REPORT HIGHLIGHTS SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHING CONCERNS

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 =A322 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 objectives,
* 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
mailto:n.ahmed@wellcome.ac.uk

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: www.wellcome.ac.uk
3.   The Wellcome Trust=92s position statement in support of open access publishing is available at:
http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/1/awtvispolpub.html
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.