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  1. 1. SOCIETY FOR ENDOCRINOLOGY SUBMISSION TO SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SELECT COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATIONS The Society for Endocrinology is a learned society and registered charity, based in the UK. We are members of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and support their submission. This submission is intended to shed additional light by giving the perspective of a group that operates as part of the academic community as well as providing services to that community. The Society is fairly typical of societies in the life sciences sector and can be taken as representative of the sector as a whole in many ways. The exception is that the Society for Endocrinology has more diverse sources of income (ie in addition to publishing) than many societies, a large number of which would not survive if there were a major, discontinuous change in the pattern of their publishing income. 1 WHAT LEARNED SOCIETIES DO Our services are typical of many such societies: 1. Publishing three peer-reviewed journals (plus two for other societies) 2. Organising two major subsidised UK conferences each year (800-1000 and 400-550 delegates) 3. Organising the national training courses in endocrinology for physicians and nurses 4. Organising certificates of education in endocrinology for young scientists and for nurses 5. Providing a major web site ( with substantial amounts of free information for researchers and the public 6. Publishing a newsletter for members 7. Funding grants for postdoctoral research in the UK (in recent years we have been funding three postdoctoral fellowships) 8. Funding grants for postgraduate students in the UK (we have funded up to three postgraduate studentships concurrently) 9. Providing grants for young researchers to attend conferences and training courses that are essential to their work but which are not funded by their regular funding source 10. Providing input to government and higher education consultations, and to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence 11. Providing grants to patient support groups that help patients with endocrine diseases 12. Working with the media to ensure that coverage of endocrine topics is accurate and balanced 13. Dealing with public enquiries 14. Creating a sense of community and focus in order to strengthen the UK scientific and medical community 2 EXPORTING SERVICES AND IMPORTING BENEFITS In common with many such societies, the majority of our members (almost 80% in our case) are in the UK. Many of our services are entirely or mainly for the benefit of the UK academic community and for the advancement of public health and education in the UK. On the other hand, for our journals, typically only around 15% of articles submitted are from UK research groups and only about 9% of the subscriptions are sold to UK institutions. Our journals have an international submission and subscription base and are therefore important both in bringing the work of UK research groups to an international audience and in generating revenues to be used for supporting other services in the UK. societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  2. 2. Somewhat unusually, the Society for Endocrinology also has a trading subsidiary, BioScientifica Ltd, which provides all the above services to other medical and scientific societies, including publishing two learned journals. It also provides products and services to the pharmaceutical industry, most of which are exported. From the above it can be seen that journal publishing is a major activity, but by no means the only service provided. It is also clear that there is a complex interlinking between services, particularly financially. Most of the services listed above cost money (items 4-14 above generate little or no income and items 2 and 3 are usually subsidised to some degree), whereas journal publishing currently generates some funds, which are then in turn fed back into the community. Even then, one of the three journals (the one with by far the highest impact factor and therefore the highest quality) cannot generate a surplus without additional sales to the pharmaceutical industry, which are unpredictable. This is therefore sometimes subsidised by the other two. The two key points here are that, typically for the sector, the UK is a net beneficiary of this society financially, and also that all the elements of the system are interlinked in complex ways so that any change to the income base of the journals needs to be handled in a carefully- considered way in order not to damage the whole academic system. 3 VAT Print publications, whether educational or not, are zero-rated for VAT. Electronic publications attract standard rate VAT, which UK universities cannot currently reclaim. Not only does this counter any savings from taking electronic-only subscriptions, but it has a knock-on effect on all subscriptions to a journal once electronic-only is offered as an option. This is because, although while all electronic editions are given free with the print subscription, the whole is deemed to be zero-rated, as soon as it is possible to buy the electronic edition without print, part of the cost of ‘print plus electronic’ subscriptions will be deemed to attract VAT, thus increasing the costs even for those UK universities that have not moved away from the ‘print plus electronic’ option. This means that publishers who feel a particular responsibility to the UK academic community are hindered from offering electronic-only subscriptions to any client because of this penalty to the UK community. 