Summary and excerpts from the UK report

From: Peter Suber <>
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 15:55:48 +0100

At one minute past midnight on July 20, the UK House of Commons Science
and Technology Committee released the long-awaited report on its inquiry
into journal prices and open access (about 90 minutes ago).

Here's my summary of the major recommendations:

(1) The government should provide funds for all UK universities to
launch open-access institutional repositories.

(2) Authors of articles based on government-funded research should
deposit copies in their institutional repositories.

(3) The government should appoint a "central body" to oversee the launch
of the institutional repositories, their networking needs, and their
compliance with "technical standards needed to provide maximum
functionality" (presumably the OAI metadata harvesting protocol).

(4) The government should create a fund to help authors pay the
processing fees charged by open-access journals. The committee is not
yet ready to endorse the upfront funding model for OA journals (which it
calls the "author-pays" model), but wants to create such a fund in order
to promote further experimentation with the model.

(5) The government should develop a wider, long-term open-access
strategy, including open-access journals, "as a matter of urgency".

(6) Universities should develop their "capacity to manage" the
copyrights that faculty will increasingly retain in the future.

(7) These steps can and should be undertaken without jeopardizing
"rigorous and independent peer review".

(8) The government should fund the British Library to take on the
long-term preservation of digital scholarship.

(9) Because the market for science and scholarship is international, the
government should "act as a proponent for change on the international
stage and lead by example".

The full report (a 118 page PDF file) will soon be available at the
committee's page of reports,

What follows below the line is a verbatim excerpt from the report. This
section spells out the committee's specific recommendations and the its
responses to the major arguments presented in the oral and written

     Peter Suber

----------cut here----------

Excerpt from Scientific Publications: Free for All?, House of Commons
Science and Technology Committee, July 20, 2004, pp. 98-107.

Conclusions and recommendations

1. It is discouraging that the Government does not yet appear to have
given much consideration to balancing the needs of the research
community, the taxpayer and the commercial sectors for which it has
responsibility. (Paragraph 22)

2. We are convinced that the amount of public money invested in
scientific research and its outputs is sufficient to merit Government
involvement in the publishing process. Indeed, we would be very
surprised if Government did not itself feel the need to account for its
investment in the publishing process. We were disappointed by how little
thought has been given to the issues within Government thus far and hope
that this Report will prove to be a catalyst for change. (Paragraph 24)

3. The backdrop of international interest and momentum for change sets
the scene for the UK Government to take a lead in establishing an
efficient and sustainable environment for the publication of research
findings. (Paragraph 25)

4. We will give a copy of this Report to the UK delegates to the
Culture, Science and Education Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe. We hope that the Committee will pursue the
issues raised here, both within the Council of Europe and on a wider
international stage. (Paragraph 28)

5. The British Library's Document Supply Service is an efficient and
cost-effective method of providing access to articles in scientific
journals. The decline in demand for Document Supply notwithstanding, we
are persuaded that the service provides a valuable alternative route for
users who would not otherwise have access to the journals that they
needed. We recommend that the Government takes steps to protect the
service. (Paragraph 31)

6. We are not convinced that the publisher practice of granting each
subscriber access to a set number of digital "copies" of a journal is
either effective or necessary. We recommend that the Joint Information
Systems Committee strongly argues the case against such restrictive
practices when it negotiates the terms for the next national site
licence with publishers. (Paragraph 32)

7. We congratulate the Medical Research Council on its support of the
principle that primary research data should be made available to the
scientific community for subsequent research. We recommend that the
Research Councils consider providing funds to enable researchers to
publish their primary data alongside their research findings, where
appropriate. (Paragraph 33)

8. All researchers, regardless of the nature of their institution,
should be granted access to the scientific journals they need to carry
out their work effectively. (Paragraph 35)

9. We recommend that the Joint Information Systems Committee and the NHS
work together to implement joint procurement procedures that reflect the
close working patterns of NHS and the higher education sector and
represent value for money for both. (Paragraph 36)

