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July 23, 2004

Harassed members of the House of Commons science and technology committee will be happy to never again have to scrutinise Reed Elsevier, one of the biggest players in the journal publishing market. For weeks, the committee office, which was working on its report on the direction of scientific publishing, had been pestered by unsolicited calls and information from representatives of Reed Elsevier. The key question for the committee was whether to embrace an open-access model, in which authors pay for their research to be disseminated free to online readers, or stick with the subscription journal model, which contributes to Reed Elsevier's impressive profits. The final report, published this week, firmly endorses an open-access model. But it was a fortnight ago that the company began briefing journalists on the pitfalls of open access, claiming that it had inside information on the report's publication date. Does Reed Elsevier have a mole in Government? Or could the fact that it is ahead of the game be linked to the discovery that a set of confidential minutes belonging to the committee seem to have gone astray?

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