Re: Written evidence for UK Select Committee's Inquiry into Scientific Publications

From: Steve Hitchcock <>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 20:22:24 +0000

The comments below are addressed to the House of Commons Science and
Technology Committee's Inquiry into Scientific Publications, and are
intended to supplement earlier comments from Stevan Harnad by providing
a broader context that I hope makes clearer the connection between
e-publishing of journals and open access. The comments are based on a
copy of the press notice contained below, although I have so far been
unable to locate an official Web page with this notice.

The thrust of the committee's inquiry into scientific publications appears
to be towards examining the wider effects of e-publishing, with only part
of the inquiry focussing on the effects on prices and access to journals,
with a brief reference to open access journals.

The move to e-publishing of journals has largely been accomplished,
although it is well documented that this has not resolved all problems,
especially pricing problems, that were known to exist before e-publishing,
e.g. UK Office of Fair Trading, The market for scientific, technical
and medical journals, September 2002
Economic Analysis of Scientific Research Publishing, commissioned by the
Wellcome Trust, September, 2003

The industry is now moving forward, and there is consensus among all
those concerned with delivery of journals - publishers, libraries, and
researchers - that the *principal* issue is how to achieve *open access*
For researchers, as users and producers of the scientific
literature, the case for open access in undeniable

So the inquiry could make a vital contribution, with a view to helping
and informing those responsible for directing and funding research,
if it shifted its focus on to this issue, which has a direct bearing
on the committee's first concern, access to research results by all who
need or want to see it.

There are two means by which the peer-reviewed journal literature can
be made open access: by authors archiving copies of their published
papers within their university electronic (eprint) archives; and by
publishers adopting a new business model and producing open access
journals. This is the context in which my colleague, Stevan Harnad,
makes his comments below.

The first approach, university eprint archiving, has the advantage
that it is relatively easy and cost-effective to implement, with
the result that many eprint archives are appearing around the world
with relatively little impact on the existing publishing model. Most
publishers would happily claim to add significant value to any paper
simply archived by its author. The second approach, open access journals,
is currently promising in selected cases, but is unproven for the large
majority of publishers and journals.

So, author eprint archiving effectively offers the opportunity to achieve
universal open access for published papers quickly and sustainably
without forcing journals to adopt a new business model, which would be
slow and disruptive, while allowing those journals that can sustain a
new business model to do so.

Although the committee will discover that many people are expending
great energy on resolving this issue, it has the opportunity to make a
big impact at the very highest levels if it takes on the challenge of
exploring all aspects of open access, including university archiving and
not just journal publishing. In the end it will be society as a whole
that will benefit from making the right strategic decisions based on
the fullest information.

Steve Hitchcock
IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865

At 15:09 10/12/03 +0000, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>Written evidence for:
>The Science and Technology Committee's Inquiry into Scientific Publications
>The House of Commons Press Notice says:
> > The Committee will be looking at access to journals within
> > the scientific community, with particular reference to
> > price and availability. It will be asking what measures
> > are being taken in government, the publishing industry and
> > academic institutions to ensure that researchers, teachers
> > and students have access to the publications they need in
> > order to carry out their work effectively....
> >
> > 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?
>There are today 24,000 research journals (across all disciplines and
>languages, worldwide) publishing about 2,500,000 articles per year. There
>are currently about 600 open-access journals
>publishing about 75,000 articles per year.
>What about access to the 2,425,000 articles for which there exists no
>suitable open-access journal today? Should researchers wait for 23,400
>more open-access journals to be created one by one? It's likely to be
>a long, long wait!
>Yet there is another way to provide open access, immediately, and that
>is for the authors of those 2,425,000 articles in those 23,400 journals
>to self-archive them on their own institution's website. That will
>make them all open-access overnight. There are already three times as
>many articles that are made open-access yearly through self-archiving
>than through open-access publishing today. And fifty-five percent of
>the 24,000 journals, though not yet ready to take the risk of becoming
>open-access journals, are ready to serve the interests of research and
>researchers by formally supporting self-archiving by their authors;
>many of the remaining 45% of journals will also agree if asked:
>So why is the Science and Technology Committee inquiry into scientific
>publications considering only open access journals, rather than also
>considering, at least as seriously, mandating university-based provision of
>open access to their own (peer-reviewed, published) research output?
>The (UK portion of) at least 1,250,000 articles could be made
>open-access overnight. The longer we wait, the longer and bigger will be
>our growing daily, weekly, monthly and yearly loss of research impact
>because of access-denial to would-be users worldwide. (336% impact
>loss, according to Lawrence in Nature 2001): This represents a needless
>cumulative loss of research progress and productivity for researchers,
>their institutions, their funders, and ultimately for the tax-payers
>who fund the funders.
> Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003) Mandated
> online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives: Improving the
> UK Research Assessment Exercise whilst making it cheaper and easier.
> Ariadne.
> Harnad, S. (2003) Measuring and Maximising UK Research
> Impact. Times Higher Education Supplement. Friday, June 6 2003.
> Lawrence, S. (2001) Online or Invisible? Nature 411 (6837): 521.
>Stevan Harnad
>Professor of Cognitive Science
>Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
> Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
>University of Southampton
>Highfield, Southampton
> > Committee Office, House of Commons, No. 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA
> > Tel. Nos. 020 7219 2793-2794 (Fax. No. - 0896) email:
> > No. 3 of Session 2003-04, dated 10 December 2003
> > Scientific Publications
> > The Science and Technology Committee is to conduct an inquiry into
>scientific publications.
> > The Committee will be looking at access to journals within
>the scientific community, with particular reference to price and
>availability. It will be asking what measures are being taken in
>government, the publishing industry and academic institutions to ensure
>that researchers, teachers and students have access to the publications
>they need in order to carry out their work effectively. The inquiry will
>also examine the impact that the current trend towards e-publishing may
>have on the integrity of journals and the scientific process.
> > The Committee is inviting written evidence on the following points:
> > * 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?
> > * What action should Government, academic institutions and
>publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific
> > * 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?
> > * 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?
> > * What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have
>on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice?
> > The Committee would welcome written evidence from interested
>organisations and individuals addressing these points. Evidence should
>be submitted by Thursday 12 February 2003. The oral evidence sessions
>will begin in March.
> > In announcing the inquiry, the Chairman of the Committee, Ian Gibson MP,
>said "Journals are at the heart of the scientific process. Researchers,
>teachers and students must have easy access to scientific publications at
>a fair price. Scientific journals need to maintain their credibility and
>integrity as they move into the age of e-publication. The Committee will
>have some very tough questions for publishers, libraries and government
>on these issues."
> > Evidence should be sent in hard copy to the Clerk of the Science
>and Technology Committee, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA. Please
>send an electronic version also, in Word format, via e-mail to
> or on disk. Guidance on the submission of
>evidence can be found at
> > Further information on the work of the Committee can be obtained from
>Committee staff on 020 7219 2793/4.
> > Previous press notices and publications are
>available on the Committee's internet homepage:
> > Notes for Editors
> > Under the terms of Standing Order No. 152 the Committee is
>empowered to examine the expenditure, policy and administration of the
>Office of Science and Technology and its associated public bodies_at_. The
>Committee was appointed on 12 November 2001.
Received on Wed Dec 10 2003 - 20:22:24 GMT

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