10. Teaching is a crucial university function. Universities should be
permitted, within reason, to derive maximum value from the digital
journals to which they subscribe by using them for legitimate teaching
purposes. We recommend that future licensing deals negotiated by the
Joint Information Systems Committee explicitly include provisions to
enable journal articles, whether print or digital, to be used for
teaching purposes. (Paragraph 38)

11. It is not for either publishers or academics to decide who should,
and who should not, be allowed to read scientific journal articles. We
are encouraged by the growing interest in research findings shown by the
public. It is in society's interest that public understanding of science
should increase. Increased public access to research findings should be
encouraged by publishers, academics and Government alike. (Paragraph 40)

12. We are not convinced that journal articles are consistently
available to members of the public through public libraries. (Paragraph

13. Digitisation should facilitate, not restrict access. We recommend
that the next national site licence negotiated by the Joint Information
Systems Committee explicitly provides for all library users without an
Athens password to access the digital journals stocked by their library.
(Paragraph 44)

14. Publishers are to be commended for signing up to laudable schemes
such as HINARI, AGORA and INASP-PERI. We hope that the provision of free
and low- cost access to scientific publications for institutions and
researchers in developing countries will continue to be a significant
aspect of the way that they conduct their businesses. (Paragraph 47)

15. The digitisation of journals has the potential to greatly increase
access to research findings for researchers in the developing world.
(Paragraph 48)

16. We recommend that the Joint Information Systems Committee develop an
independent set of measures, agreed by subscribers and publishers alike,
to monitor trends in journal pricing. This will help exert pressure on
the publishing industry to self-regulate more effectively and will give
libraries and other users greater knowledge when they are deciding which
subscriptions to take. (Paragraph 53)

17. It is not for us to pronounce on the acceptability of the profit
margins secured by private sector companies. Nonetheless, high publisher
profit margins need to be set against the context of faltering library
budgets and an impending crisis in STM journals provision. Cancelled
journal subscriptions due to pressures on library budgets will have a
negative impact on publishers. It is thus in everybody's interest for
profit margins to be kept at a reasonable and sustainable level. We urge
publishers to act on the recommendations of this Report to address these
issues. (Paragraph 54)

18. Government invests a significant amount of money in scientific
research, the outputs of which are expressed in terms of journal
articles. It is accountable for this expenditure to the public. We were
dismayed that the Government showed so little concern about where public
money ended up. (Paragraph 55)

19. We recommend that the Joint Information Systems Committee ensure
that provision for continuing access in the event of cancellation to
articles published during the subscription period is written into its
next national licensing deal. (Paragraph 61)

20. Increasing usage rates do not equate to an increased ability for
libraries to pay for journal bundles. The recent availability of usage
statistics should not be used as a justification for publishers to raise
their prices. (Paragraph 66)

21. Although libraries may aspire to provide access to every scientific
journal, they cannot afford to do this. It is inevitable that difficult
choices between a number of journals with lower usage rates and impact
factors will have to be made. Nonetheless, these decisions should be
made in response to local user needs rather than as a side effect of
bundling. (Paragraph 67)

22. Current levels of flexibility within the journal bundle do not
present libraries with value for money. Whilst we accept that unbundling
STM information carries risks for the main commercial publishers, only
when flexible bundled deals are made available will libraries achieve
value for money on their subscriptions. Furthermore, although we
recognise that bundled deals may be advantageous to libraries in certain
circumstances, we are concerned about the potential impact bundling may
have on competition, given limited library budgets and sustained STM
journal price growth. (Paragraph 68)

23. Publishers should publicly acknowledge the contribution of unpaid
peer reviewers to the publishing process. We recommend that they provide
modest financial rewards to the departments in which the reviewers are
based. These rewards could be fed back into the system, helping to fund
seminars or further research. (Paragraph 70)

24. We do not doubt the central importance of peer review to the STM
publishing process. Nonetheless, we note a tendency for publishers to
inflate the cost to them of peer review in order to justify charging
high prices. This lack of transparency about actual costs hampers
informed debate about scientific publishing. (Paragraph 76)

25. We applaud the development by publishers of new technologies for
digital journals. Innovative products such as ScienceDirect have brought
increased functionality to researchers and users, making journals a more
valuable research tool. (Paragraph 78)

26. We are persuaded that the costs to publishers associated with
digitisation will reduce over time. Consequently, we would no longer
expect these costs to be used as a justification for steep increases in
prices. In the meantime we are concerned that financially powerful STM
publishers may be using their strength during this digital transition
period to make excessive profits whilst the going is good (Paragraph 79)

27. We believe that publishers should make it clear to subscribers what
services and costs are and are not covered by the overall subscription
price, enabling libraries and other users to weigh up the costs and
benefits of taking out the subscription. We urge the Joint Information
Systems Committee and other buying bodies to press for greater
transparency in this area. (Paragraph 80)

28. Like the Office of Fair Trading, we are not entirely convinced by
the cost- justification argument employed by publishers to explain
rising prices. Publishers undoubtedly add value to the scientific
process, but they also profit from it. (Paragraph 83)

29. It is not enough for the Government departments involved to declare
themselves to be aware of the problems surrounding the imposition of VAT
on digital, but not print, publications. As the issue is so critical to
the adequate provision of scientific publications and to reaping the
full anticipated benefits from digitisation, we recommend that DTI, DfES
and DCMS all make a strong case to HM Customs and Excise for a change to
the existing VAT regime. (Paragraph 86)

30. We recommend that HM Customs and Excise make strong and immediate
representations within the European Commission to bring about the
introduction of a zero rate VAT relief for digital journals, in line
with the zero rate currently charged on print journals. (Paragraph 88)

31. We recommend that HM Customs and Excise exempt libraries from the
VAT currently payable on digital publications whilst it negotiates for a
more permanent solution within the EU. (Paragraph 89)

32. Because library budgets generally have a fixed ceiling, by
increasing prices, the publisher with the largest share of the budget
can gain an even greater share and may also force other publishers out
of the budget altogether. (Paragraph 93)

33. We recommend that the Government Response to this Report provides
information on the measures being taken by the Office of Fair Trading to
monitor the market for STM journals. We urge the Office of Fair Trading
to commit to biennial public reporting on the state of the market,
including how STM publication prices are developing; how prices change
following mergers and acquisitions in the sector and the impact of
bundling deals upon competition. (Paragraph 94)

34. We agree that universities should be able to allocate their budgets
locally in response to the needs of their teaching and research
communities. (Paragraph 96)

35. It is unacceptable that HEFCE has shown so little interest in
library budgets. We recommend that it commission a study from HEPI to
ascertain both current library funding levels and library funding needs.
The results of this study could be used to inform the allocation of the
block grant. (Paragraph 97)

36. HEFCE has a valuable role to play in advising universities on
library funding requirements. We recommend that HEFCE establish a code
of good practice for library funding that universities can draw upon
when allocating their budgets. (Paragraph 98)

37. Pressure on library journal acquisitions budgets has resulted in
cancelled subscriptions and has contributed to a decline in book
purchasing. This compromises the library's ability to provide the full
range of services required by its user community. (Paragraph 99)

38. There is undoubtedly some scope for libraries to make efficiency
savings, as there is for most organisations. Nonetheless, the valuable
services provided by the library are expensive and staff-intensive. It
is unlikely that libraries will have more to spend on acquisitions until
they see an increase in budgets. (Paragraph 101)

39. Whilst we accept that it is important that libraries are responsive
to local needs, opting out of national licensing deals negotiated with
those needs in mind only makes the situation faced by libraries worse.
(Paragraph 104)

