Pressure mounts on Reed 
to open access to science work

By Saeed Shah
The Guardian

07 July 2004

One of the biggest publishers of science journals, Springer, has given authors the option of making their work freely available to everyone.

Springer's move to the "open access" model will ratchet up the pressure on Reed Elsevier, the London-listed market leader [and the parent of Lexis-Nexis], which is desperately clinging to the traditional style of science publishing, where companies charge hefty subscriptions to those who want to access journals.

Separately, it has emerged that Oxford University Press has also made one of its science journals, Nucleic Acids Research, fully "open access".

A parliamentary committee is investigating the open access debate and is due to issue a report later this month that could further undermine the traditional way of publishing science journals.

Reed publishes hundreds of science journals, which academic libraries need to subscribe to. The libraries and scientists have complained that the cost of subscriptions to the journals, which often publish research that has been funded by taxpayers, is too high.

This has led to the emergence of a small but growing group of "open access" journals, which are free to read. Using this model, the author or the author's employer must pay a fee to get the article published.

Springer, the privately owned, number two player in science journals, is the first mainstream publisher to embrace open access, albeit partially. Some believe the move is a possible stepping stone to full adoption of this alternative business model.

Natasha Robshaw, the head of sales and marketing at BioMed Central, the leading British open access group, said that, taken together, the Springer and the OUP announcements were highly significant. She hoped that the open access movement would get a further boost from the parliamentary report. "We have reached a tipping point," she said.

The City has been concerned that open access could spell the end of the high margins that the likes of Reed and Taylor & Francis enjoy on their science journals. The issue has been a major drag on the Reed share price. Reed contends that it could move to open access and still make similar profits but others believe that competition would be much keener under the new system. Reed believes open access simply shifts the burden of payment from a library to the author and creates a disincentive to publish. The company is confident that it has convinced MPs and Government ministers of its case.

Industry sources said it was significant that Springer is run by Derk Haank, the man who used to head science publishing at Reed Elsevier. The company's new "Springer Open Choice" policy allows authors to pay $3,000 to have their article freely available or they can elect to pay nothing and require subscriptions for access to their work.

Mr Haank said: "We want to respond to the demands of the small group of researchers and certain publicly funded research communities who are advocating wider access to scientific content and who are in a position to pay for that service. We want to offer our authors both options and let them choose. Ultimately, the customers will decide what they want."

Open access transfers the cost of publishing from the end user under Reed's model to the author under open access. And if the author has to pay, that actually acts as a disincentive for authors to do research and get it published.


Open access jeopardises academic publishers, Reed chief warns

Richard Wray
Wednesday June 30, 2004
The Guardian

The rise of open access publishing of scientific research could jeopardise the entire academic publishing industry, according to the chief executive of Reed Elsevier, the world's largest publisher of scientific journals [and the parent company of Lexis-Nexis].

Writing in the company's in-house Review newsletter, Sir Crispin Davis warned that asking researchers to pay for their work to be published but then making it freely available on the internet "could jeopardise the stable, scalable and affordable system of publishing that currently exists".

Sir Crispin, who received a knighthood in the Queen's birthday honours list for services to information and publishing, added that traditional academic publishers "safeguard the publication process and ensure that every research [sic] can submit their work for free, including authors from underfunded fields or developing countries".

The defence of Reed's business model, which relies on academic institutions paying hefty subscriptions for publications, comes as a committee of MPs prepares to report on the state of scientific publishing in the UK after an extensive review.

The Commons science and technology committee under Dr Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, heard evidence from both the traditional publishers and the new breed of open access publishers who charge academics to issue their work but then make it freely available to all on the web.

The open access movement has been gathering strength over the last few months and is due to receive a further boost this week. The UK's higher education IT body, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), is about to announce that it is offering a second series of grants to institutions, publishers and scientific societies who want to use the open access model.

Earlier this year JISC provided 150,000 of seed money to institutions including the Institute of Physics Publish ing, the Journal of Experimental Botany at Lancaster University, the International Union of Crystallography and the US-based Public Library of Science (PLoS). JISC is offering a further 150,000 and will be accepting proposals for consideration until the early autumn.

Reed has, however, made some concessions towards the open access movement.

Alongside the rise of open access publishers, such as BioMed Central and PLoS, some academics are pushing for the right to place copies of articles they write for subscription journals on their own websites. Reed has changed its copyright rules to allow self-archiving in this way.