Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Publishers issue a Brussels Declaration

The International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM) has released the Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing, February 13, 2007.  Here it is unabridged, but for the signatures:

Many declarations have been made about the need for particular business models in the STM information community. STM publishers have largely remained silent on these matters as the majority are agnostic about business models: what works, works. However, despite very significant investment and a massive rise in access to scientific information, our community continues to be beset by propositions and manifestos on the practice of scholarly publishing. Unfortunately the measures proposed have largely not been investigated or tested in any evidence-based manner that would pass rigorous peer review. In the light of this, and based on over ten years experience in the economics of online publishing and our longstanding collaboration with researchers and librarians, we have decided to publish a declaration of principles which we believe to be self-evident.

  1. The mission of publishers is to maximise the dissemination of knowledge through economically self-sustaining business models. We are committed to change and innovation that will make science more effective. We support academic freedom: authors should be free to choose where they publish in a healthy, undistorted free market 
  2. Publishers organise, manage and financially support the peer review processes of STM journals. The imprimatur that peer-reviewed journals give to accepted articles (registration, certification, dissemination and editorial improvement) is irreplaceable and fundamental to scholarship
  3. Publishers launch, sustain, promote and develop journals for the benefit of the scholarly community
  4. Current publisher licensing models are delivering massive rises in scholarly access to research outputs. Publishers have invested heavily to meet the challenges of digitisation and the annual 3% volume growth of the international scholarly literature, yet less than 1% of total R&D is spent on journals
  5. Copyright protects the investment of both authors and publishers. Respect for copyright encourages the flow of information and rewards creators and entrepreneurs
  6. Publishers support the creation of rights-protected archives that preserve scholarship in perpetuity
  7. Raw research data should be made freely available to all researchers. Publishers encourage the public posting of the raw data outputs of research. Sets or sub-sets of data that are submitted with a paper to a journal should wherever possible be made freely accessible to other scholars
  8. Publishing in all media has associated costs. Electronic publishing has costs not found in print publishing. The costs to deliver both are higher than print or electronic only. Publishing costs are the same whether funded by supply-side or demand-side models. If readers or their agents (libraries) don't fund publishing, then someone else (e.g. funding bodies, government) must 
  9. Open deposit of accepted manuscripts risks destabilising subscription revenues and undermining peer review. Articles have economic value for a considerable time after publication which embargo periods must reflect. At 12 months, on average, electronic articles still have 40-50% of their lifetime downloads to come. Free availability of significant proportions of a journal’s content may result in its cancellation and therefore destroy the peer review system upon which researchers and society depend 
  10. “One size fits all” solutions will not work. Download profiles of individual journals vary significantly across subject areas, and from journal to journal

The declaration is currently signed by 8 publisher associations and 35 publishers, including some of the largest like Elsevier, Wiley, Blackwell, Springer, Macmillan, and McGraw Hill.  It is open for more signatures.


  • Is it odd to criticize evidence-free proposals in the same document in which one declares 10 principles to be self-evident?
  • There are dozens of empirical studies supporting OA.  See the Bibliography of empirical studies on open access and Steve Hitchcock's bibliography of empirical studies on the OA impact advantage
  • Publishers who call for evidence have to live by evidence.  For example, that means not asserting without evidence that OA archiving will undermine subscriptions and peer review (see Principle 9).  It means acknowledging the evidence that OA journals perform peer review.  It means acknowledging the evidence that in physics, the field with the highest levels and longest history of OA archiving, the Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society have found no cancellations attributable to OA archiving. In fact both the IOP and APS have even launched their own arXiv mirrors.  The ALPSP, which signed the Brussels Declaration, did an empirical study concluding that high journal prices were a much more significant cause of cancellations than OA archiving.  (Whenever I bring up the archiving-kills-journals objection, I have to note the two-sidedness of my position:  there's no evidence yet that high-volume OA archiving will kill subscriptions; but it might really have this effect in some fields and, if it did, then it would still be justified.)
  • The only reason why authors of scholarly articles need copyright is to assure proper attribution and the integrity of their work.  In every other way copyright is an access barrier that limits their audience and impact.  Could the publishers be confusing authors of journal articles with authors who earn royalties from their writing?
  • I welcome the endorsement of OA for data.  When STM and ALPSP first endorsed open data, I applauded them and added this note:  "I acknowledge that there are many differences between OA to data and OA to peer-reviewed articles interpreting or analyzing data. But ALPSP and STM should acknowledge that there are many similarities, and that most of their arguments for OA data (enhancing research productivity, avoiding costly repetition of research, supporting the creative integration and reworking of research) also apply to OA literature."