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Can the scientific journals market work better?

The market for scientific, technical and medical journals-A statement by
OFT.(UK Office of Fair Trading) 
PN 55/02 9 September 2002

Press  release

The market for scientific, technical and medical journals may not be
working well, says a statement published by the OFT. The statement follows
an informal consultation carried out by the OFT on the market.  Download
the statement The market for scientific technical and medical Journals

in pdf format (156 kb) at:


The document is also available on Ted Bergstrom's informative pages on
Journals and pricing, refereeing, at UC Santa Barbara:

John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading said: 'Journals are the
principal means by which scientific knowledge is disseminated. The market,
which operates worldwide, has a number of features that suggest that
competition may not be working effectively. However, market forces
harnessing new technology may change this without the need for

This paper reports, under section 125(4) of the Fair Trading Act 1973, on
the OFT's informal consultation regarding the market for scientific,
technical and medical (STM) journals. Its main conclusions are: * there is
evidence to suggest that the market for STM journals may not be working
well * many commercial journal prices appear high, at the expense of
education and research institutions * it remains to be seen whether market
forces, perhaps enhanced by the use of new technology, will remedy the
problems that may exist * for now it would not be appropriate for the OFT
to intervene in the market, but the position will be kept under review.


RE historically high price increases from commercial publishers:

"5.2 Clearly one possibility is that these price increases could reflect
cost increases. The OFT notes Reed Elsevier's arguments that there has
been investment in the development of electronic methods for delivering
journals by email and over the internet, and that the number of articles
published in each journal has increased significantly. On the other hand,
one might have expected these, and other 5 , changes to have reduced the
marginal costs associated with producing and delivering journals."

Final paragraph of the report

"We believe that there is evidence that the market for STM journals may
not be working well. In the light of the developments noted in chapter 7
above, this does not, however, appear to the OFT to be a matter warranting
further investigation on our part at this stage. However, if competition
fails to improve, or should additional significant information come to
light, we may consider further action. In doing so, we would be aware that
although the UK is an important base for, and user of, scientific
journals, it accounts for a fraction of the world market and so would wish
to consider whether any action might be best conducted internationally."

Chuck Hamaker
Associate University Librarian for Collections and Technical Services
Atkins Library
University of North Carolina Charlotte
704 687-2825