40. We recommend that the Joint Information Systems Committee negotiate
with libraries, regional purchasing consortia and other national bodies
responsible for procurement to agree a common strategy. Only by
combining their resources will they be able to negotiate a licensing
deal that secures national support and brings real benefits. (Paragraph

41. It is disappointing that many academics are content to ignore the
significant difficulties faced by libraries. Until they start to see the
provision of journals as, in part, their problem, the situation will not
improve. (Paragraph 107)

42. Elsevier is no sudden convert to Open Access. The company has seen
the direction of trends in publishing and has acted accordingly to
minimise criticism of its current policies. We are in little doubt that
Elsevier timed the announcement of its new policy on self-archiving to
pre-empt the publication of this Report. It is good news that our
inquiry has prompted such a high profile endorsement of increased access
to research papers. Nonetheless, there are a number of serious
constraints to self- archiving in the model proposed by Elsevier.
(Paragraph 112)

43. Institutions need an incentive to set up repositories. We recommend
that the requirement for universities to disseminate their research as
widely as possible be written into their charters. In addition, SHERPA
should be funded by DfES to allow it to make grants available to all
research institutions for the establishment and maintenance of
repositories. (Paragraph 115)

44. Academic authors currently lack sufficient motivation to
self-archive in institutional repositories. We recommend that the
Research Councils and other Government funders mandate their funded
researchers to deposit a copy of all their articles in their
institution's repository within one month of publication or a reasonable
period to be agreed following publication, as a condition of their
research grant. An exception would need to be made for research findings
that are deemed to be commercially sensitive. (Paragraph 117)

45. We recommend that institutional repositories are able to accept
charitably- and privately-funded research articles from authors within
the institution, providing that the funder has given their consent for
the author to self-archive in this way. (Paragraph 118)

46. We recommend that DCMS provide adequate funds for the British
Library to establish and maintain a central online repository for all UK
research articles that are not housed in other institutional
repositories. (Paragraph 118)

47. Institutional repositories should accept for archiving articles
based on negative results, even when publication of the article in a
journal is unlikely. This accumulated body of material would be a useful
resource for the scientific community. It could help to prevent
duplication of research and, particularly in the field of clinical
research, would be in the public interest. Articles containing negative
findings should be stored within a dedicated section of the repository
to distinguish them from other articles. (Paragraph 118)

48. In order for institutional repositories to achieve maximum
effectiveness, Government must adopt a joined-up approach. DTI, OST,
DfES and DCMS should work together to create a strategy for the
implementation of institutional repositories, with clearly defined aims
and a realistic timetable. (Paragraph 120)

49. A greater degree of consistency is desirable in copyright
agreements, from publishers, but also from Government, institutions and
academics, who have the power to influence the terms on which copyright
agreements are established. (Paragraph 121)

50. The issue of copyright is crucial to the success of self-archiving.
We recommend that, as part of its strategy for the implementation of
institutional repositories, Government ascertain what impact a UK-based
policy of author copyright retention would have on UK authors. Providing
that it can be established that such a policy would not have a
disproportionately negative impact, Research Councils and other
Government funders should mandate their funded researchers to retain the
copyright on their research articles, licensing it to publishers for the
purposes of publication. The Government would also need to be active in
raising the issue of copyright at an international level. (Paragraph

51. We recommend that higher education institutions are funded to enable
them to assume control of copyright arising from their research. In
order to carry out this function they will need in-house expertise and
dedicated staff. (Paragraph 127)

52. The cost to the taxpayer of establishing and maintaining an
infrastructure of institutional repositories across UK higher education
would be minimal, particularly in proportion to the current total UK
higher education spend. When the cost is weighed against the benefits
they would bring, institutional repositories plainly represent value for
money. (Paragraph 130)

53. Having taken the step of funding and supporting institutional
repositories, the UK Government would need to become an advocate for
them at a global level. If all countries archived their research
findings in this way, access to scientific publications would increase
dramatically. We see this as a great opportunity for the UK to lead the
way in broadening access to publicly-funded research findings and making
available software tools and resources for accomplishing this work.
(Paragraph 131)

