Proceedings of the Second ICSU-UNESCO International Conference onElectronic Publishing in Scienceheld in association with CODATA, IFLA and ICSTI at UNESCO House, Paris 20-23 February 2001 Is electronic publishing being used in the best interests of science? The Publisher's view.� Derk Haank, Chief Executive Officer, Elsevier Science Received 2 April 2001Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I must admit I've had a few difficult slots at presentations andseminars before but I've never acted after the concluding remarks ofthe Chairman so apparently I can have no impact whatsoever on anyconclusions from this conference. Some people might find that veryreassuring. I have been asked to answer the question: Is electronicpublishing being used in the best interests of scientists? I am happyto do so and I would also use this opportunity to give a few personalobservations on where the industry is going and where we should begoing. I hope it will not be too boring for you at the end of thisconference.The answer to the question is: Not yet, but it will be. Electronicpublishing is being used but not to its fullest extent yet, but it isabsolutely great. It's the best thing since sliced bread that couldhappen to the scientific community. I can get very excited and carriedaway by that because it is fascinating what is already possible and,even more fascinating is what will be possible in a few years' time. Ithink we have only seen the beginning but once we are further down theroad in a couple of years, I honestly think that electronic publishingwill allow the literature to play a different role in the wholescientific research process and that should be in the interests ofeverybody - developed and developing countries. I don't want to seemobnoxious - but I do think that there is room for improvement in theresearch process. There is a lot of "reinventing of the wheel" stillgoing on within countries and also in different countries. AdmittedlyI was not a very good researcher - that's probably the reason I landedin this job in the first place - but it is from my recollection of myown experience that we did not check the literature every day. We dida lot of literature research, wrote about it, and at the end of theday we looked for a few references from the official literature tobeef up the results. You can say "that was you and that is why youwere no longer allowed at university", but I would suspect there ismore of that going on. If we can develop a system where literature isat the desktop of everybody, available 24 hours a day, that shouldgreatly enhance the role literature plays in the researchprocess. That is the way we are going and that is the way our companyis committed and you should judge all our actions and policies in thatlight. I am happy to explain a little bit what we are trying to do,but let me first make a remark about commercial publishing, becausesometimes we have been treated not as suspects but as alreadyconvicted people. I was pleased to notice in the concluding remarks ofthe Chairman that this conference has taken a much more balanced viewthan I occasionally encounter.The issue "yes or no" for profit is not the big thing - it is aboutwhat kind of service do we deliver to the end-user, to thecustomer. If we get very hung up on an almost religious tone like"Thou shalt not make a profit from science publishing", I don't thinkthat is very productive. I am personally not ashamed of making aprofit and I would like to make more profit instead of less profit tobe honest, but I would be ashamed if people were to say "you are notdelivering a good service to the community" and that is what we aretrying to do. To be fair, I am now in this position for two-and-a-halfyears, I do think there was a disconnection between the profits ofsome commercial publishers and the service we delivered to thecommunity. Let me start on that note. But there is no use crying overspilled milk - just milk new milk. That is what we are doing at themoment. We are trying to enter into this bright new future andmeanwhile correcting some of the issues from the past. Because themain problem from the past, in my opinion, is not the high price of asingle journal subscription. That is a symptom but not the basicproblem.The basic problem is - and it is also the reason why these singleitems were so high - that fewer and fewer people took a subscriptionto the journal leaving the remaining customers to fund the whole billof the system. That has gradually developed over many, many, manyyears and if you look back you would then wonder how is it possible,why was it not intervened before, but it is true. No journal startedas a big journal. All journals start as small journals with thousandsof subscribers. But with the explosion of scientific research,journals became bigger and bigger and the best journals became biggermore quickly than the poor journals. What happened is that prices wentup, and I'll leave aside whether the price should have gone up as muchas it did, but with every price increase you lose a few people on theedges who are marginally interested. I believe that first we lost allthe students, then we lost the faculty staff, then we lost themarginally interested library, so we are now down to the hard core ofbig libraries normally very interested libraries but there are only afew of those in every field who have to fund the cost of the wholesystem and that leads to take prices of thousands of dollars perjournal. Now, I think that for too long commercial publishers haveaccepted that if fewer people pay but they pay more, then the endresult is the same. To me that is a false feeling of security becausethe main problem is that the accessibility to literature became lessand less visibility means that in general the role literature playsdiminishes, the journal becomes less important, is seen less and citedless, and ultimately has to be closed down. So, in my view the mainproblem is the