4 THOUGHTS ON OPEN ACCESS The Society for Endocrinology is very open to new ways of working. As a learned society our mission is to provide high-quality, cost-effective information and other educational services to our academic community, by whatever means are cost-effective. Thus, we do not have a commitment to current publishing practices in the way that many commercial publishers do. Our priority is to provide what our researchers and clinicians need, and we are happy to change the framework of our journals or other services as required. Open access seems to us a promising opportunity. Before going on to answer your specific questions, we would like to summarise the main reasons why there is a problem that needs the Select Committee’s attention. In the view of the Society’s Publications Committee there are two main factors: 4.1 In the last half-century or so, the provision of funds for carrying out research has far outstripped the funds to buy the output of that research. At the same time, it is essential for all research to be published in order to be validated and available to one’s peers. This is not to deny that some publishers have charged large prices for societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  3. 3. their journals and made substantial annual increases, but this is not true of all publishers. Certainly in many subject areas the learned society journals, which often have the highest impact factors, are more moderately priced than their commercial competitors. See annexes 1 and 2 for an explanation of impact factors and for examples of comparative impact factors and prices in our sector. 4.2 There is currently no link between the responsibility for choosing which journal to publish in and to read (the academic’s choice) and responsibility for the purchase budget. Most researchers have little or no idea of the comparative prices of the journals available to them. This has certainly fostered a climate where some journals can have prices that are orders of magnitude higher than those of their competitors without suffering any loss of subscriptions. Indeed, their ability to spend lavishly on promotion, financial support to editorial boards and so on may even give an advantage in some cases. Open access would bring value for money into the equation as one of the decision factors in where to submit research, along with quality and reputation. This is likely to be more of a factor with the quality journals that sit just below the market leaders (often US societies). 5 ADDRESSING THE COMMITTEE’S QUESTIONS 5.1 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? Consortium licensing, whether ‘big deal’ or other, has the advantage that, in principle at least, there is a straightforward route to it from the current model, and considerable predictability for both publishers and librarians. However, it does have disadvantages as well. For the research community, the advantage is access to a greater amount of research material than before. The disadvantage is that this access is not always to material of the researcher’s choice, nor necessarily to the best material in their field. Thus, either the material, although available, may not be used, or it may be used despite not being the best quality research available. The latter case would arguably prejudice the quality of the work of younger researchers, in particular. For the library, it has the advantage of predictability and, as most deals are set up with the very large publishers, a few negotiations will open up access to many new journals. However, most deals tie the library in for several years and thus tie up a major part of the budget. Therefore, the improved access to journals, some of which are either not of the highest quality, or are perhaps not even in a relevant subject area, may lead to an inability to purchase more important journals, especially if the market leaders are published by societies and other small publishers that are less able to join in the consortium negotiations, which is certainly true in the life sciences. For the learned society publishers, especially the majority who are relatively small, consortium licensing is a party that we can seldom attend. There is a substantial administrative overhead, for one thing, and libraries are also understandably reluctant to spend time negotiating with societies that have only a handful of journals. Add to this that a substantial proportion of the library budget is committed to ‘big deals’ and we are more likely to be subject to cancellations irrespective of our high quality. Examples have been given in the USA where 70% of a library’s journal budget was committed to the biggest three or four publishers. As consortium licences often carry an additional charge of around 10%, this could reduce the money available for all other journals from 30% to 23%, a drop of 23%. societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  4. 4. Lastly, although it may alleviate the current problems, it does not address the root cause of these problems. 