54. Peer review is a key element in the publishing process and should be
a pillar of institutional repositories. We recommend that SHERPA agree a
"kite mark" with publishers that can be used to denote articles that
have been published in a peer- reviewed journal. Upon publication,
articles in repositories should be allocated the kitemark and marked
with the date and journal of publication by the staff member responsible
for populating the repository. Authors depositing articles in
institutional repositories should also be required to declare their
funding sources in order to reduce the risk of conflicts of interest
occurring. (Paragraph 135)

55. We recommend that the Government appoints and funds a central body,
based on SHERPA, to co-ordinate the implementation of a network of
institutional repositories. (Paragraph 136)

56. A Government-established central body would play a major role in
implementing technical standards across institutional repositories to
ensure maximum functionality and interoperability. (Paragraph 137)

57. We recommend that DTI works with UK publishers to establish how the
industry might evolve in an environment where other business models
flourished alongside the subscriber-pays model. Government also needs to
become an intelligent procurer, outsourcing some of the technical work
involved in establishing and maintaining institutional repositories to
publishers who already have the relevant infrastructure and expertise in
place. (Paragraph 140)

58. We see institutional repositories as operating alongside the
publishing industry. In the immediate term they will enable readers to
gain free access to journal articles whilst the publishing industry
experiments with new publishing models, such as the author-pays model.
(Paragraph 143)

59. For the Government either to endorse or dismiss the new publishing
model would be too simplistic. Without any Government action, some
authors are already choosing to publish in journals that use author
payments to recover costs. Author- pays publishing is a phenomenon that
has already arrived: it is for the Government and others to decide how
best to respond. (Paragraph 144)

60. The evidence produced so far suggests that the author-pays model
could be viable. We recommend that Government mobilise the different
interest groups to support a comprehensive independent study into the
costs associated with author-pays publishing. The study could be used to
inform Government policy and strategy. (Paragraph 150)

61. Encouraging a public that is more scientifically literate and
assisting women in their pursuit of successful careers in scientific
research have been two of the Committee's longstanding concerns. We
support, in principle, any measure that seeks to further these aims.
(Paragraph 156)

62. Although early indications are positive, it is too early to assess
the impact that author-pays publishing has had on access to scientific
publications. (Paragraph 159)

63. The author-pays publishing model would be extremely advantageous to
researchers in developing countries, enabling them to keep abreast of
research conducted elsewhere. Financially, author charges would be less
burdensome to researchers in the developing world than current
subscription rates. If the author-pays model were to prevail,
publishers, Government agencies and other donors would need to adapt
existing schemes, such as HINARI, AGORA and INASP-PERI, to meet the
demands of the altered cost recovery model. (Paragraph 162)

64. We recommend that the Research Councils each establish a fund to
which their funded researchers can apply should they wish to publish
their articles using the author-pays model. The Research Councils will
need to be funded by OST to take account of this increase in costs. We
hope that industry, charity and other Government funders will consider
similar measures. (Paragraph 165)

65. Research Councils for disciplines that require only limited funding
should be funded to enable them to pay for publication costs where
necessary. (Paragraph 166)

66. In order to succeed, most author-pays publishers, like everyone
else, will have to publish articles of a high quality. It is not,
therefore, within the interest of journals at the higher end of the
market to lessen the rigour of peer review. Nonetheless, there is a risk
that lower quality journals might seek to reduce their quality threshold
in order to generate profit. Were the author-pays publishing model to
prevail it would be vital to ensure that peer review was not compromised
in order to retain confidence in the integrity of the publishing
process. (Paragraph 172)

67. The introduction of a submission fee would be an important step
towards ensuring the quality of scientific publications and we strongly
recommend that author-pays publishers introduce this system. (Paragraph

68. The commercial and industrial sectors currently contribute
significant funds to the publishing process through payments for journal
subscriptions. Much of this money would be lost to the system if an
author-pays model were to prevail. This is one of the key issues that
needs to be addressed before the wholescale transition to an author-pays
model can be supported. Government, publishers and industry need to work
together to identify a solution to this problem in order to avoid a
disproportionate increase in the amount of money that Government invests
directly or indirectly in the publishing process. (Paragraph 177)

69. Learned societies are greatly valued by the academic and wider
research community. It is of concern to us that learned societies could
stand to lose a substantial portion of their income in a move to the
author-pays publishing model. This is another key issue that proponents
of the author-pays model need to address. (Paragraph 180)

70. We strongly support further experimentation with the author-pays
publishing model. In the short term Government may need to provide
limited financial assistance to encourage publishers and institutions to
take part in what, for them, may be an expensive process. We applaud the
Joint Information Systems Committee for providing funding for this
purpose so far and hope that it will continue to do so. (Paragraph 184)

71. Author-pays publishing is a growing phenomenon. Its implementation
on any scale will have important consequences for current funding
structures and the UK publishing industry. So far the Government has
shown little inclination to address this issue. (Paragraph 185)

72. Government has not shown much evidence of a joined-up approach to
the challenges posed by changes to the model for scientific publishing.
Whilst the central departments have been slow to respond to the
author-pays publishing model, at least two Government-funded bodies have
given public support to it. This creates unnecessary confusion. We
recommend that it formulate a coherent strategy as a matter of urgency.
(Paragraph 186)

73. We are satisfied that, by scaling publication with research costs,
the author-pays publishing model would ensure a fairer global
distribution of the costs of publishing research findings. (Paragraph

74. The UK would put itself at a financial disadvantage internationally
if it were to act alone in mandating publicly-funded researchers to
publish in author-pays journals. (Paragraph 189)

75. Institutional repositories should be a key component of any
long-term strategy to ensure the preservation of digital publications.
(Paragraph 193)

76. The British Library has a crucial role to play in the preservation
of digital publications, both strategically and practically. This is an
expensive process. Whilst the publication of this Report is too late to
have any influence on funding decisions made as part of the 2004
Spending Review, we strongly support the British Library's call for
extra funding in recognition of the work that it has carried out in this
capacity. Failure of the Government to give adequate funding to the
British Library could result in the loss of a substantial proportion of
the UK's scientific record. (Paragraph 196)

77. It is vital that work on regulations for the legal deposit of
non-print publications begins as soon as possible. We cannot understand
why DCMS has not yet established the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel. We
recommend that they appoint the panel and begin preliminary work on the
regulations at official level immediately. (Paragraph 199)

78. We recommend that the first task of the Advisory Panel is to
establish definitions of a digital publication and a UK publication that
are flexible enough to capture material from a range of sources in a
range of formats. (Paragraph 200)

79. The existence of a secure network between the legal deposit
libraries would create greater efficiencies in the deposit system and
would have the potential to increase access to deposited material. We
recommend that provisions for such a network are made in the regulations
with these two aims in mind. The deposit libraries should be funded to
establish the network. (Paragraph 201)

80. We recommend that the regulations make provision for the deposit
libraries to deliver digital articles remotely to desktops on the same
payment basis as Document Supply. (Paragraph 202)

81. Gaps of up to 60% in the deposit of electronically-delivered
publications, including STM journals, represent a significant breach in
the intellectual record. It is imperative that work on recovering and
purchasing the missing items begins immediately. The six deposit
libraries will need additional funding to do this. (Paragraph 203)

82. As is the case with any process, peer review is not an infallible
system and to a large extent depends on the integrity and competence of
the people involved and the degree of editorial oversight and quality
assurance of the peer review process itself. Nonetheless we are
satisfied that publishers are taking reasonable measures to main high
standards of peer review. (Paragraph 207)

Received on Tue Jul 20 2004 - 15:55:48 BST

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