Friday, 4 July 2008

Public health consequences of closed access

If you are looking for an authoritative and comprehensive article on the background and rationale for open access and its importance for developing countries, you could do no better than read, “Excluding the poor from accessing biomedical literature: A rights violation that impedes global health” by Gavin Yamey, published in the international journal, Health and Human Rights, Vol 10, No 1 (2008), and available (OA) online from

This is an excellent article that introduces the issue of human rights into the open access debate. It provides many quotes from researchers in the developing world that bring real-life examples of how closed access damages public health and restricts the development of academic strength in low-income regions of the world. And it matches these examples with the considered views of many international organisations and authorities, reiterating the widely accepted view that economic growth is dependent on a strong and independent research base.

But the article is already out of date. Since its publication the number of organisations introducing open access mandates has grown from 11 to 46, with a further 8 under development. Moreover, the article focuses almost exclusively on OA publishing, whereas the increasing volume and usage of free material available from institutional repositories is only touched on. This is a pity as the development of interoperable OA repositories is the fastest, cheapest and easiest means to get authors’ versions of already refereed and published research findings into the hands of those that need them. Perhaps Yamey can be persuaded to write a second insightful article on the importance of OA IRs to research and sustainable development . . . and he could include the huge benefit OA provides in making the ‘invisible’ research carried out in the poorer countries globally ‘visible’.

No comments: