Tuesday, 24 June 2008

OA progress in developing countries - an EPT selection from ELPUB

The ELPUB Open Scholarship Conference in Toronto will start tomorrow, June 25th, and the full texts of presentations are now online at http://www.elpub.net/. While all presentations will be of interest, here is an EPT-selection that provides information of specific relevance to developing and emerging nations:

‘Open Access in India: hopes and frustrations’, Subbiah Arunachalam

‘Issues and challenges to development of institutional repositories in academic and research institutions in Nigeria’, Gideon Emcee Christian

‘Brazilian open access initiatives: key strategies and challenges’, Sely M S Costa, Fernando C L Leite

Characteristics shared by the scientific electronic journals of Latin America and the Caribbean’, Saray Córdoba-González, Rolando Coto-Solano,

‘An overview of the development of open access journals and repositories in Mexico’, Isabel Galina, Joaquín Giménez,

‘Opening scholarship: strategies for integrating open access and open education’, Eve Gray, Melissa Hagemann, Heather Joseph, Mark Surman,

‘African universities in the knowledge economy: a collaborative approach to researchinh and promoting open communications in higher education’, Eve Gray, Marke Burke,

It is clear from these presentations that there is much work remaining to be done in terms of raising awareness about open access, addressing uncertainties and providing technical support. However, there are very encouraging signs of progress that will lead to increased adoption of OA as the benefits become recognised. It should be noted that these presentations relate to adopting in-country OA technologies and not to the very impressive usage of OA resources now taking place, and reported in this blog earlier (see March 26th 2008).

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Free but not OA for AFRICA journal

The International African Institute at the School of Oriental and African studies (SOAS:http://www.soas.ac.uk/) has announced that the journal Africa is to be made available free to institutions and libraries in qualifying African countries as a result of an arrangement between the International African Institute and the Edinburgh University Press.

For further information, see:


Here is what is said about the journal:

Journal of the International African Institute

The International African Institute and Edinburgh University Press are pleased to jointly announce that their flagship journal Africa. Journal of the International African Institute is henceforth to be available free of charge, in electronic format, to libraries and non-profit research and educational institutions in Africa. Africa was first published in 1928, and is in its 78th volume. It is the leading UK-based and international African studies journal that publishes on the whole of Africa, and in all disciplines of the humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences. With a core orientation towards ethnographically rich, historically informed knowledge garnered through field work, it was and remains the central platform and reference point for Africanist field studies worldwide, witnessing more recent shifts to a greater diversity of approaches and interdisciplinarity.”

It is good that this journal will be more widely available within Africa, but disappointing that the IAI is not making the journal open access and thus widening access to the global community working in the area of African studies.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

A harmful headline in Nature, May 22nd 2008

A letter from Dr Gadagkar, IISc in India, published in Nature (453, 427-562, 22 May 2008) under the headline ‘Open access more harm than good in developing countries’, referred to the policy from a minority of Open Access Journals to require payment from authors, while making material free of charge to all readers. Rightly, the letter said this was damaging for authors from poorer countries. However, the author was not aware that by far the majority of OA journals (67% of journals in the Directory of OA Journals, and 83% of society published journals) make NO charge to authors. Unfortunately, the Nature headline, quoting out of context, sent the totally erroneous message that ALL OA was damaging to researchers in the developing countries.

A number of people wrote to Nature to put the record straight, but it is unfortunate that none of these letters have been accepted for publication. In order to clarify the misleading message portrayed by the headline and the misunderstanding in the content of the letter, the letter sent by three of the EPT Trustees is shown below. The letter firstly corrects the impression that all OA journals make a charge to authors, and secondly highlights the vast and growing volume of research articles now readily available to all through the interoperable OA institutional repositories. We hope this will help correct the unfortunate impression given by the headline in Nature.


As Trustees of the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development working with research scientists and publishers in developing countries* for over a decade, we write to correct misunderstandings conveyed in the correspondence from Raghavendra Gadagkar (Nature, 453, 450, May 22nd, 2008).

