Friday, 14 January 2011
Publishers withdraw Bangladeshi access to 2500 journals
The news (BMJ 2011; 342:d196) that a number of commercial publishers partnering in the HINARI programme have pulled out their services to Bangladesh by withdrawing 2500 journals comes as no surprise. Intermittent withdrawals have been recorded from time to time, and indeed other withdrawals may not have been reported.
Publishers have every right to protect their markets and profits, and this is why advocates of the Open Access developments have been working hard to promote instead the benefits of OA as a reliable, research-driven means to provide peer reviewed publications for the research communities, both through interoperable OA institutional repositories and OA journals. The UN programmes (HINARI, OARE, AGORA) have always discriminated between countries because they are based on the arbitrary criteria of national GDP. Even for qualified countries, access is barred to those where publishers have existing markets (India and South Africa, for example, are denied access). Moreover access is only through registered organisations so that individual researchers in other laboratories are similarly barred from access. EPT colleagues have repeatedly warned that these donor programmes cannot be depended upon as sustainable fixtures and have continued to work to persuade the UN agencies to put their weight behind OA and all its benefits. It remains a mystery that these powerful organisations, while purporting to approve the OA movement, do little to help raise awareness, support training and advocacy.
Meanwhile, organisations such as EIFL, Bioline International, MedKnow Publications, SciELO, EPT and many others have made great progress in providing research publications and practical services to promote not only access to the global science base but also to provide a platform for national journals to ‘become international’ through OA-provided increased visibility – a South to North and South to South flow of research information as well as the invaluable North to South flow (see ‘Pre-OA national journals become post-OA international journals’ on http://epublishingtrust.blogspot.com/2011/01/pre-open-access-local-journals-become.html). This link includes a very interesting video (see http://vimeo.com/10169351) of Professor Mary Abukutsa-Onyango discussing the importance of Open Access for research in Kenya and other African countries.
Globally, the recent review of OA progress in 2010 by Peter Suber (see http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/01-02-11.htm) stated "The growth of OA over the past year was deep, wide, and steady" and provided a summary of the many new developments – the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) added 4 new titles/day, Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), recorded 10 new repositories/week, and so on. This movement is steadily becoming accepted as the future mechanism for the distribution of essential research findings - and now is the time to make renewed efforts in raising awareness of the vast and growing volume of articles that OA has already delivered.
Commercial publishers cannot be expected to donate free access to their journals indefinitely and it is up to the research communities to renew efforts to consolidate what has been achieved so far. There is no need to despair that all is lost, and EPT calls on academic communities to recognise the importance of OA in the support of research in poor regions of the world. This matters to us all, since the research generated in these regions completes the global picture of the situation in health, agriculture, climate change, energy provision and all other aspects of our existence. Rather than try to reinstate the HINARI donations, only to be disappointed further down the line, better by far to work with all OA advocates and initiatives to ensure that everyone is aware of what is available to them already - or of what they are missing by not accessing OA resources. See the OASIS resource for practical information on how to implement Open Access http://www.openoasis.org.
Let’s make 2011 the year all researchers in the information-deprived regions are made aware of OA resources. Why depend on the vagaries of the market when alternatives are there at the click of a mouse?