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Budapest discussion meeting 17-18 March 2005

Discussion meeting 'The Future of the Research Information Chain - The Role of Publishers and Learned Societies' Budapest, 17 - 18 March 2005. IUCr represented by H.D.Flack.

The meeting was organised jointly by Roger Elliott for Allea (All European Academies - The European Federation of National Academies of Sciences and Humanities) and Pieter Bolman for STM (The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers). It was hosted by the Hungarian Academy of Science in their magnificient 19th building on Roosevelt Square by the river on the Pest side of town. The 74 people listed as participants (a copy of the list is available from HDF on request) are drawn essentially from two separate communities. The first is that of Allea and all european academies were represented due to the generosity of the Hungarian Academy of Science. The second is that of stm and many of the main commercial and some learned-societies publishers were present. 

The meeting was organised around themed discusions lasting 90 minutes each. In general each panellist gave a 10-minute presentation on the subject in hand and this was followed by a general discussion involving panellists and participants. The programme is available as a pdf file which I send with this report of my comments.

Needs of the Research Community – Journals
  Baruch (Euroscience) explained the purpose of EuroScience as a European Association for the promotion of science. He reported on the EuroScience Open Forum held in Stockholm in August 2004 and in particular on the symposium 'Spreading the word: who profits from science publishing?' a report of which is published in Learned Publishing (2005) 18, 67-74. (HDF will send  a copy of this to those who request it.) The symposium seems to have covered much the same ground as the Allea/Stm discussion meeting. They consider archiving (i.e. preservation) to be a most important topic.
  Campbell (Blackwell Publishing) talked about activity in the UK around the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report to which the IUCr contributed evidence. Apparently the audiences of the committee were attended by very many people and there was intense lobbying of the committee members. The committee thinks there is a crisis in scientific publishing and the government disagrees. This brought forth a comment by R. Elliott that although this is no crisis there are certainly many problems. The DTI has set up a research communication forum. Campbell pointed out that at the recent Berlin 3 meeting (in Southampton, I think), that it was often expressed that research councils should take an increasing role in financing scientific publishing. I was unaware that Campbell was so active and such a key player in JISC.
  Tokar (De Gruyter) stressed that publishing/refereeing times, methods and styles changed greatly from one domain to another. For example for times, he gave up to 4 years in Humanities, 2 weeks in Law and 24-48 hours in Science.
  Twardowski (Poland - a Biotechnology researcher and editor) stressed that scientific publishing was part of a value-added chain including science + technology + (copyright) law and IPR + perception of science by society. He wants a greater understanding of science by society and insists that the goals of the science information chain go beyond the mere needs of scientists.
  Durrant (INASP) described the work of INASP in addressing the digital divide and stressed the need for LOCAL communication in the developing world.
  Elliott (ALLEA) again stressed the differences between the sciences and the humanities in publishing. He said that especially the UK and Germany are active in promoting progress in publishing and wondered what was going on elswhere. He was of the opinion that different branches do not communicate sufficiently their various problems. Others mentionned the importance of the speed and quality of refereeing, and the training and education of scientists in the developing world.

Needs of the Research Community – Data and Other Information
Chair: Graham Cameron (European Bio-informatics Centre)
  Schwens (Deutsche Bibliothek) spoke about the work of a national deposit library for the preservation of published material. The standard problems of selecting material for preservation and the need for the DB to acquire expertise in archiving were dealt with. Although Schwens talked entirely about the responsibility of a national library, in the resulting discussion it became clear that a few people present see the preservation of scientific information as needing international attention. 
  Flack (IUCr) talked about IUCr's publishing activities, its evolution and the necessity of integrating data into publication with attendant advantages for validation. I used slides taken from the standard IUCr powerpoint, BMcM's presentation in Southampton and a few of my own on the IUCr's experience with OA. Over coffee, Cowhig (IOPP) said to me that the IUCr had been very innovative. From the discussion, not all OA journals have witnessed the same increase in accesses as the IUCr has seen.
  Legros (Université Libre Brussels) gave an overview of some the results of a study of the economics of scientific publishing.
  Cameron (European Bio-informatics Centre) explained that pathways between databases were just as important as the content of the databases themselves as these allowed 'unlikely journeys into data space'. 
Business Models for Journals I. "Traditional" Publishers' Perspective
  Derk Haank (Springer), Jerry Cowhig (IOPP), Ian Russell (Royal Society, UK), Conrad Guettler (CUP), and Jacek Ciesielski (Poland)
Business Models for Journals II. Drivers for (fundamental?) change
  Jan Velterop (BioMedCentral), Helen Bosc (Librarian), J.-C. Guedon (an OSI representative), Fred Friend (JISC/UCL).
  These two sessions chaired by Sally Morris were run in a different way from the others. She ran in a question-oriented mode by having each speaker in turn express their opinion on a particular question.

