Open access and the developing world – read the latest

1

The
International African Institute and Edinburgh University Press have announced
that their journal Africa:
Journal of the International African Institute
will be now available
free to libraries and non-profit research and educational institutions in some
countries
in Africa
.

 

The ELPUB
Open Scholarship Conference
was held in Toronto at the end of June
and the full texts of presentations are available online. Of particular
interest is
Subbiah Arunachalam’s presentation on India’s stance on
open access, where he describes his own
engagement with the Science Academies and key
policymakers. In another presentation, Gideon Emcee Christian highlights the challenges
to the establishment of open access institutional repositories in Nigeria.
Isabel
Galina and Joaquín Giménez
presented
an exploratory overview of the situation in Mexico, one of the leading
countries in terms of scientific output in Latin America and how the open
access movement has not yet permeated the academic
research environment.

 

Meanwhile, an article in Fortune discusses Bill
Gates’ involvement in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Since retiring from Microsoft, Gates is now even more engaged in his role as
co-chair, where he will be responsible for much of the strategic thinking. An
excerpt from the article reads:

‘And Gates is teeming with
ideas, especially about things scientific. Unlike most benefactors, he doesn’t
merely want to eradicate malaria and AIDS; he wants to understand the nuances
of immunology. He wants to learn about what happens on a molecular scale when a
plant’s genes are altered to improve hardiness.

 

Lastly, a new report entitled ‘Improving Access to Scientific Information
for Developing Countries: UK Learned Societies and Journal Access Programmes

has been issued by the Improving Access to Scientific Information Working Group
of the UK National Commission for UNESCO Natural Sciences Committee.
The report was undertaken in order to assess the participation of UK scientific
learned societies in existing journal access programmes which provide free or
low access to scholarly literature to developing countries. It is based on the
results of a survey of 40 scientific learned societies in the UK, conducted
between August and October 2007 suggests that wider participation in access
programmes is crucial to make journals and other relevant content available to
researchers in developing countries. An excerpt is provided:

‘…While the open access
movement continues to gain positive ground in increasing access to research
findings, most up-to-date scientific literature is at present still made
accessible on a subscription-only basis. Strengthening scientific capacity in
developing countries has therefore been greatly hampered by their inability to
afford essential scientific literature due to the combined forces of the high
cost of journal subscriptions, declining institutional budgets and currency
weaknesses. In a survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2000,
researchers and academics in developing countries ranked access to
subscription-based journals as one of their most pressing problems; in
countries with annual incomes of US$1000 and less per person, 56% of
institutions surveyed had no current subscriptions to international
journals….

Based on the findings detailed
in this report, and the conclusions drawn from these, the UK National
Commission for UNESCO makes the following recommendations:

Participation
by All Scientific Learned Societies and Organisations

…Journal access programmes for
developing countries play a hugely important role in providing essential access
to up-to-date scientific literature.

Those learned societies, and their
third party publishers, which participate in these access programmes provide a
highly commendable service for countries in need. Wider participation is
urgently required to make journal and other relevant content, such as databases
and reference books, available to institutions and readers in developing
countries.’

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One Comment

adamson s. muula

There is no doubt open access and improved information access is a must for the developing world. While we all endeavor to make this a reality to most scientists in the developing world, we also must ensure that the rest of the communities (non-scientists) have access to this information (in appropriate formats of course). Furthermore the possibilities of acting on such information must be available. Because, what is the point of having access to all the information if it does not result in improved well-being?

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