Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, March 27, 2005

OA and development needs

Ann Whyte, Landscape Analysis of Donor Trends in International Development, Rockefeller Foundation, 2004. Mostly on non-OA development issues but at one point touching on OA. Excerpt (p. 67): 'There is a fierce debate about the costs of access to scientific and scholarly information. A revolution is occurring in journal publishing with initiatives that provide free access, and other experiments to transfer the costs from readers to authors. Donors need to take account of these changes in providing support to higher education....The development of capacity for managing knowledge networks is likely to be one of the areas in which more donors will invest in the future. However, it is still uncertain (some would say unlikely) that developing regions like Africa can become competitive in a globalizing world through the intensified use of ICTs, when other countries have such a head start. National governments and donors may have to consider investing in alternative routes to economic competitiveness rather than only through the development of a knowledge economy. This debate is being taken up by the Scientific Committee for Africa, which is part of the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education Research and Knowledge.' (Thanks to Subbiah Arunachalam.)

(PS: Three quick replies. (1) It's very misleading to say that OA journals shift costs to "authors" when they usually shift costs to author-sponsors such as employers or funding agencies. (2) Donors should consider supporting OA archives as well as OA journals. They are less expensive than OA journals and easily scale up to handle the research output of an institution or country. (3) The question isn't whether Africa, for example, can "become competitive" with regions that have a "head start" in ICT's, but whether OA archives and OA journals are more affordable and more effective than the current subscription system at accelerating research and bringing about all the benefits of research, including economic development. For some issues, it makes sense to compare Africa with other regions, but for this issue we have to compare OA with non-OA.)