  Haank says that the subscription model is gone and finished. What everybody has now is a (big-deal) licence. Of course not everybody seemed to quite agree with him or that the big deal was in the interest of scientists or science. I was standing near to him and Goetze over lunch. He was explaining to whoever wanted to listen that there was no problem with archiving and preservation. I paid more attention to my delicious sheep's cheese and mushroom omlette.
  Cowhig mentionned particularly IOPP's experience with their OA journal, The New Journal of Physics.
  Russell described the challenge for a small learned-society publisher (3 or 4 journals) whose prime journal, initially a private venture, had started in 1665.
  All of these people, and others who expressed their opinion, think that the Journal is still a very useful concept in the electronic age. Friend pointed out the difficulties for small publishers when libraries who have concluded a 'big deal' with large publishers, cancel subscriptions. A discussion started around the language(s) used for publication.  Although some of this talk was emotional and anti-English (e.g. Haank managed to say that 'Of course I would like to have everything published in Dutch') it was grudgingly admitted that English is, and would probably stay, the lingua franca of scientific publication. However an interesting suggestion came from the Macedonian academican, that the IUCr might like to consider, that journals should offer the possibility for papers to be accompanied by an extended abstract or indeed the whole article in the native language of the authors. It was thought that this could be of use in teaching and within the local context of the author. There was some America-bashing going on as well with several people claiming that Americans have an exagerated tendency to choose American journals and cite American authors. Mabe quoted a statistical study which proves that this is in fact not the case if the results are weighted for the number of scientists per country.

Publisher Roles and Responsibilities
   Mabe (Elsevier) talked about the quality assessment of research and of the activity of scholars using standard techniques like shelving studies, questionnaire analysis, inferences from downloads and of course citations and impact factors. Amongst the things he mentionned was that the behaviour of reviews, letters and full papers are very different, that impact factors vary considerably between subject areas and depend on the average number of authors per article. There are problems of half-lives of articles which vary greatly from one subject area to another. All of these bibliometrics seemed unsatisfactory and at best were applicable only for the comparative assessment of activity and achievement within a single subject area. He has some information on the effect of open access on citations.
   Morris (ALPSP) talked about version integrity and control. She has identified a considerable number of different versions of a text but seems to think that perhaps five or six of these are of relevance. She wants powerful functionality for classifying types of versions but to my mind this sounded very expensive to implement and not of much use to the IUCr. ALPSP has organised an international working group for agreeing standards for versioning. In answer to some questions she also explained that ALPSP is drawing up guidelines for refereeing and plagorism.
   Wates (Blackwell) described how the Blackwell publishing system is organised. I'm not sure whether he so intended but I had the distinct impression that a publishing venture stretching over many fields of activity in science and the humanities increases complexity and cost, and lowers flexibility and specialization rather than engendering savings due to size. I have the same reticences concerning institutional repositories. 
   Elliott (ALLEA) – On ethical conduct in scientific publishing, informed us that IUPAP has a set of guidelines for this.

Ownership, Copyright and Archiving
Chair: Pieter Bolman (STM). Speakers and panellists: Hans Roosendaal (University of Twente), Feer Verkade (ALLEA), Mark Seeley (Elsevier), Hugh Jones (PA/STM), Geidy Lung (WIPO).
  All but one of these people are lawyers. So despite my best intentions, I was not particularly attentive to their discourse. Roosendaal thinks that teaching materials are the property of the University and that IT services and repositories could be outsourced. Jones doubts that the work contract of a scholar in a university is sufficiently strong for the university to be able to claim copyright of a scholar's publications resulting from his work at the university. Verkade talked about a recent important decision of the European Court of Justice concerning the database legislation. The case is that of the British Horse Racing Board vs William Hill (a large bookmaker). The point in question (if I got it right) concerns the 'significant investment of resources' to make a database allowing copyright to be claimed on it (i.e. the database not the data in it). The ECJ decided that the resources used to obtain and create the data are not part of the 'investment of resources' of the database itself and are not to be taking into account for determining whether copyright can be claimed on the database itself. As I was trying to understand and write this down, he answered a question on who owned the data and who owned the database. I've no idea what it all meant. Jones stated that an author's copyright applies to the author's original version. The publication process, editing, validation, refereeing, and journal branding all adds and changes the article. He also thinks that non-exclusive licences (instead of copyright transfer to a publisher) may never be strong enough to allow a publisher to undertake all its publishing activities (e.g. preservation, back-scanning). Jones is a consultant to STM. If ever the IUCr needs a lawyer for its publishing activities, he is someone worth considering.

PS. I never before had such a splendid view of the Alps on the flight from Geneva to Budapest. Fantastic.


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