Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The OA roller-coaster

Bad news – Good news – Bad news – Good news

Yesterday, the bad news. It seems that the publishers’ lobby has inserted amendments to the US Appropriations Bill, effectively killing the changes to the proposed NIH OA policy that would enhance access and scientific progress.

Those of us working in development are increasingly appalled that the opportunities afforded by OA for the resolution of the planet’s major problems are continually blocked by the publishing lobby. Those of us working in the poorest regions of the world where the major health and environment difficulties daily lead to unnecessary deaths, loss of livelihoods, unimaginably low quality of life, cannot understand how a handful of publishers can continue to put barriers in the way of the free and immediate exchange of research findings that are essential for strengthening the economies and the science base of developing countries. Someone has said that the only event that would open eyes to the enormity of their actions would be the threat of a major pandemic that affected the developed world.

The lucrative business of publishing material for which the scientific community freely provides the content and carries out the peer review is no longer acceptable in its present form, and I am fully in tune with the tone of the letter from the Knowledge Ecology International to the US Senate, In truth, publishers are increasingly minor players in the distribution of scientific knowledge, both in terms of financial expenditure in the creation, execution and application of scientific knowledge, and of scholarly effort.

Today, the good news

But today we learned of the brilliant EurOpenScholar initiative by EU university rectors to encourage all EU universities and institutes to adopt and mandate OA. See: Congratulations Europe!

Also, from South Africa we learned of the great progress in establishing institutional repositories (IRs) in the region. With the support of eIFL, the number of IRs has increased in a year from 68 to nearly 100, and a collaborative development with SURF, Netherlands, has established a federated IR network (cf DRIVER) that has harvested 80,500 items from partner countries in Africa. Details of this impressive development will hopefully be posted here by Susan Voldsman of eIFL, within the next few weeks. Congratulations South Africa (and also for the rugby World Cup Final)!

And today again there is news of the cancellation of Springer journals by the prestigious Max Plank Institute on the basis of excessive cost . . .

STOP PRESS FOR VERY GOOD NEWS!!! From Peter Suber’s blog: ‘Tonight the Senate
passed the Labor-HHS appropriations bill containing the provision to mandate OA at the NIH. More, the vote was a veto-proof 75-19.‘ this, in spite of strong publisher lobbying. So congratulations to US colleagues who ensured this noble outcome! Not the end of the story, but a major step forward for OA.

Submitted by Barbara Kirsop