Monday, 22 September 2008

OA 'a small idea'?

A recent contributor to the AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM@LISTSERVER.SIGMAXI.ORG, Joe Esposito, made statements that need addressing. He said, in relation to the semi-automated ability to request copies of papers of articles archived in OA Institutional Repositories, ‘ Most authors, of course, will not be troubled much with requests because the articles are indeed available to most researchers through institutional subscriptions’, and later ‘. . . OA has little impact’, and finally ‘OA is a small idea’. By responding to this posting, I am aware that I am merely re-stating what is abundantly clear to the scholarly community, but less informed readers may be concerned by the statements made.

If it is true, as he states, that ‘the articles are available to most researchers through institutional subscriptions’, how is it that when material *is* made OA, hundreds and thousands of articles are downloaded daily? How is it, for example, that of the 13,000 records archived in the Universidad de Los Andes’ OA Institutional Repository in Venezuela, 10,000 full text health articles were downloaded in the first 8 days in August 2008? Researchers in the developing world – as has been reported many times and is now well acknowledged – can afford few or even no subscriptions (see for eg New England Journal of Medicine 350, no. 10 (2004): 966–968, showing that in a WHO survey of medical institutes in developing countries there had been *no* subscriptions to journals over the previous 5 years by 56% of institutes in the poorest countries). Globally, no library can afford all the journals it would wish to subscribe to.

In spite of research findings to the contrary, he also concludes that ‘OA has little impact’. But people have different interpretations of what is ‘impact’. To some, it just means citations. Important, yes, but as all researchers know, at the start of a new project, it is standard practice to find and read a considerable number of papers, some recent, some not, and the knowledge this provides feeds into their future work, directing their understanding, broadening their horizons, providing technical information (methods, procedures . .) and only a little of this will be cited in future publications. This ‘impact’ arising from their reading and discussions with colleagues is near-immeasurable, but is essential to the successful conduct of research programmes. If impact equals recorded future usage, statistics of the magnitude of downloads being shown from OA IRs (see ‘Bring on the IRs’ on this blog, March 2008) and OA Journals (3.5 million full text downloads from developing country journals distributed through the Bioline International system in a year . . . sharply increasing usage figures from the OA MedKnow journals published in Mumbai . . .) now demonstrate clearly that this information, previously locked away in vaults, is needed and downloaded by researchers for professional purposes, not for fun.

And if the concept of OA is ‘a small idea’, how is it that approaching 55 highly regarded international and national organisations have required that it be adopted? How is it that there are now 1145 registered OA Institutional Repositories (increasing by ~1/day)? How is it that there are now 3617 registered OA Journals?

Posted by Barbara Kirsop

Thursday, 11 September 2008

OA between Caribbean hurricanes

OA between two hurricanes

An InterAcademy Panel workshop on ‘Open Access to Scientific Literature and other Digital Scientific Information Resources in Central America and the Caribbean: Focus on Education and Health for Sustainable Development’ was organized by the Cuban Academy of Science – between hurricanes. In spite of weather worries, speakers arrived and everything took place in excellent order, organized seemingly near-single handed by Alejandro Caballero de Rivero of the Cuban Academy. Alejandro has my vote for the Olympic Gold Medal in the sport of Workshop Organisation. The programme is available from, and further information will be posted on the site in due course, so bookmark this site to receive details of the presentations.

My impression is that many of the Caribbean participants are well informed about OA and very anxious to become part of the OA exchange of research information, but are struggling to organize how to manage this within their own research structures. Who will do it? Inter-departmental communication is not always well established yet – not only in Cuba, but also in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries. Participants sometimes knew more about international OA developments than about what is taking place across town. Incoming speakers and participants from more OA-advanced countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Chile were able to provide a lot of relevant information and contacts, which it is hoped will accelerate progress.

There were presentations on how the Creative Commons License works, how institutional repositories work, how the InterAcademy works, what is underway in the different Cuban ministries. The research networks infrastructure progress was described and OA policy developments in Brazil, as well as progress in the SciELO e-publishing service. Outside the formal programme there were short presentations on the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook, an OSI-supported initiative to bring together in a single resource ‘everything you will ever want to know about OA’, with new and existing initiatives being contributed by experts around the world. Watch for developments over the coming months. Additionally a short presentation was made on the EU’s next DRIVER programme (called OverDriver) which is aimed at exporting the DRIVER institutional repository services beyond the EU to enable exchange of research information between the EU and researchers in other regions of the world.

The IAP will be working on projects to support OA developments, following a final discussion on needs and opportunities.

The arrival of the hotel parrot in the beautiful tropical atrium at coffee breaks was much appreciated and led to interesting conversations.