Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM)

  Founded in 1968, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) is a global organisation of over 100 scholarly and professional publishers. STM's membership includes both commercial and non-commercial publishers of all sizes from the UK and Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. Its headquarters are in The Hague.

  STM welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Select Committee on Science and Technology's inquiry into scientific publications. We have had the benefit of seeing the detailed submission already made by The Publishers Association and warmly endorse the points made. Meanwhile, we hope that the following additional comments will be helpful to the Committee.

  The present international system of STM publishing has developed over centuries, in tandem with science itself, and the needs of the scientific and medical worlds. It is estimated that there are currently over 2,000 STM publishers worldwide, who between them publish over 1.2 million articles annually via 16,000 peer-reviewed scholarly and learned journals. As new scientific disciplines emerge, new STM journals are produced to publish their new research findings, so in times—like the present day—of rapidly expanding and developing research there are more and more STM journals with an increasing number of articles in each one. The journals each compete for the best and most topical articles from leading scientific authors, so STM publishing is a highly competitive market, both internationally and in the UK. This is a healthy environment for science itself, and for individual researchers, who have a wide choice of publishing outlets for their work. The UK's Office of Fair Trading confirmed this in the results of its September 2002 review, concluding that "the overall market is fragmented, with the top six publishers accounting for just 37% of rated journals and 44% of articles . . . for now it would not be appropriate for the OFT to intervene in the market."

  One feature of such an open, free market is innovation. In our Statement of November 2003 (attached to this submission), we pointed out that STM publishers in recent years

    "have leveraged emerging technologies and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to make more scientific research information available to more people than ever before. In the process, we have developed—and continue to develop—innovative and accessible business models to broaden information access."

  Examples, such as consortia licensing and pay-per-view, are set out in the Statement.

  Many STM publishers are investing in the provision of long-term archival access to this vital body of research, increasingly via electronic archives, cross-referenced and cross-linked for scholarly use.

  STM publishers also play a crucial role in maintaining and supervising the independence and academic quality of the articles published, via the peer-review system. No article is published unless it has been peer-reviewed by the editorial board of the relevant journal, or another reviewer commissioned by them, which ensures that not only academic quality, but also accuracy and objectivity are maintained, so that publication in the journal concerned is independently validated and authenticated to the world at large. These are thus crucial scientific hallmarks, which STM publishers have been instrumental in developing over many generations.

  STM publishers act as neutral guardians of the peer-review system (and, additionally, provide an essential filter for any illegality such as copyright infringement, or libel). By providing truly independent funding for the entire publishing system, STM publishers avoid any perception of bias in the acceptance of papers, which could raise serious issues of academic independence.

  STM welcomes new and innovative publishing models, including open access, but any new business model must be tested by the standards set out above for scientific publishing. Time should be allowed for the necessary testing to take place in the rigours of a free-market environment, that is free of any distorting form of state preference or subsidy. As we said in our November Statement:

    "Abandoning the diversity of proven publishing models in favour of a single, untested model could have disastrous consequences for the scientific research community. It could seriously jeopardise the flow of information today, as well as continuity of the archival record of scientific progress that is to important to our society tomorrow."

February 2004

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