5.2 What action should Government, academic institutions and publishers be taking to promote a competitive market in scientific publications? As can be seen from the ALPSP and Publishers Association (PA) submissions, the cost of producing open access journals is likely to be substantial. Appendix 5 of the PA submission quotes figures ranging from $3500-4000 for unsubsidised production of a single article. Our view is that figures of £150-200 for submission charges (the cost of handling peer review, payable whether the article is accepted or rejected) plus £900-1200 publication charge (payable only for those articles accepted) seem likely to be about right for science and medical journals. The figures may be less in some other subjects. These sums will need to come out of the grants, so it is imperative that the UK grant bodies are encouraged to allow the inclusion of such sums in grant applications; also that these sums, if included, should only be used for that purpose. This would avoid the risk that, during the introduction of open access, if some journals charge the author and some do not, the author will submit to the journal with no charges and thus penalise the open access journals whilst bolstering those that support the old system. We understand that the National Institutes of Health in the USA, a major funder of biomedical research, only allows researchers to use the publication cost elements of its grants for publication with not-for-profit organisations. As mentioned above, in many subjects, this would not only equate to better value-for-money, but would also include the most prestigious journals, as well as ensuring that any surplus is used for the benefit of the academic community and the public. An equivalent system in the UK would allow the transition to open access without too much risk to the complex interconnectivities described above – always providing the journal in question was considered to be of high quality. 5.3 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? Open access is not the issue. Quality control of electronic articles is the issue. Articles should be usable for RAE provided they are peer reviewed to a high quality. The current journals system has a form of ‘grading’ of journals, quantitatively by impact factor and qualitatively by prestige in the eyes of researchers. Whether these journals are in print or electronic, paid by subscription or by open access publication fee, should not affect their quality for RAE and other assessment purposes. However, if material on preprint servers, repositories etc is to be considered by the RAE, there will be issues of how to judge quality and how to ‘grade’ one article relative to another. 5.4 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? It is our understanding that it is not currently the role of the legal deposit libraries to use their free subscriptions for the research community outside their own institution. However, there could be scope to set up a UK-wide system, similar to the now-defunct Pilot Site License Initiative (PSLI), whereby, for an agreed single fee, the whole UK academic community could have electronic access to all or most journals, free at point of use. Many publishers were disappointed that the promising PSLI three-year trial was not rolled out to a full-scale project. societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  5. 5. 5.5 What impact will trends in academic journal publishing have on the risks of scientific fraud and malpractice? Fraud and malpractice will be easier with systems that are not peer-reviewed and, perhaps most dangerously, on the sorts of repositories and university web sites where refereed and unrefereed material may be mixed. Boundaries may be blurred and busy academics may not always realise that one item is ‘quality-stamped’ by peer review and another is not. Another risk, though not intentional malpractice, is the push to use of the ‘most easily available’ articles, rather than the best-quality articles, as mentioned in section 5.1 when discussing consortium licensing. 6 CONCLUSIONS 6.1 Electronic publishing of journals and open access are two different issues. 6.2 There are issues specific to electronic publishing that the committee may wish to consider, notably permanence of access as software and platforms change and as journals and publishers change hands. There may well be a role here for the legal deposit libraries, particularly the British Library. 6.3 There are also economic issues, notably the libraries’ dwindling ability to supply a good range of information (although the committee is aware that this assertion is disputed). This may be exacerbated by effects on competitiveness of the recent merger trend towards a few very large and powerful publishers, and the effect of some large publishers’ high prices on the libraries’ ability to buy other journals, which may be lower-priced and of equal or higher quality. This is in turn made worse by the ‘big deals’ that tie a substantial proportion of the library journal budget to a few large publishers, who may not be the ones that use their money to support the UK research community. These factors disadvantage the small publishers, who are often offering high-quality material at fair prices and also using their surpluses to support the academic community. 6.4 In discussing whether it could or should promote open access, the committee will need to be informed about the substantial difficulties that lie in the way of a transition to this model, bearing in mind that the typical journal publishes material from researchers in many countries, all of which have different funding systems and priorities. Annex 3 contains an article on open access that briefly outlines some of these issues. 6.5 The committee should consider what can be done to address the VAT anomaly outlined in section 3 above. Annex 1 – Explanation of impact factors as a measure of quality Annex 2 – Chart of extents, prices and impact factors for leading endocrinology journals Annex 3 – Article covering the Society for Endocrinology perspective on Open Access and the transitional difficulties societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  6. 