Steven Hartshorne, Secretary of SCOOP
This year saw the final stage in a process which has brought about significant changes in the way official publications, and Parliamentary Papers in particular, are made available to the public. In February 2014 the notion of official publishing as a function of government effectively ceased and new procedures “appropriate to digital publication” allowed any publisher to produce and sell print copies of official publications, should they wish.
This led to government departments, agencies and other public bodies distributing hard copy reports, policies and statistics through a variety of publishers. The Government Digital Strategy of 2012 had instituted a programme of delivering information, data and services as ‘Digital By Default’, and hard copy official publications were by no means seen as an exception to this drive online. This process culminated on 31st March this year, when The Stationery Office’s contract for the printing of papers for the House of Commons and House of Lords’ own use was not renewed. As part of the process of migration to digital publishing only, House of Commons Bills, Explanatory Notes and some Select Committee Reports for the House of Commons will still be printed by TSO until 31st December 2016.Further exceptions to the new policy were the House of Commons Daily Hansard and Bound volumes, and the House of Lords Bound Volumes.
Access to the electronic editions of Parliamentary Papers will continue to be available via the various online sources, such as the Gov.Uk Official Publications portal, the Publications and Records section of Parliament.Uk, the TSO’s own Official Publications Online, Dandy’s Public Information Online, and ProQuest’s Parliamentary Papers website.
Another consequence of these changes has been that TSO will no longer be supplying ISBNs for the PDF versions of government publications or MARC records for use by libraries and other publishers. Dandy have made the decision to attach their own ISBNs to the PDFs they supply.
This new policy does not mean that public sector information will no longer be available in printed form. TSO, Dandy and APS Group in Scotland will all continue to publish in this area. What has changed is that there is no longer a stated aim of the Government to provide the majority of its output in hard copy.
The loss of printed OP material has been highlighted by SCOOP as a concern. This is visible in public libraries where staff are providing access to government publications for users unwilling or unable to engage with digital media. The importance of accessible print publishing for Official Publications was thrown into stark relief only this month with the publication of the long awaited Chilcot Report into the Iraq War. The attendant furore over its print cost and availability has clearly indicated that online publishing alone does not adequately meet the needs or expectations of the public
Refer 32(2) Summer 2016