No. 81 of Session 2003-04 8 November 2004


MPs on the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee have today, Monday 8 November, asked the Government to "reconsider its position" on scientific publications after it released an obstructive Response to a Committee Report released in July this year.

The MPs say that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has clearly tried to "neutralise" the views put forward by other departments and Government-funded organisations, in particular the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), an expert advisory body funded indirectly by the Department for Education and Skills. The MPs said it was "worrying" both that an expert body had felt constrained in carrying out its advisory role, and that the Government had ignored JISC's expert advice on the need for change in the system for publishing research findings. JISC's very positive response to the Committee Report was watered down following negotiations with DTI.

The Government Response focuses on criticism of the "author-pays" publishing model, despite the fact that the Committee's Report did not recommend its wholesale adoption. Moreover, the Government has "prejudged" the publishing model, instead of encouraging experimentation as advocated by the Committee. MPs claim that the Government's position owes more to the publishing interests supported by DTI than the best interests of the scientific community or evidence-based policy.

Ian Gibson MP, Chair of the Committee, said: "DTI is apparently more interested in kowtowing to the powerful publishing lobby than it is in looking after the best interests of British science. This isn't evidence-based policy, it's policy-based evidence.

"The DTI are clearly wearing the Government's trousers on this issue and that's wrong. Not only has it ignored the advice of the body appointed to advise on this issue, it has actually tried to stop them giving us this advice directly, just because they support the Committee's conclusions rather than the DTI view."

Notes to editors

• Under the terms of Standing Order No. 152 the Science and Technology Committee is empowered to examine the "expenditure, policy and administration of the Office of Science and Technology and its associated public bodies". The Committee was appointed on 12 November 2001.

•  The Committee's inquiry into Scientific Publications was announced on 10 December 2003 in Press Notice 3 of Session 2003-04. The Committee took evidence from Blackwell Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, Nature Publishing Group and Reed Elsevier on 1 March 2004; Oxford University Press, the Institute of Physics Publishing, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, BioMed Central, Public Library of Science and Axiope on 8 March 2004; the British Library, the Joint Information Systems Committee, Cambridge University Library, the University of Hertfordshire and a panel of academics on 21 April 2004; and the Department of Trade and Industry/the Office of Science and Technology, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Research Councils UK on 5 May 2004.

• The Committee published its findings as the Tenth Report of session 2003-04 Scientific Publications: Free for all? (HC 399), on Tuesday 20 July 2004.

• This Report is published alongside the Government Response and responses from the Joint Information Systems Committee, RCUK, the Office of Fair Trading, the Society of College, National and University Libraries/the Consortium of University Research Libraries and the Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access project.

Membership of the Committee

Dr Ian Gibson (Lab, Norwich North) (Chairman)
Mr Tony McWalter (Lab, Hemel Hempstead)
Paul Farrelly (Lab, Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Dr Andrew Murrison (Con, Westbury)
Dr Evan Harris (Lib Dem, Oxford West & Abingdon)
Geraldine Smith (Lab, Morecambe and Lunesdale)
Kate Hoey (Lab, Vauxhall)
Bob Spink  (Con, Castle Point)
Dr Brian Iddon (Lab, Bolton South East)
Dr Desmond Turner (Lab, Brighton Kemptown)
Mr Robert Key (Con, Salisbury)