Saturday, 17 January 2009

EPT urges developing country research needs in letter to new Obama appointees

A letter from the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development to recent research appointees to the Obama administration: Professor John Holdren, Professor Harold Varmus, Professor Jane Lubchenko, Professor Stevan Chu.

January 1st 2009

Dear Professors,

It is with great pleasure that we note your recent appointments in the new US administration. The appointment of yourselves, together with other prestigious scientists to advise on energy, the environment, health and conservation issues, so critical to the planet, is extremely encouraging to scientists everywhere. We write as Trustees of the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development1, working with developing country scientists and publishers to promote equality of access to essential research publications, and wish you well in your endeavours.

The resolution, through science, of urgent global problems is a priority for the safety and economic progress of all nations, yet cannot be achieved by any country in isolation. We write to you, therefore, to urge you to ensure that access to publicly funded research is free to all potential users, particularly to those in low economy regions where the costs of commercial journals are prohibitive, yet where the problems are most severely felt. Without an international perspective on disease control, climate change and other global problems, there will always be limited success, since scientific knowledge in the developing world is a crucial element to the implementation of appropriate and sustainable solutions.

The international movement towards the twin approaches to achieving free and open access to research findings2open access institutional repositories (current total 1239)3 holding deposits of published, peer-reviewed articles, plus open access peer-reviewed journals (current total 3812)4 – is already well established. These collectively provide open access to several million refereed published research articles. Additionally, there are now 31 open access mandates from universities and research institutions requiring the deposit of their own research article output, whether institutionally or externally funded, in their own institutional repositories, as well as 30 open access mandates from major research funding organisations5 requiring the deposit of articles arising from their financial support.

As measurement tools become established, the usage of such material is now seen to be spectacularly high, indicating the very real need for access to research previously locked in high-priced journals, accessible only to those able to afford them.

It remains of great importance, now that the groundwork is laid, that these developments are supported and extended to all research in every discipline. Already the NIH Open Access mandate exists, together with other mandates in the USA, in Europe (including the European Research Council and 6 of the 7 UK Research Councils), Asia, Australia, Canada and elsewhere, many requiring deposit of research publications in low cost and interoperable Institutional Repositories. Barack Obama’s CTO forum requesting proposals for top priorities for the administration ranks access to publicly funded research information as the 12th most important, as of today. It is clear from this widespread activity that there is universal support by the global research community for the free exchange of essential scientific information and data, accelerating progress and enabling advantage to be taken of powerful new web technology.

We write in the hope that you will be able to use your good offices to ensure the adoption of Open Access policies by all federal agencies, thus encouraging further equivalent policy adoptions throughout the world. Environmental protection, the cure and treatment of malaria, HIV/AIDS, the containment of emerging new infectious diseases, the conservation of biodiversity and energy are all urgent issues particularly affecting the low economy regions. They cannot be solved without international scientific cooperation, depending as it must on free and open access to research publications.

We wish you much success in your new appointment and urge that the wider needs of the developing world will be high on your list of priorities. Open Access to research findings by mandated deposit in Institutional Repositories is a very low cost and achievable aim with disproportionately large benefits.

With our good wishes for 2009 and your future work,

Sincerely yours,

Barbara Kirsop, Secretary/Trustee,

On behalf of Trustees of the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development

EPT - Electronic Publishing Trust for Development and EPT Blog

  1. BOAIBudapest Open Access Initiative, 2002
  2. ROAR – Registry of Open Access Repositories
  3. DOAJ – Directory of Open Access Journals
  4. ROARmap – Registry of Open Access mandates
  5. OSTI E-print Network, - links to servers, sites and documents of interest to the Department of Energy’s research

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