Re: UK Select Committee Inquiry into Scientific Publication

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2004 18:42:59 +0100

> From Peter Suber's Open Access News
> More on the UK inquiry
> On Tuesday, July 20, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology
> Committee
> will issue its report
> Scientific Publications: Free for all? Those who gave written or oral
> testimony may request embargoed copies of the report in advance. At
> 10:00 am London time the committee will hold a press conference at the
> British Library. (Thanks to David Prosser.)

The parliamentary select committee's original prospectus focussed almost
entirely on the publication system and its costs, rather than on Open
Access and how it can be provided:

Here is our own submission:

Written Evidence to UK Select Committee on Science and Technology

Dr. Les Carr (Southampton)
Professor Dave DeRoure (Southampton)
Professor Stevan Harnad (Southampton)
Dr. Jessie Hey (Southampton)
Professor Tony Hey (eScience)
Dr. Steve Hitchcock (Southampton)
Professor Charles Oppenheim (Loughborough)

The UK should maximise the benefits to the British tax-payer from the
research it funds by strongly encouraging not only (as it does now) that
all findings should be published, but also that open access to them
should be provided, for all potential users, through either of the two
available means: (1) publishing them in open-access journals (whenever
suitable ones exists) (5%) and (2) publishing the rest (95%) in
toll-access journals whilst also self-archiving them publicly on their
own university's website.

Scientists do research to create new findings -- to be applied to
improving people's lives and to be used by other scientists to create
still more new findings. If would-be users of those findings cannot
access them, then they cannot be applied or used. Inaccessible research
may as well not have been conducted at all.

UK research is funded by the British tax-payer. The researcher is paid
to conduct the research and to publish the findings in peer-reviewed
journals, but whether would-be users can access those findings depends
on whether or not their universities can afford to pay the tolls
(subscription, site-license) for access to the journals in which they
are published.

No university can afford access to anywhere near all research journals
(there are 24,000 in all, publishing 2,500,000 articles per year), and
most universities can only afford access to a small and shrinking
fraction of them.

A partial solution is to create "open-access" journals that cover their
costs by charging the author-institution per article (to peer-review and
publish it), instead of charging the user-institutions for access to it.
But fewer than 1000 open-access journals exist so far, publishing only
about 100,000 (5%) of the 2,500,000 articles published yearly.

The solution for the rest of those articles (95%) is for the authors'
own institutions to provide open access to them for all the would-be
users whose universities cannot afford the access-tolls of the journals
in which they are published -- by "self-archiving" them on their own
university websites.

The effect will be to maximise the visibility, impact and usage of UK
research and its benefits to the British tax-payer who funds it.

This is followed by the longer (optional) annex at:

Since then, we have forumaletd the Declaration of Institutional Commitment
to implementing the Budapest Open Access Initiative the Berlin Declaration
on open-access provision and the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan
of Action:
If the Select Committee were to recommend adopting something like the
above, it would be a useful outcome. Favourable words about Open Access,
the problem of journal cost, and the need to encourage and provide funds
for publishing in Open Access journals will be welcome, but in and of
themselves they would achieve little.
Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Jul 10 2004 - 18:42:59 BST

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