6. ANNEX 1 EXPLANATION OF IMPACT FACTORS AS A MEASURE OF QUALITY The Institute of Scientific Information (ISI), a commercial company based in Philadelphia, collates information on citations of articles in several thousand of the world’s major science journals. Each year, they produce a Science Citation Index. This lists each journal covered and ranks it according to average numbers of citations to its articles. In year x, it takes account only of articles cited during year x and published during years x-1 and x-2. Thus, it assesses only articles published and cited during a specific window of time. An article that is so ground-breaking that it is cited in its year of publication will not be included (although it is likely to continue to feature well during the relevant two years). Equally, an article whose worth is only recognised later, or which continues to be cited for many years, will not necessarily have full influence on the impact factor. societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  7. 7. ANNEX 2 CHART OF EXTENTS, PRICES AND IMPACT FACTORS FOR LEADING ENDOCRINOLOGY JOURNALS Journal (monthly unless stated Owner For profit Impact No. Price £ equiv otherwise) (country) (C) or NFP factor pages 2004 (N) owner 2002 2003 Endocrinology Endocrine N 5.095 5676 $1030 £551 Society (USA) Molecular Endocrinology Endocrine N 6.623 2665 $709 £379 Society (USA) Journal of Clinical Endocrine N 5.199 6122 $748 £400 Endocrinology & Society (USA) Metabolism Endocrine Reviews (6/yr) Endocrine N 21.643 839 $458 £245 Society (USA) Clinical Endocrinology Blackwells (UK) C 2.674 1646 £840 Journal of Endocrinology Society for N 2.879 1940 £635 Endocrinology (UK) Journal of Molecular Society for N 4.359 1042 £415 Endocrinology (6/year) Endocrinology (UK) Endocrine-Related Cancer Society for N 6.087 627 £345 (4/year) Endocrinology (UK) Molecular & Cellular Elsevier C 2.698 2010 €4280 £2900 Endocrinology (Netherlands) European Journal of European N 2.560 1319 £510 Endocrinology Federation of Endocrine Societies (UK) Notes 1 Circulations will vary, accounting for some, but by no means all of the price variation. The Endocrine Society journals, in particular, will have much larger circulations than the others listed here. 2 Sterling price conversions are calculated as at 11 February 2004, making journals priced in dollars look cheap compared to most years. 3 The 2002 impact factor is the most recent available to date. societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  8. 8. ANNEX 3 Open Access as a model for scholarly communication Some thoughts from the Society for Endocrinology February 2003 Our perspective as a not-for-profit publisher The Society for Endocrinology’s charitable object is the advancement of public education in endocrinology. Disseminating research results between scholars is a direct fulfilment of this. As a charity, we do not exist for the benefit of our members, but for the ‘public’ at large. This is consistent with the fact that, as for most learned society publishers, the vast majority of our authors and readers come from outside our membership. Thus, although our membership is about 75% UK-based, only about 8% of institutional journal sales go to UK libraries and about 13% of submissions are from the UK. The Society has historically derived a surplus from its journal publishing activities, despite much lower prices, and price rises, than many of its competitors. This has enabled us to fund a range of activities supporting researchers in our subject, from conferences with low or no registration fees, subsidised training days and workshops to studentships and travel grants. In our subject area, these activities have made a significant difference to our discipline, particularly in the UK, in terms of recruiting good researchers into the subject as postgraduates, keeping them there as postdoctorate researchers, and enabling them to improve the quality of their research by attending conferences (our own and others for which we provide grants) and training courses. The academic community has therefore clearly benefited (the so-called ‘science dividend’), but there will have been less benefit to the academic community outside the UK, and this benefit is at the expense of the library budget. There are steps that societies such as ours can take to reduce their reliance on journal surpluses whilst continuing to serve the academic community. However, this is likely to involve mainly shifting costs from the library budget to other budgets that can equally ill afford it, for instance if we charged commercial prices for conferences. In addition, such steps can only really apply to not-for-profit societies and do not address the dysfunctionality of the market. Any viable new business model needs to address the following points: The mismatch between funding for research and funding for dissemination of its results, as represented by library budgets. This mismatch is the root cause of the infamous serials price spiral The lack of any connection between the appeal of a journal to its end market (whether authors or readers) and its price, which some publishers (but by no means all) have capitalised on Consortium licensing and Open Access The two potential solutions that are mainly being discussed are consortium licensing and Open Access. Consortium licensing has the advantage that, in principle at least, there is a straightforward route to it from the current model, and considerable predictability for both publishers and librarians. However, it does have disadvantages: Whilst it alleviates the current problems, it does not address the root cause It requires substantial administrative effort It disadvantages the smaller publishers, many of whom are societies producing the leading journals in their field, often at relatively low prices It usually ties the library in for several years, reducing flexibility societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  9. 9. Open Access as a possible solution The Open Access model posits that authors (or their institutions/research grants) pay for their work to be published, and that online access is free to all from the outset. This is intuitively attractive to academics, who often feel that all scholarly information should be freely available: as readers, they want ease of access from any location, and as authors they want their work to be disseminated as widely as possible. These expectations are frustrated by a system that restricts access to the fraction of journals that libraries can afford. The mismatch between funding for research and for its dissemination could be removed at a stroke if research funding bodies included, as part of their research grants, funds for authors to pay for the publication of their results. The current mismatch between the price and quality of journals would be directly under attack if an author’s choice of journal were influenced not only by the journal’s perceived prestige and quality but also by the publication costs. Any price differentials would then be transparent to the researcher and the market would force a link between price and quality. Under the new model, publishers would sell a service to authors. They would be judged by the extent to which they maximised the exposure and credibility of the work they published, and by how much added value they gave the work compared with authors merely depositing their manuscripts on their institutions’ web sites, for example, or on a preprint server. At the Society for Endocrinology, we have been enthusiastic about the Open Access model for some time. In a 1999 research document we recommended “that the academic and publishing communities begin taking action to move the funding of primary research information away from the library purchase model and towards the funding of dissemination via the research grant for each project. This would both allow for funding of information to keep pace with any increases or decreases in the funding of research, and would also allow individual research groups to choose where to submit their results in the light of both the scientific quality and the cost-effectiveness of the services available.” Obstacles to Open Access In order for Open Access publishing to be viable, charges to authors may well need be higher than many academics would currently expect. They will almost certainly significantly exceed the US $500 typically charged by the current experiments using this model (such as BioMed Central or the New Journal of Physics). However, as noted above, there will be greater transparency, and competition between publishers for the best authors will drive prices (and probably many publishers’ profit margins) down. In addition, the fact that the libraries will no longer have to buy, store and provide access to these journals will presumably release not just the former purchase costs, but also some of the overheads associated with them We need to take into account that the Open Access/author pays model may not work for all subject areas or types of journal. For instance, many articles in some clinical journals are based on the authors’ observations during their clinical work and have no research grants associated with them. How would these papers/journals be funded? If such papers were no longer published, clinical practice and patient care would clearly suffer. In addition, review journals are clearly not susceptible to the ‘author pays’ model. The major obstacle in the case of basic research journals seems to be how we get from here to there. For Open Access to succeed there will need to be a global culture change. Funding bodies around the world will need to become willing to include an allowance for publication fees in their research grants, and publishers will need to be willing to adopt the new model. It is difficult to see how this can be societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc
  10. 10. effected piecemeal; an international, co-ordinated approach seems to be needed, which is likely to be difficult to achieve. All parties have grounds for being reluctant, nervous and defensive. We believe, however, that as partners in support of scientific and scholarly research, it is in our interests to work together to find and adopt the most sustainable and most cost effective model. As we stated earlier, we have been enthusiastic about this model for some years already. As a learned society, we consider ourselves to be part of the academic community, not an external supplier. We already make substantial amounts of information available free on our web site (, but it’s a fact of life that there are major costs associated with providing any kind of quality service, especially if we are to develop it constantly to meet new needs and standards, and we need enough funds from somewhere to cover this. Our ‘back of an envelope’ calculation of the likely cost of submission and publication via Open Access is £150-200 per article for submission and £900-1200 for publication. Of course, some individuals or institutions would still want paper subscriptions. As much of the origination costs would be covered by the submission and publication fees, the print price is likely to be more than the current run-on costs, but a fraction of current institutional prices. We had assumed that there would be resistance to the level of submission and publication fees mentioned above, but recent conversations (for instance with Fred Friend at the ALPSP/OSI Open Access meeting in October) indicate that this may not be so. We had also assumed that, as a small learned society, we would need to follow rather than lead, but if there is scope for a national (or better still, international) trial project, then perhaps the learned societies have a bigger role to play. Sue Thorn (Executive Director) and Steve Byford (Publications Manager), Society for Endocrinology. societywpdataPublications miscellaneousScience & Technology Select CommitteeSfE submission to S&T committee.doc