Open access calls for ground rules | Education | Mail & Guardian 2012-09-22


These are heady days for supporters of open access ... Earlier this year, the World Bank announced it would adopt an open-access policy ...  Last month, the British government said in future it would require all the research it funded at British universities to be openly accessible ... This has already been adopted by the influential Wellcome Trust. The move was rapidly followed by an announcement from the European Commission that the same rule would apply to all commission-funded research.  The United Kingdom's department of international development recently announced that all its research would be made freely available and publishers such as BioMed Central are pioneering open-access journals in developing regions such as Africa... scientists in developing countries, where journal subscriptions are often unaffordable, are some of the biggest beneficiaries. Free access to the latest research results is enabling them to become more effective members of the global research community and helping global research to find local applications...  Enthusiasm must be tempered by an awareness of what can realistically be achieved and the pace of change required to ensure a rush to open access does not have unwanted side effects. It is important, for example, that a single-minded focus on securing commitment to the ‘author pays’ model of open access ... should not undermine efforts to create what many in the open-access community consider an essential intermediary step, namely setting up open repositories (the ‘green open-access’ route)... Almost 1 000 thriving open repositories have been set up in the developing world and many provide an important link between research being carried out by an institution and local communities.  For scientists in developing countries to benefit, it is also important to ensure the author fees ... do not become an impediment. Finding £1 500 ... 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.  Short-term steps, such as publishers waiving this fee, can mitigate the difference. In the long run, the solution must lie in making the costs of publication an essential component of any research grant, comparable to buying supplies and scientific equipment. But we are still a long way from that.  Although richer journals may be in a position to waive such fees, this may not be possible for research journals in the developing world. They often lead a hand-to-mouth existence...  In such situations, as Susan Murray from African Journals Online told a meeting held in June by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, 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 on the needs and priorities determined in developing countries, rather than by the scientific community in the developed world.  Helping to reinforce local research capacity has been a priority of SciDev.Net ... since... 2001, when we made a commitment that all the material on our website would be freely accessible. This inevitably created problems in devising a long-term business plan... We have been fortunate to have sponsors, particularly aid agencies ... For us, the type of free access to scientific information represented by the open-access movement is a key component of building development from the bottom up, an approach recently characterised by Rajiv Shah, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, as ‘open-source development’ ...”


From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.business_models oa.comment oa.government oa.mandates oa.costs oa.sustainability oa.prices oa.funders oa.fees oa.wellcome oa.dfid oa.bmc oa.funds oa.world_bank oa.okr oa.scidevnet oa.europe oa.repositories oa.policies oa.journals oa.economics_of oa.south

Date tagged:

09/22/2012, 11:58

Date published:

09/22/2012, 07:58