211. Provision of STM journals in the UK is unsatisfactory.
This is due to a combination of publishers' pricing policy and
the inadequacy of library budgets to meet the demands placed upon
them by a system supporting an ever increasing volume of research.
Despite evidence that they are adding value to the scientific
process, publishers are not as transparent as they could be about
their publication costs. The practice of some of the larger commercial
publishers of "bundling" content together to be sold
as one product is having a negative impact on smaller publishers
and on the ability of libraries to purchase the journals required
by their communities. On the purchasing side, HEFCE has not proved
itself to be ready to respond to the problem of insufficient library
budgets. We have concluded that change on all sides is necessary
as a matter of urgency. The digitisation of the market place,
with all its attendant benefits and possibilities, presents the
ideal opportunity for the UK to make that change.
212. We have recommended that the UK Government fund
the establishment of an inter-linked network of institutional
repositories on which all research articles originating in the
UK should be deposited and can be read for free. SHERPA has already
carried out some valuable work in this area and needs to be funded
to enable it to play a central role in the future. In order to
ensure that the repositories are well-populated, we have recommended
that Research Councils mandate their funded researchers to deposit
copies of all their articles in this way. Universities and other
research institutions will need to build up their capacity to
manage the copyright that might in future be retained by authors
as a result of this system. We conclude that these are the essential
first steps in the direction of a more fundamental change to the
way in which researchers publish their findings.
213. Rigorous quality assurance of the research that
is disseminated is key to the integrity of science publishing,
research and academia. It is vital that steps be taken to protect
and enshrine the process of rigorous and independent peer review
whatever the mode of dissemination or the publishing model used.
214. We have seen much to praise in the author-pays
publishing model and the principles on which it has been established.
Nonetheless, the UK still has insufficient understanding of the
impact that this model would have, particularly on learned societies
and in respect of the free rider problem, for us to recommend
its wholesale adoption. Instead we have recommended a period of
further experimentation. The Government has failed to respond
to issues surrounding scientific publications in a coherent manner
and we are not convinced that it would be ready to deal with any
changes to the publishing process. We have recommended that it
formulate a strategy for future action.
215. The market for STM journals is international.
The UK cannot act alone. For this reason we have recommended that
the UK Government act as a proponent for change on the international
stage and lead by example. This will ultimately benefit researchers
across the globe.