Memorandum from the Royal Pharmaceutical
Society of Great Britain
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain
is the regulatory and professional body for pharmacists in Great
Britain. It has responsibilities in relation to the education,
registration, conduct and practice of pharmacists, and it register
and inspects pharmacies. The Society is also a Chartered body
with objects concerning the advancement of science and the application
of pharmaceutical knowledge.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society welcomes the
opportunity to respond to this enquiry. It does so in several
as a modern regulator that seeks
to maintain standards of education in the MPharm degree course
through the quality of the pharmacy undergraduate degree courses;
as a modern regulator that requires
its members to undertake life-long learning;
as a professional body that seeks
to help members have ready access to quality source material;
as a body committed to the advancement
of science through research and the publication of research.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is also a publisher
of scientific journals.
The enquiry invites respondents to address the
information needs of researchers, teachers and students in the
academic environment. The Society would be concerned if the shift
towards electronic publishing were found to have any adverse effect
on the opportunities for access by academics to scientific journals.
It has therefore consulted its relevant members to establish is
this is likely to be so.
The information it has received suggests that
overall the shift towards increased electronic publishing has
had a beneficial effect upon the ease of access to scientific
journals by both students and academic staff. They see electronic
publishing as a positive and very useful development.
The shift towards electronic publishing does
have important financial consequences for libraries, including
the Society's own library, and this is addressed further in the
response to Question 2.
Another issue concerns the potential impact
of electronic publishing on the quality of scientific publications.
There appears to be no suggestion that articles published electronically
would be treated any differently from those published in paper
format. All articles would, it appears, continue to be subject
to the peer review process before publication, irrespective of
format. The only departure from this tried and tested method might
be the appearance of new sites of publishing, such as university
or departmental sites, or sites set up by individuals.
Articles published on such sites may not have been subject to
peer review. However, serious scientists would disregard such
sources, which would not themselves have Impact Factors, and so
this is not a great concern at this time.
The Society would like to draw to the attention
of the Committee the continuing needs of pharmacists and other
healthcare professionals, once they have left their academic institutions,
to quality scientific literature. Students are well served while
they are undergraduates but in their capacities as healthcare
professionals working as community pharmacists (particularly)
or as hospital pharmacists their access to the scientific literature
is severely limited or non-existent. As this matter is not within
the remit of the present enquiry, this point is not elaborated
further here. However, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society would
like to see the matter of access to the quality scientific literature
by practising health professionals addressed at some future date.
1. 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 Society is a relatively small purchaser
of scientific publications and is not generally able to benefit
from "big deal schemes". In addition, the Society buys
journals within a relatively small defined and focused subject
area and this is not the type of purchasing pattern that the schemes
are set up for. Therefore the Society does not have experience
of the operation of these schemes.
One concern is as follows. If the "big
deal schemes" become more commonplace, and competition drives
down the returns from these schemes, then publishers may seek
to increase further their income from the sale of "must have"
journals to the professional and learned societies that do not
have access to the "big deal schemes". The effect will
be to place a further burden on these organisations as they seek
to maintain their core collections of the key journals.
The price increases for scientific journals
year-on-year have greatly exceeded the rate of inflation and the
Society's library has been unable to maintain the range of journals
to which it subscribes. This does limit the access of its research
community to research and potentially has an adverse effect on
2. What action should Government, academic
institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive
market in scientific publications?
The Society, like other professional bodies,
buys specific leading journals in the relevant, specialist areas.
It buys specialist journals in pharmacy and the pharmaceutical
sciences and has to pay the rate set by the publisher. The purchases
must also takes account of the need to hold continuous runs of
key journals and so the Society does not lightly switch its selection
of journals year-by-year. Therefore the publisher has, in effect,
a "captive market" for the more prestigious or specialist
journals and competition is not applicable. With the type of buying
pattern that the Society has, it is difficult to see how increased
competition could be introduced. A move towards a mixture of "free
to publish" to "open access" may place a limit
on the burgeoning cost of journal subscriptions.
3. 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?
Because the Research Assessment Exercise is
based in part on publications deriving from the departments and
institutions, it is vital that peer-reviewed papers published
in open-access journals and subscription journals are treated
equally. Citationa key measureis not affected by
the access route to the journal articles.
A change from "free to publish" to
"open access" may have implications for the ability
of some scientists to publish their work. "Open access"
journals derive their income from charges made for publication,
and so ability to publish is based on an ability to pay for publication.
We understand that the trend is for some major academic institutions
to purchase "corporate licences" that allow staff of
those institutions to publish at no charge to the researcher.
This would give these researchers a clear advantage over colleagues
in another institution that did not have a corporate licence.
The effect over time is likely to be to skew
further the distribution of research funding to those institutions
that are more successful in the Research Assessment Exercise,
with a possibility that some departments could become "teaching-only"
units. Such a development would cause the Society great concern.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society's requirements
for the accreditation of pharmacy degree courses include a statement
that teaching is conducted in a "research-aware" environment,
that is, one in which a number of the academic staff are actively
engaged in research. The Society believes that without academic
staffs who are research-active it will be difficult to achieve
or sustain teaching that is informed and enlivened by research
endeavour and findings.
Any further skewing of the distribution of research funding could
undermine this requirement for accreditation.
A move from "free to publish" to "open
access" would result in the cost of publication of research
findings moving from libraries (journal subscriptions) to those
bodies that fund research. The government should encourage research
councils to fully reflect the increased costs associated with
the publication of the results of research supported by them in
the level of research support they provide to individual research
There is no reason why "open access"
journals should not achieve the same status as "free to publish"
journals, through time, but this development will be governed
by the scientific community and there would seem to be no role
for government here.
Some research is funded by industry and this
funding could include payment for the publication of research
papers resulting from the work in "open access" journals.
However, the Society sees no reason to believe that a change in
the publishing model in itself would affect the probity of publication
of papers that would have been peer-reviewed.
4. 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?
The Society is not aware of any problem about
access to electronic versions of publications.
5. What impact will trends in academic journal
publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
The greatest safeguard against malpractice has
been the system of peer review and this has served well, with
few exceptions, over the years. It is not clear if all "open-access"
journals currently do, or would continue to, operate a peer review
process. It would be important for readers of open access journals
to be able to establish that the journal concerned published only
peer-reviewed papers. Similarly, the status of "pre-prints"
published on the Internet should be made clear to the reader.
This is, however, a matter for the journal publishers and the
scientific community as a whole.
299 The MPharm degree course is the required course
that is undertaken by all individuals seeking to achieve registration
as a UK pharmacist. Back
There has recently been introduced the "Blogging Network"
(see http://www.blogginnetwork.com) that allows individuals to
post articles on the Web without establishing a home-page/URL. Back
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society response to the consultation
by the UK funding bodies on the review by Sir Gareth Roberts.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society response is at http://www.rpsgb.org.uk/pdfs/ukfundbodreview.pdf Back