of academic journals, which has been used to
promote the aims of the society.
B. What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
7. Wherever practicable, the journals of
not for profit organisations, such as the Physical Review series
from the American Institute of Physics and the Journal of Physics
series from the Institute of Physics, should be supported. Also
there should be encouragement of initiatives like SPARC (Scholarly
Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an alliance of universities
and research libraries which seeks to change current publishing
models, driving down the cost of journals and breaking down socially
divisive barriers, by providing low cost print versions.
8. A key issue where producer and consumer
interest need to be balanced in the CCLRC is the emergence of
the open-access model of scientific publishing. Open-access journals
are free at the point of use but recover their costs by charging
those who wish to publish. This is gaining considerable momentum
and political support on both sides of the Atlantic, for instance
from the Wellcome Trust, Max Planck Society, CNRSsee the
Berlin Declaration (Annex 1 paragraph 8). It is driven partly
by the move to electronic publishing and partly by a community
response to restrictive practices by some commercial publishers
(especially Elsevier). This is an important development but has
consequences for authors by way of page/paper charges. Many authors
are required to present their manuscript in "camera ready"
format. This charge could lead to a "postcode publishing
system" where universities and institutes which are short
of cash will not be able to afford the page charge. Scientists
in developing countries will have no chance whatsoever.
9. Traditional page charges and journal
subscriptions will co-exist with publication charges per article
and corporate subscriptions to open-access publishing schemes.
Organisations may wish to review the roles of libraries and research
departments and their financial responsibilities to ensure that
new costing models can be incorporated. The changing models of
financing publication of articles will affect budgetary arrangements
throughout the scientific community.
10. A further important change to publishing
is the development of institutional archives where the author
places a copy of the published work in a system belonging to the
institution for which they work. A bar to this new model is that
not all publishers allow authors to retain the rights to the electronic
copy. All organisations that publish should encourage their authors
to retain the electronic copyright of the accepted publication,
thus making it legally possible to put them into institutional
repositories. A recent breakthrough in this area is that the journal
Nature has agreed to allow authors to post articles published
in Nature on their own institutional website in pdf (see paragraph
11. It could be envisaged at some point
in the future that budgets which had paid for journal subscriptions
in the past would use them in the future to maintain and develop
institutional repositories. However, if the current journals budget
in the CCLRC of around £450k were restricted to open-access
publishing, this would equate to around 750 papers. On top of
this would be the additional cost of running our institutional
repository. CCLRC would then have to rely on all the high impact,
important journals needed to transfer to the open-access publishing
model. Also, if the library budget were to be reduced, this might
lead us to restricting CCLRC's publications output. To avoid this
CCLRC would be forced to move away from a central library and
put the burden of scholarly communication/publishing/access costs
on the departments.
12. It is also worth mentioning the development
of e-print libraries, such as arXiv (see Annex 4). These bypass
publishers and potentially could replace journals. Access is free
and in some fields provides the best source of material. In some
subjects, these are very much the preferred form of publication,
and they serve adequately the current research needs. However,
despite more than 10 years experience with such systems, it is
still too early to judge whether the issues of access to the historical
archive have been solved. Some of these archives are maintained
by organizations on a "best efforts" basis. Whereas
a print journal on a library shelf remains accessible even when
the publisher has gone out of business, the electronic journal
is lost if the host similarly goes out of business, or if the
current software is no longer able to "read" the stored
C. 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?
13. It is critical for researchers that
their work is published in the best (highest impact factor) journal
and therefore these open-access journals, as long as there is
peer-review, must be included in any exercise which judges the
worth of scientific output. It is important to stress that it
is the academic "marketplace" that determines the impact
factor of journals. In some subjects, theoretical particle physics
being just one, the impact of a paper is very much determined
by the time of its appearance on the preprint servers, almost
independent of where the article is finally published. In other
subjects, the attention which a submitted paper receives depends
to a large extent on the prestige and circulation of the journal
in which it is published. For example in the field of space physics,
the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR) or Geophysical Research
Letters are prestigious places to publish if you want to ensure
that your research reaches a top-level audience in both the US
and Europe. In part the problem is with the US, where non-US journals
tend not to be read. Annales Geophysicae (the leading European
journal) is at least as prestigious as JGR, but because the US
community tends not to read it, articles that are published there
can be under-publicised relative to articles published in JGR.
If open-access publishing is to be really effective the whole
scientific world has to buy into it. It would be counter-productive
if the CCLRC adopted a policy that its staff should publish in
open-access journals or institutional archives if nobody is reading
them ! Likewise if we abandoned subscriptions to established print
journals which still represented the leading forum for scientific
publication in a given field that would be just as counter-productive.
The problem might be solved in time with the emergence of a few
highly reputable open-access journals which the international
community will read, and the rest will be ignored.
D. 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
14. The British Library, one of the Legal
Deposit Libraries, is starting to provide articles in electronic
form and it is providing a useful service. It is in competition
with other document delivery services.
15. The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003
came into force on 1 January 2004. The British Library is reviewing
its processes for acquiring categories of material not covered
by previous legislation, including offline (ie hand-held items
such as CD-ROM) and online electronic publications. This will
be done in line with specific Regulations to be brought forward
under the new Act.
16. However Legal Deposit Libraries are
there to collect and preserve material published within the UK
and most scientific publishers are not based within the UK. Individual
non-UK publishers may choose to deposit their non-print publications
voluntarily, which would then be subject to the British Library's