First, the choice for researchers in the economically poor regions is not between ‘pay to publish’ versus ‘pay to read’ since by far the majority of “Gold” Open Access (OA) journals make no charge to authors whatsoever. Most are therefore free to both authors and readers. Second, the alternative “Green” route to OA for universities is to create low-cost institutional repositories (IRs) -- in which their researchers can self-archive their publications to make them freely available to all users with Internet access -- and this has already been adopted by about 1300 institutions worldwide. A growing number (44) of universities and funding organisations (including Harvard, Southampton, Liège, CERN, NIH, Wellcome Trust, 6 of the 7 UK research councils, and India’s National Institute of Technology) have already gone on to officially mandate Green OA self-archiving for all their research publications.

Usage of these resources by developing countries is now well recorded. As examples, usage of journals published in developing countries (and making no charge to authors or readers) was recorded by Bioline International as having reached 3.5 million full text downloads in 2007. Usage of research publications archived in IRs shows India, China, Brazil and South Africa among the top15 most active user-countries, and smaller developing countries to a lesser degree. Full text downloads from just one of the 1300 registered repositories showed UK:10,174; India:5,733; China:5,070; South Africa:1155. Detailed usage of 4 such IRs by 6 countries is shown in the EPT Blog.

It is clear from these small but representative examples of usage that OA has huge benefits for the progress of research in the developing world, and advances steadily.


Subbiah Arunachalam, Flat No. 1, Raagas Apts, 66 Venkatakrishna Road, Chennai 600 028, India. Tel: +91 44 2461 3224, Mobile: 97909 2941

Leslie Chan, University of Toronto, Department of Social Sciences, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario, M1C1A4, Canada, Tel: +1 416 287 7505

Barbara Kirsop, Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, Wilmots, Elmton, Worksop, S80 4LS, UK Tel: +44 1909 724184, Mobile 07773677650


Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, http://www.epublishingtrust.org

University of Otago, New Zealand, http://eprints.otago.ac.nz/es/

Bioline International, http://www.bioline.org.br)

EPT Blog, http://epublishingtrust.blogspot.com/2008/03/bring-on-irs.html

* Please note that we use the term “developing countries” for convenience while recognising its limitations.

See also other corrections: http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/407-Re-Open-access-does-more-harm-than-good-in-developing-world.html

Posted by Barbara Kirsop

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Free access leads to increased research

Elsevier publisher has claimed that the WHO HINARI program (of providing free access to articles made available by collaborating publishers to registered organisations in certain low income countries) leads to a significant increase in the number of publications from researchers in the qualifying countries. This claim has been criticised by a number of e-publishing experts. The conclusions were arrived at from an informal study of ISI data carried out by a person at Elsevier publishers. Critics say that ‘without knowing the methods and the data, the conclusions are meaningless. For all we know, the increase could be due largely to open access literature being increasingly available to scientists in the developing world. There are other measures of impact other than publishing in ISI indexed journals, and these may be particularly relevant to researchers from the developing world. We desperately need good research on publishing and citation patterns of researchers from developing countries to better understand the various effects of the different means of increasing access’.

Kimberly Parker, HINARI Program Manager, has since said that “with such a simple analysis it is impossible to prove HINARI alone has caused this increase.... We believe we're a contributing factor in the growth. This particular piece of research was something that came to hand; we are pleased to be able to say that we look to be a contributing factor but we can't prove it. ... “. Others have said that increased access whether through the increasing number of open access resources or through donor programs are bound to stimulate research activity, and it requires in depth studies to show whether programs such as HINARI are the sole contributors to increases in scientific activity.

Usage figures are critical to assessing the value being made of research publications, and happily those from OA resources are increasingly being monitored and made publicly available for study (see other postings to this blog). It would be good to have access to the usage figures of the UN programs (HINARI/AGORA/OARE) so that their comparative value can be assessed.