17.273 new on WWW: Wellcome Trust report on publishing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Oct 02 2003 - 01:08:09 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 273.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Thu, 02 Oct 2003 05:59:12 +0100
             From: Peter Suber <peters@earlham.edu>
             Subject: Wellcome Trust report on science publishing


    A new report published today by the UK's leading biomedical research
    charity reveals that the publishing of scientific research does not operate
    in the interests of scientists and the public, but is instead dominated by
    a commercial market intent on improving its market position.

    Conducted by SQW the report, An economic analysis of scientific research
    publishing, is one of the most comprehensive analyses of its kind and
    provides an insight into a publishing industry which generates some £22
    billion annually.

    The report is published by the Wellcome Trust which plans to use this as a
    first step in facilitating a dialogue between various players in the
    scientific publishing field to address the concerns which the Trust has
    regarding current publishing practices. The ultimate aim of this dialogue
    would be to develop a publishing system that meets the needs of all
    publishers, authors, academics and funders, and best promotes the public
    good of scientific work that is, disseminate research outputs to all who
    have an interest in them.

    The report reveals an extremely complex market for scientific publishing,
    influenced by a host of different players each with different
    priorities. These include:

    * Commercial publishers: working to secure and enhance their business position,
    * Not-for-profit publishers, including Learned Societies: who seek a
    satisfactory return on their journals in order to fulfil their broader
    * Libraries: who have to purchase a wide portfolio of journals to meet the
    needs of the academics they serve, but who do so on a limited, and
    sometimes decreasing, budget,
    * Academic researchers: whose primary concern is to disseminate their
    research in reputable journals, regardless of their cost and accessibility.

    Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "As a funder of
    research, we are committed to ensuring that the results of the science we
    fund are disseminated widely and are freely available to
    all. Unfortunately, the distribution strategies currently used by many
    publishers prevent this.

    "We want to see a system in place that supports open and unrestricted
    access to research outputs and we would like to encourage others to support
    this principle. Today's report maps out the market as it stands and we
    hope to use this as a way of starting a dialogue with others to join us in
    finding a new model for the way we publish research, and one that satisfies
    the needs of those involved."

    The report highlights the merits of electronic publishing which is already
    being utilised as a tool for improving the efficiency and accessibility of
    research findings. Although previously regarded with suspicion by
    academics who doubted quality control and the peer review process involved,
    reservations about this form of publishing are gradually decreasing.

    "Electronic publishing has transformed the way scientific research is
    communicated," said Dr Mark Walport. "Take the Human Genome Project as an
    example. The data from that project was made immediately available on the
    world-wide web and could be used by everyone free of charge. It was the
    absence of constraints and the ease of access that enabled us to reach vast
    numbers of researchers in more than 100 countries.

    "The model of the Human Genome Project need not be unique and it is the
    principle of free access that we want to champion. The fundamental point
    is that as a research funder we have to question whether it is right that
    we, and others, are in the position of having to pay to read the results of
    the research that we fund."

    Media contact:
    Noorece Ahmed
    Wellcome Trust Media Office
    Tel: 020 7611 8540

    Notes to editors:
    1. Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, An economic analysis of
    scientific research publishing has been conducted by the economic
    development consultants SQW.
    2. The full report is available on the Wellcome Trust website:
    3. The Wellcome Trustís position statement in support of open access
    publishing is available at:
    [url to follow]
    The Wellcome Trust is an independent, research funding charity, established
    under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome in 1936. The Trust's mission is to
    foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health.

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