Memorandum from the Medical Research Council
(MRC) on the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee
Inquiry into: Scientific Publications
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?
1. While the state of open-access publication
is in flux, the MRC does not wish to be too prescriptive about
what researchers should or should not do. Current grant regulations
encourage recipients of MRC funding to publish their research
as widely as possible but we leave it to the researcher to decide
in which journals to publish. It is primarily up to the Universities
or MRC Units to decide the number of subscription journals that
they pay for and the method their staff choose for dissemination
of research findings.
2. The MRC has recently amended the regulations
for its grant schemes to confirm that grant-holders may use the
indirect costs provided with MRC grants, but not the direct costs,
for the charges associated with open-access publishing. MRC Units
may use their budgets for this purpose also.
3. Under any free access scheme it is envisaged
that journals may in future charge even higher fees to counter-balance
the reduction in subscription fees. If the MRC were to pay these
directly, there could be cost implications, though it is difficult
to predict what these would be.
4. Overall, the MRC is committed to the
research it funds being as widely available as possible, whilst
allowing scientists freedom to decide how to put this into effect.
Moreover, worthwhile dissemination of research is also dependent
on effective peer review. The current system has evolved to balance
commercial considerations with the constraints of such review.
5. Some Learned Societies generate significant
income through publishing (which feeds back into UK science, for
example through fellowships and bursaries). While market forces
will essentially operate here, MRC would not want to say/do anything
that in itself would undermine the viability of Societies or the
good work that they do.
6. The MRC is now seeking the views of the
research community and others on how it might develop its publication
policy in this area.
The consultation is complementary to the MRC policy on data sharing
and preservation which is currently being developed. More details
are available on the data sharing and preservation web pages,
which include a draft statement on policy.
7. Specific questions being asked are:
Should it be MRC (and RCUK) policy
to encourage (or require) those we fund to publish in journals
that have an open-access policy?
If so, should this be immediate,
or from some specified date in the future?
Should there be a distinction in
MRC (and RCUK) publication policy between the results of basic
research (where there are no obvious immediate implications for
people), and research such as clinical trials, where there may
be immediate implications for people?
Is the phrase "immediately upon
initial publication" in point 2 of the definition of open-access
publishing realistic (it does not appear in the definition used
in the Berlin Declaration)? Might "after n (say three or
six) months" be more acceptable?
291 Details are on the MRC website at: http://www.mrc.ac.uk/index/public-interest/public-consultation/open_access-2.htm. Back