visibility of the journals with only a few peoplepaying the costs. To take the famous example of "Brain Research" whichapparently costs $15,000 per annum, there are only a few hundred biginstitutes paying. Beyond that there is a very inefficient system ofinter-library loan, document delivery, legal and illegal photocopying,with thousands of people using it without paying anything. This is nota very acceptable situation and we should be correcting that. I wouldnot have known how to correct that in the paper world and I probablywould not have taken this job because I don't like to start on animpossible mission: but I'm just lucky because the day I arrivedelectronic publishing broke through, and in my opinion electronicpublishing will help us to solve all these problems in one go and do alot more.Electronic publishing does many things but first let me tell you whatit doesn't do. It does not lower the total cost of the system - theinfrastructure costs. The fact that articles need to be written, needto be reviewed, need to be typeset and need to be archived, madeaccessible, open link, whatever - those costs, if anything, willincrease and they will continue to increase. But what it does do is todramatically lower the marginal costs of allowing access to, insteadof 600 people, to 601 people. The extra cost of that is virtually niland that means that we should be more creative in the business modelin the future. I understand there has been some debate aboutdifferential pricing and is even one of the recommendations. In myopinion that is the way to go and we have started with it already.In developing the way we migrate our current paper customers we findthat more and more customers get together through consortia. Theresult normally is that the existing customers keep on paying roughlythe same as they did in the paper environment, but in return they getboth paper and electronic and quite often more access to more journalsonly electronically. But they haven't lost out; they have gained moreaccess. Typically, the consortium also has a few smaller players onboard - small libraries that were previously very small customers tous or not customers at all - and they get the same access but at alower price, which I think is the way to go. Also in our company wehad lengthy debates - and I know that within consortia there are quiteoften debates - as to whether it is fair that University X has accessto, say, a thousand journals and pays half a million dollars, whereasanother university only pays $100,000 for exactly the same access? Inmy opinion that is completely justified. You could also say that thepaper-pricing model was flawed. Why is it fair that a paper journalhas a fixed price so that Los Alamos pays exactly the same as auniversity in Zimbabwe? I am not saying that we are deliberatelychanging one unfairness for another but let's not be too moral aboutthese issues. Let's try to be practical because the problem with thepaper model is that as prices went up the only people who took it, asI explained before, were the people who were very interested andnormally also very big, leaving developing countries and smallinstitutes always short-changed because although they might beinterested in Brain Research they could not justify $15,000. If, inthe electronic environment, we could for instance lower the price forexisting customers from $15,000 to, say, $10,000 and have hundreds ofsmall departments paying $1,000 each for unlimited access to BrainResearch, I think we would all win. That is, in our opinion, the wayto go. What we are basically doing is to say that you pay depending onhow useful the publication is for you - estimated by how often you useit. That is something very different from paying by the drink. I donot believe that paying by the drink is a suitable model; it iscumbersome for us, but it is also cumbersome for our contract partners- the libraries and universities - and because, in science, the peoplewho drink are not the people who are paying, it is a disastrous modelas any bartender can tell you. So, we should have models where we makea deal with the university, the consortia or the whole country, wherewe say for this amount we will allow all your people to use ourmaterial, unlimited, 24 hours per day. And, basically the price thendepends on a rough estimate of how useful is that product for you; andwe can adjust it over time. It is a principle, which, in my view, isnot immoral. We want to distinguish between big universities vs. smalluniversities, corporate vs. universities, and maybe rich countriesvs. developing countries. There is nothing wrong in that and anycombination of the three, as long as people pay something for it,because I don't believe in giving it away for free. There is no suchthing as a free lunch, as I was always told, and it only appears freefor the end-user. This is appropriate but there are costs involved inthe system, which somebody has to pay that I think are better done ata certain level per university, per country, etc. because then we havethe best of all worlds. We have a very efficient system, whereeverybody who is even vaguely interested in the material has unlimiteduse. What more is required? We need organizations to run such a systemwhich could be learned societies or groups of scientists or commercialpublishers. It is up to us - the commercial publishers - to prove thatwe can provide a good service that justifies the price we want tocharge in the future. And if we can't prove that, we will be out ofbusiness. It is as easy as that and we don't want to be out ofbusiness too since I still have a mortgage to pay. So that is a goodincentive to keep on working on it.Now, enough about differential pricing. Let me say a few things on theway we see the products going. And that is what is reallyexciting. Taking one step back: two-and-a-half years ago when I cameback to Elsevier Science, I found a company that was completelydifferent from when I had