Open access for development: a battle not yet won - SciDev.Net
“These are heady days for supporters of Open Access (OA), who argue that the results of publicly funded research should be made freely available to all, not just to those who can afford subscriptions to the scientific journals in which they are published.
Earlier this year, the World Bank announced that it would adopt an Open Access policy for all its research outputs and ‘knowledge products’, which will be entered into a central repository that will be feely accessible on the Internet. Last month, the British government said that in future, it will require all the research that it funds in British universities to be made openly accessible, with authors paying publishers a fee (funded out of research grants) to make this possible — a position already adopted by the influential Wellcome Trust. The move was rapidly followed by an announcement from the European Commission (EC) that the same rule will apply to all EC-funded research. The UK's Department of International Development (DFID) recently made its own announcement that all its research will be made freely available. And publishers such as BioMed Central are already pioneering Open Access journals in developing regions, such as Africa. The momentum is unstoppable. And, at least as readers, scientists in developing countries, where journal subscriptions are often unaffordable, are already some of the biggest beneficiaries. Free access to the latest research results from across the world is helping them become more effective members of the global research community — and helping global research to find local applications. But however attractive the concept of Open Access, we should be careful about expecting too much too soon — in terms of both outcome and impact. Enthusiasm must be tempered with awareness of what can realistically be achieved... It is important, for example, that a single-minded focus on securing commitment to the 'author pays' model of Open Access — often referred to as 'Gold OA' — should not undermine efforts to create what many in the Open Access community consider to be an essential intermediary step, namely the setting up of open repositories (the 'Green OA' route)... Almost 1,000 thriving open repositories have already been set up across the developing world (for details, see ROAR Eprints). Many provide an importantlink between research being carried out within an institution, and local communities, who may be able to use this research for practical purposes. For scientists in developing countries to benefit, it is also important to ensure that the author fees required by Open Access journals do not become an impediment. Finding an additional £1,500 (US$2373) on top of a research grant — the figure widely quoted as the standard author fee — may not be much for a well-funded researcher in the developed world. But it is significant in developing countries, where research funding is already scarce. Furthermore, while richer journals may be in a position to waive such fees, this may not be possible for research journals in the developing world that often lead a hand-to-mouth existence, relying on subscriptions (and thus restricted access) to cover basic editorial and production costs. In such situations, as Susan Murray from African Journals On-Line told a meeting held in June by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), there is a danger that developing country researchers might desert local journals... This, Murray argued, would undermine the key role that such journals can play in promoting locally funded research based around needs and priorities determined in developing countries, rather than by the scientific community in the developed world...”
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