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Reed Elsevier Fading . . .

(Forwarded from ACRL Scholarly Communication list)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Reed Elsevier at risk
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2003 13:29:28 -0500
From: Ray English <Ray.English@oberlin.edu>
To: "ACRL Scholarly Communication T.F." <SCHOLCOMM@ala.org>

To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site,
go to http://www.guardian.co.uk

Reed Elsevier at risk as MPs look into science publishing market

By Richard Wray
Thursday December 11 2003

The Guardian

Reed Elsevier faces a serious challenge to one of its main revenue drivers
as a committee of MPs prepares to investigate the growing academic
backlash against scientific publishing - a market worth more than 4.5bn a

The Anglo-Dutch media company is the world's largest publisher of
scientific journals, churning out more than 1,200 every year, roughly
twice the number of its nearest competitor.

Over the past year American academics have become increasingly
dissatisfied with companies that profit from the publication of academic
papers, even calling for a boycott of some Reed companies. That
dissatisfaction has migrated across the Atlantic.

Increasingly, universities are reluctant to pay the large fees demanded by
publishers and are turning to so-called open access journals, where the
costs of publication are paid by the authors.

Yesterday the House of Commons science and technology committee said it
planned to conduct an inquiry into scientific publications early in the
new year.

The committee will look at access to journals, with particular reference
to price and availability.

Specifically the committee will ask about the importance of open-access
journals and whether the government should support the trend towards free
scientific information. Such a move could spell disaster for Reed
Elsevier.  With their high margins, Reed's science and legal publishing
operations are currently supporting its weaker business to business and
education operations.

The chairman of the committee, Ian Gibson MP - a former academic himself -
said he was a staunch believer in the idea that "public funded research
should be freely available to everybody to see it".

Known as something of a Labour rebel Mr Gibson added: "Who knows, we may
need a public-private partnership - which would certainly endear me to the
current administration."

One of the largest moves towards open access so far is the establishment
of the United States Public Library of Science, a non-profit organisation
backed by a Nobel prize winner and an American charity.

In the past two years more than 30,000 scientists in 180 countries have
pledged their support to the PLoS. In Britain, Biomed Central has
published more than 90 journals.

In the past, Reed and other publishers have made it plain they do not
think that open access will thrive because it is neither economically
sustainable nor a more efficient way of publishing scientific journals.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited