Wellcome Trust report on science publishing

From: Peter Suber <peters_at_earlham.edu>
Date: Wed, 1 Oct 2003 13:26:17 +0100

Re-posted from: https://mx2.arl.org/Lists/SPARC-OAForum/


A new report published today by the UK's leading biomedical research
charity reveals that the publishing of scientific research does not operate
in the interests of scientists and the public, but is instead dominated by
a commercial market intent on improving its market position.

Conducted by SQW the report, An economic analysis of scientific research
publishing, is one of the most comprehensive analyses of its kind and
provides an insight into a publishing industry which generates some 22
billion annually.

The report is published by the Wellcome Trust which plans to use this as a
first step in facilitating a dialogue between various players in the
scientific publishing field to address the concerns which the Trust has
regarding current publishing practices. The ultimate aim of this dialogue
would be to develop a publishing system that meets the needs of all
publishers, authors, academics and funders, and best promotes the public
good of scientific work that is, disseminate research outputs to all who
have an interest in them.

The report reveals an extremely complex market for scientific publishing,
influenced by a host of different players each with different
priorities. These include:

* Commercial publishers: working to secure and enhance their business position,
* Not-for-profit publishers, including Learned Societies: who seek a
satisfactory return on their journals in order to fulfil their broader
* Libraries: who have to purchase a wide portfolio of journals to meet the
needs of the academics they serve, but who do so on a limited, and
sometimes decreasing, budget,
* Academic researchers: whose primary concern is to disseminate their
research in reputable journals, regardless of their cost and accessibility.

Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "As a funder of
research, we are committed to ensuring that the results of the science we
fund are disseminated widely and are freely available to
all. Unfortunately, the distribution strategies currently used by many
publishers prevent this.

"We want to see a system in place that supports open and unrestricted
access to research outputs and we would like to encourage others to support
this principle. Today's report maps out the market as it stands and we
hope to use this as a way of starting a dialogue with others to join us in
finding a new model for the way we publish research, and one that satisfies
the needs of those involved."

The report highlights the merits of electronic publishing which is already
being utilised as a tool for improving the efficiency and accessibility of
research findings. Although previously regarded with suspicion by
academics who doubted quality control and the peer review process involved,
reservations about this form of publishing are gradually decreasing.

"Electronic publishing has transformed the way scientific research is
communicated," said Dr Mark Walport. "Take the Human Genome Project as an
example. The data from that project was made immediately available on the
world-wide web and could be used by everyone free of charge. It was the
absence of constraints and the ease of access that enabled us to reach vast
numbers of researchers in more than 100 countries.

"The model of the Human Genome Project need not be unique and it is the
principle of free access that we want to champion. The fundamental point
is that as a research funder we have to question whether it is right that
we, and others, are in the position of having to pay to read the results of
the research that we fund."

Media contact:
Noorece Ahmed
Wellcome Trust Media Office
Tel: 020 7611 8540

Notes to editors:
1. Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, An economic analysis of scientific
research publishing has been conducted by the economic development
consultants SQW.
2. The full report is available on the Wellcome Trust website:
3. The Wellcome Trust’s position statement in support of open access
publishing is available at:
[url to follow]
The Wellcome Trust is an independent, research funding charity, established
under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome in 1936. The Trust's mission is to
foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health.
Received on Wed Oct 01 2003 - 13:26:17 BST

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