Friday, 7 January 2011

‘Pre-open access local journals’ become ‘post-open access international journals’

The following exchange took place on the HIFA2015 forum as part of a wider debate on issues affecting the promotion of local research. Swarna Bandara, Jamaica, made several points regarding this problem and touched on the importance of publishing research findings (see extract below). I responded, wishing to emphasise the importance of this for strengthening national and institutional research.

“Swarna Bandara has clearly outlined the difficulty that researchers in LDCs find in publishing their research findings. I want to emphasise the importance of this problem. Since all researchers loose heart and motivation if they see no hope of publishing their research and making a contribution to knowledge in their area of interest, the inability to publish is a critical issue adversely affecting the strength of local research. Frustrated authors become isolated and feel that their work is pointless. And this has been justified since, as has been pointed out, ‘international journals’ generally take but a minor interest in local issues and the only way LDC authors can get published is by partnering with laboratories in the advanced countries. Again, [co-authoring] sometimes does little to build capacity in publishing skills or ultimately in the progress of research itself. The alternative has been to publish in national journals which had less visibility and therefore provided limited impact.

But there has been a substantial shift in this dismal picture, as Bandara has pointed out. The open access (OA) developments not only have made possible global access to published research, free of cost through deposits in interactive institutional repositories (IRs) or through OA journals, but have also made possible the increase in visibility of local journals. Organisations such as SciELO (, Bioline International (, MedKnow Publications ( and others are providing platforms for open access journals published in the developing world, thus greatly increasing impact and international recognition. HIFA members may like to listen to this video (see of Professor Mary Abukutsa-Onyango discussing the importance of Open Access for research in Kenya and other African countries (she discusses her past publishing difficulties for her work in agriculture, but the point she makes is relevant to all research. The video was made by Leslie Chan, Trustee EPT and Director of Bioline International).

Usage of these sites is very good, demonstrating the wide need for local research findings once they become accessible. For example, there were approaching 5 million full text downloads from the Bioline site in 2009, and MedKnow has recorded not only similarly high downloads, but increased submissions (including from international authors), increased impact and increased income of printed journals due to increased visibility and status. The ‘pre-open access local journals’ are becoming ‘post-open access international journals’.

Full text downloads of articles from OA institutional repositories are similarly encouraging, demonstrating how the transition to open access to publicly funded research is steadily levelling the playing field both for access to the global research resource and for the distribution of ‘national’ research information, see for example the Venezuelan University de Los Andes  statistics for usage of its IR (in Spanish):

Inevitably, these developments will spill over into the research communities in LDCs, providing encouragement, new contacts, and new opportunities for local research endeavours. And as regional research becomes internationalised, administrators will see the value to local economies of increasing support for national research, as has been shown to take place in the developed world, see . . . . . .".

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, December 25, 2010 2:40 PM
Subject: [HIFA2015] Promoting local research (19)

Dear HIFA2015 Community

In response to Nuwan and Saroj I want to comment on three issues.

1. Lack of Research Information from LDC
. . . . .
Use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) help to make these data available with anytime anywhere access. Concepts of Open Access (OA), Institutional Repositories (IR) are utilized by many large LDC to communicate research and make these available globally. The journal publishing model implemented by the Latin America and the Caribbean at is a fine example of use ITC for research information. Tools such as Open Journal System promoted by Public Knowledge Project for e-journals publishing and DSpace for IR are freely available and there is community support. In order to implement an initiative for OA to research, need collaboration between information generators, managers, distributors, facilitators and administrators including governments. Most LDC, particularly Sri Lanka and number of African countries have not taken advantage of these free resources while developed countries are taking full advantage. See the membership of NDLTD (Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations) and see how many LDC are in it. NIH the largest funder for health research mandated that research papers resulting from the research they fund must be available on Open Access within 6 months of publication. The result is those of us who cannot find resources to pay subscription to expensive journals can now access these through PUBMED Central. Some EU member countries, funding agencies such as Welcome Trust, and academic institutions also have similar mandates.

Why such opportunities are not used to make any usable data already exist and/or starting new e-journals using these tools to make the voice heard?

 . . . . ..
 Swarna Bandara

(Former Head, Medical Library, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Kingston, Jamaica)
(Former Coordinator of ETD/DSpace Project at Mona Campus)
(Former VHL National Coordinator, Jamaica)

HIFA2015 profile: Swarna Bandara is former Head of the Medical Library at the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. She is ETD/DSpace Coordinator (ED/DSpace is an international repository for electonic theses and dissertations), and Virtual Health Library National Coordinator. Her professional interests include Open Access, Electronic publishing, Health Science Information, and Information skills training. swarna.bandara AT

Posted by Barbara Kirsop

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