left it 10 years before. Then it had abusiness model for journals - we launched 30 to 40 new journals a yearand off we go. When I came back the company was in completedisarray. There was a combination of fear and excitement that we stillhave, but fortunately there is more excitement and less fearnowadays. There was fear because people did realize that things arechanging and changing for good and for ever. That might mean thatsomebody could steal away our business - different players like theMicrosofts of this world or the preprint servers or whatever. So therewas fear among some people. But there was even more excitement becausealthough we are a commercial company, don't be mistaken about that, weemploy thousands of scientists who are very, very committed toscientific publishing and are very committed to the scientificworld. They feel themselves to be part of that community, and they sawvery quickly what electronic publishing could do for their role. Theysaw the prospect of getting the information to the desktop of people,of adding moving images in all kinds of colours, three dimensionalpictures, multimedia, etc. So there was a lot more excitement thanfear but the problem was that everybody was doing their own thing. Idon't want to bore you with all organizational issues but it was a lotof hard work, I must admit - not for me but for my colleagues - tosort it all out and it provides a good raison d'�tre for the existenceof commercial publishers. Because, if there ever was a role forcommercial publishers it is now more than, say, 20 years ago. Althoughsome people feel it has become easier because of electronicpublishing, it has in fact become an awful lot more complicated and anawful lot more capital-intensive. At Elsevier Science last year weinvested $30 million in electronic publishing activities. That is morethan we invested between 1950 and 1980 combined. Even allowing for thefact that we are a big company, so we have probably wasted half of themoney, it is still a lot of money to spend on electronicpublishing. This is not a time for amateurs to get involved, with alldue respect. It takes people who are committed, who are well fundedand are in it for the long term. I have seen it in my own company:small publishing groups getting excited about Web servers and afterthree months they got bored because it is rather tedious. Inelectronic publishing, because you have to adhere to very strictprotocols, it is not just exciting; it's a lot of hard work. It istedious and at the same time intellectually challenging. It is nicebut it is not something on the side. It is not something that I findis done effectively by the scientists themselves. I understand theirfeelings that because of the high journal prices they wanted to have ago at the commercial publishers. If that is your sole motivation, Ithink that you are in for a shock because it is a lot of hard work andis that really what you want to do? If you really want to do that,then come and work for us. But if you want to be a scientist stay awayfrom it because you underestimate the amount of work, the funds andalso the perseverance that is needed to make it work in the longterm. But I see this as a cry for attention, by people irritated bythe fact that the old system was not working as well as it should. Nowit is up to us - the commercial publishers and learned societies - toprove that we can develop a service that is well run and delivers whatit should be delivering. Then there is no need for these initiativesfrom the scientific community. It is ironic that the whole world istalking about out-sourcing and the academic community would in-sourcea tedious job like publishing. It is much easier and more appropriateto leave it to people who do it full time and who are not cleverenough for academic research and end up in publishing.So, where do we see it going? What we have done to date is to completethe migration from the paper journals to an electronic database whichcontains all our journals with all articles as of 1995. That is 1.2million articles in the database covering all the 1,200 journals underthe umbrella of Science Direct. What you find is, the more you havethe more extras you want. There is no limit to what people want andresearchers and librarians are almost human in that respect: they alsowant more and more. Whereas two years ago people said that there is noneed for back files, now they scream for back files because they wishthey could link to the old literature. Yes, that would be nice and itwill be possible. We have embarked on a big investment that atElsevier Science within five years we want all our stuff going back toVolume I, Issue 1 of all 1,200 journals. We want also a seamless linkwith the non-refereed material because those distinctions are becomingblurred: preprints, refereed material, there will be one seamless flowof material from what I would like to call the "academic workbench". Iwould like to see a situation where, the moment you start writing anarticle you do it in such a format that it is constantly linked withthe official and unofficial literature and where you are pointedtowards stuff that is of importance to you. So when you start writingyour article, after a few sentences our product should direct towardsan article that might be relevant. That is making more effective useof literature instead of first finishing your article and then goingon your bike to the library. The publisher should be doing that workand providing pointers to that material. So we see preprints andofficial journals merging into one journal and we also see therefereed material being completely merged with everything that is outthere on the Web because - and I have also picked it up from thisconference - everybody believes there is a future for refereedmaterial and certainly we do that as well, but you shall not live byrefereed material alone. There is more out there and what we will doin Science Direct, in the new release that will be available in March,is to allow a search through our own database of all refereed materialwhile at the same time searching for everything that is out there onthe Web through a search engine we have developed that is specificallyaimed for scientific purposes, because we all know that search enginesdo not search the whole Web, they only search what you ask them todo. So we have asked the search engine to search the Web forscientific material and whether that is universities, author websites,etc. it will all be made available so you can then compare theresearch results from the refereed stuff and the unrefereed stuff. Itis up to you to then choose, but we do believe that it is importantthat we make a distinction between those two. We are not trying tohide anything from the scientists. Let everybody have access toeverything as long as it is made clear what is refereed and what isnot refereed. I think that if we achieve that, we should be able toenhance the role literature plays and that is the main goal. As wesaid, we want the stuff to be available 24 hours a day at the desktopof everybody. We imagine a situation where everybody, the moment theyget into the university or at their desk at home and switch on theircomputer, are immediately alerted to relevant material - derived fromwhat they have been doing in the past - through a very sophisticatedsearch. But it could also include mundane matters such as switching onyour computer to find a first message "You might like to know thatlast night you were cited in this paper". The first thing you do isclick on that button and look for what paper cited you. It's fun, it'spleasant, but at the same time you use literature more than youotherwise would have done because you look at the article and find itis interesting; so you look at a few references, and you are bound toclick on one of these references and before you know it you areworking with literature. So I am very optimistic about thesepossibilities.You don't have to believe everything I say - hardly anybody ever does- but I would say we believe that the future electronic world isbright. We want to be part of it and it is up to us to prove that weplay a leading role. There is more choice for the community and thatis good because a bit of competition keeps us on our toes. We don'tmind that at all. That is one concluding remark I would like tomake. It is very, very important for you to understand that we areconvinced that we can play a role but only in an open technologyenvironment. We will make all our material linkable with anybody elsewho is there. We are not trying to corner the market and say: "We havea box that is only accessible to us". That is in nobody's interest -not of us and not of the end-user. I find it ironic, and alsolaughable to be honest if I may say so, that I often have theimpression that we are more liberal now as commercial publishers thansome of these society publishers who seem to be defending not just theinterests of their members but also their own interests. I find itunbelievable and beyond words that the American Chemical Societyrefuses to publish anything that has appeared on a preprint serverthat is not run by the American Chemical Society. That kind ofmonopolistic behaviour we wouldn't even dare to think of. That cannotbe the way to go. There is a role for everybody, and there is muchmore to be done. Big investment is needed but there are also biggerrewards to be gained because of the extra use that will drive it. Theuse of our database has gone up within a year more than 400%; that isincredible and there is no slowing down. If we have another year of400% increase, I think people will use it so much that the debate onprices will go away. As a concluding remark then, prices are high perjournal but the prices are not high for the whole system. Everyuniversity, as you have also learned this week, spends about only 1%of the total budget on all literature - not just ours - allliterature, books and journals combined. But we also know that everylibrary spends only a quarter of their budget on literature, and therest is infrastructure. I am actually convinced that if we all deliverusing the models that I have described, the infrastructure costs willcome down dramatically. As you might have heard we have signed a dealwith all Dutch universities that they have unlimited access to all thematerial Elsevier Science publishes - we have got a complaint from onelibrarian that we were destroying his document delivery business. Imean, what kind of comment is that? I am pleased to hear that theBritish Library last year for the first year ever, saw a decrease inthe documents delivered because more and more publishers have thesespecial arrangements (not just Elsevier Science but also WileyAcademic Press and the like) where people have more access to ourmaterial and, therefore, less need for document delivery which issub-optimal. One last remark to illustrate this: two years ago we hadabout 500,000 subscriptions at Elsevier Science and we were used tothe fact those numbers went down every year by a few per cent aslibrarians had to cancel. Now, with new contracts combining electronicand paper delivery, we have, at the end of December, more than 700,000subscribers. This means there is no longer attrition. There are now200,000 extra institutes who have access to our material than therewas two years ago. As far as I am concerned we should not stop at700,000; we aim for 7 million users, and this is not because I havemade a big investment but because it is good for all of us. That isthe way to go. Let's grow this business. We are so used to attritionin the number of subscribers when we are in a growth business. Thereis still more research, there are still more researchers everyday. This is a very thriving business. The only thing that is notthriving is paper publishing but electronic publishing will do thatand I hope to live to see it. Thank you.