Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
MONDAY 1 MARCH 2004
Q80 Dr Iddon: You were very straightforward
and told us your profit margin was 34%. We know you do a lot of
development work. ScienceDirect is pretty impressive. Out of that
34% do you use some of those profits to fund the developments
or is that after developments?
Mr Davis: The 34% I will call,
if you like, a gross profit margin before goodwill, amortisation,
tax and so on. If you take all of those off our net reported profit
margin is 17%. We invest in excess of £150 million a year
on new technologies, functions, ScienceDirect and so on, and that
is capitalised over a five to 10 year period, but essentially
the 17% would be before that investment.
Q81 Dr Iddon: You quoted the cost
of publishing an article and it is going down to a pound, you
said, in the future. Can we make sure whether that is the full
archival background or whether it is the cost of publishing newly
Mr Davis: The cost that we are
talking about is the cost per article download, that is how much
a library will be paying for an article download, which is one
of their key criteria. That will come down, we think, 50% in the
next 12 months. The cost to publish an article which has already
been covered ranges from between $3,000 to $10,000 per article.
That is something different. Incidentally, I would agree with
Q82 Dr Iddon: So the cost of downloading
includes all your archival costs right back into the past?
Mr Davis: Yes.
Q83 Dr Iddon: And that would go down,
would it not?
Mr Davis: Yes, but the cost is
the cost to the library.
Dr Iddon: I understand that.
Q84 Mr Key: Mr Davis, your company
owns The Lancet. Do you think that scientific publishers
have a responsibility towards society to ensure that the research
they publish is authenticated and not affected by conflict of
Mr Davis: We absolutely have a
responsibility to ensure that what we publish is peer reviewed,
accurate, reflects best practice. In the issue of The Lancet
we do have a policy where people who submit their articles have
to declare any conflict of interest. You can imagine that it is
virtually impossible for every editor to research every single
author in terms of conflict of interest, and in this one Dr Wakefield
said there was no conflict of interest, and in fact three months
later in written form repeated that there was no conflict of interest
. In all fairness, I do not hold our editor to blame in that instance.
I think it was regrettable but I do not think he or The Lancet
were at fault at all. We were in our opinion badly misled.
Q85 Mr Key: Thank you for explaining
that. Is there any evidence that pharmaceutical companies are
paying authors to produce papers to promote their products?
Mr Davis: Not that I am aware
of, certainly not with our journals.
Mr Jongejan: Again, that would
be one of our biggest concerns in another model, that exactly
that model starts to apply. We have very few submissions from
the pharmaceutical industry.
Mr Davis: Unless an author lied
to us we would know that and we would never publish an article
where an author was paid by a pharmaceutical company. It would
be a blatant conflict of interest.
Q86 Dr Iddon: Do they make declarations
of interest when they submit a paper?
Mr Davis: They do now. In the
last two years we have implemented a proactive policy where we
do force every author to declare that there is no conflict of
Q87 Dr Harris: Coming back to this
issue of Dr Wakefield, I am conscious of the fact that it is a
force for editorial freedom for proprietors, and you have given
a view. Is it consistent to say that you feel you did not have
full disclosure and indeed, three months later, following an allegation
in the letters page, there was a specific denial, and then your
editor said that the article was fatally flawed? Should that not
be equivalent to a retraction rather than a correcting editorial
under the code guidelines, or are you happy that that is where
we are at?
Mr Davis: I am not happy that
this is where we are at at all, for obvious reasons, but I think
that the editor behaved in absolutely the right way. At the time
of the submission of the article there was no admission of conflict
of interest. Three months later there was a written letter. I
think I have got it somewhere here.
Q88 Dr Harris: I have it as well,
7 May 1998
Mr Davis: It actually says, "There
is no conflict of interest". Should the editor then
Q89 Dr Harris: I am talking about
now. Now it has come to light why did this not get retracted,
particularly given that the conflict of interest has been said
to go to the core of one of the scientific findings of the paper,
that there was a link between MMR and autism and because there
is a legal case going on with four of the patients?
Mr Davis: I think the editor did
immediately, when this was brought to his attention, say publicly
that the research therefore wasI think the words he used
Q90 Dr Harris: Why is that not a
retraction? Why is the article not being retracted or are you
happy not to have your editors retract articles that are fatally
Mr Jongejan: To my knowledge the
editor is not excluding at this point that this is the end of
the investigation by himself or by any other party, so I think
this issue is in that sense still open.
Q91 Dr Harris: Finally, would you
support an international committee on scientific evidence of the
type that has been called for by Hertzheimer, Altman and Chalmers,
as you will be aware?
Mr Davis: Of this particular issue?
Q92 Dr Harris: No, just generally,
so that there is an international committee that can deal with
Mr Jongejan: No. I myself am in
discussion with the Washington Institute of Science(?) for the
avoidance of conflicts of interest, so the publishing world in
general is taking this very seriously. That will also be the reason
in 2001 why the rules were strengthened to cover any kind of model.
Q93 Dr Harris: You are not worried
by the fact that this particular author has threatened to sue
anyone who claims that he misbehaved?
Mr Jongejan: No.
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming.