Open access and the developing world – read the latest

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently participated
in The Berlin 5 meeting, Open
Access: From Practice to Impact: Consequences of Knowledge Dissemination
in
Padova, Italy. Stefka Kaloyanova’s presentation acknowledged
that research generated in developing countries is currently missing from the
international knowledge base. Authors struggle to pay the financial fees
associated with publication and have limited access to the internet. Katz
suggests a number of initiatives, namely the
International
Information Systems for Agricultural Sciences and Technology
(AGRIS)
network which aims to
build a
common and freely accessible information system for science and technology in
agriculture and related subjects. It was also recommended that open access is
made mandatory in developing countries so that researchers can publish their
research with ease.

The One Laptop Per Child
(OLPC) initiative recently introduced its mission at the Indian National
Convention for Librarians. The video
presentation
is now live. The OLPC campaign has been gaining momentum. Mass
production of computers began in November 2007 and now
Acer,
Everex,
Gigabyte
and Lenovo have also pledged to produce cheaper laptops as part of the
campaign.

The Satellite
2008 conference
will be taking place in Washington during February.

Michail Bletsas will be joining Thomas Jacobson and
Roland Burger for a workshop at the upcoming on 27 February entitled: “Low-cost
satellite Internet infrastructure to support education in remote and developing
regions.” The website states that exhibits-only registration is all that is
needed if you would like to join in the discussion.
 

The latest issue (vol. 10, no. 1, 2008) of Medicc Review is devoted to eHealth: Cuba Faces the Digital Divide and contains several
useful articles. For example, 
Conner Gorry’s feature
looks at the issues developing countries are faced with, such as
a high
incidence of disease, lack of infrastructure, resource scarcity and limited
knowledge-sharing, all of which hinder population growth. Nancy
Sánchez Tarragó, MSc and J. Carlos Fernández Molina, PhD present a
descriptive,
cross-sectional study
designed to determine the level of knowledge about and the attitudes toward
open access journals among Cuban health researchers. The research concluded
that there is little knowledge of open access journals and other open access
movement terms and initiatives, and little use of open access as a publication
means among these researchers.

On the topic of Cuba, Cameron Neylon’s blog, Open
Science and the developing world: Good intentions, bad implementation?
,
discusses his recent trip to Cuba where he talked to scientists about the
conditions they work under. Neylon notes:

One of the strong
arguments for Open Science (literature access, data, methods, notebooks) is
that it provides access to scientists in less priviledged countries to both
peer reviewed research as well as to the details of methodology that can enable
them to carry out their science. I was therefore interested to see both what
was available to them and whether they viewed our efforts in this area as
useful or helpful. I want to emphasise that these people were doing good
science in difficult circumstances by playing to their strengths and focussing
on achievable goals. This is not second rate science, just science that is
limited by access to facilities, reagents, and information
.’

Furthermore, there is very limited access to
subscriber-only literature and primary data. As such, open access seems to be
the solution for these researchers, but Neylon acknowledges this comes with a
catch:

There are many real and potential benefits for
scientists in the developing world if we move to more open styles of science
communication. This is great, and I think it is a good argument for more
openness. However there is a serious problem with the way we present this
information and our reliance on modern web tools to do it. Its a very simple
problem: bandwidth.’

The In Between
The Lines
author looks at the issues discussed in the recent North Carolina Scientific Blogging
Conference
, namely open science in the developing world. In this blog, the
author addresses questions about the effects of a $100 laptop, how to improve
the penetration of scientific information and how people in these countries
find meaningful information on the web.

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