S&T Committee (Commons): Scientific publications

01 February 2004

This response recognises scientific publishing as the cornerstone of modern science. It highlights the great uncertainty about the potential impact on the scientific community of the current proposals for open access journals, and especially concerns that: the overall cost to the science base could be greater than under the current subscription model, some authors would be unable to publish in certain journals due to lack of funds, the quality of publications may be reduced as publishers bow to commercial pressures to reduce the rejection rate of papers, it would not be possible to cross-subsidise minority interest publications, and the total number of scientists funded by charities could be reduced in order to pay publishing fees.

The response reiterates the Royal Societys support for the recommendations of the InterAcademy Panel that electronic access to journals should be free of charge on publication to scientists in developing countries and within one year to the rest of the world.

Finally, the response highlights the vital role that Learned Society (not-for-profit) publishers play in the scientific community in using their publishing surplus not only to support and fund scientists and engineers but also to undertake science communication and public dialogue programmes, to promote science education and to interact with industry. It suggests that a number of the smaller Learned Societies would be unlikely to survive without their publishing income and the work of the larger ones would be reduced.