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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Access to climate data from developing countries

Julian Hunt, Expand free journal project so poor countries can share their valuable climate data, Nature, May 17, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  A letter to the editor.  Hunt is a professor of Earth Sciences at University College London.  Excerpt:

I warmly approve your Editorial ‘Millennium development holes’ (Nature 446, 347; 2007) about the lack of weather data from Africa and other developing countries. A further problem is that when measurements have been taken they are often not disseminated to interested organizations within their own country, let alone beyond it.

Both aspects became very apparent at the second international conference on coastal zones in sub-Saharan Africa held in Ghana in 2005 (see [here]). Excellent data taken by Ghana’s meteorological service along the coast, showing steadily rising temperatures and declin[in]g rainfall over 20 years, are not widely known even at the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development at Niamey in Niger. I found a similar situation in the West Indies....

There is currently no financial or other incentive to share these data. African colleagues complain that, even if they send the data to international centres, they cannot benefit, as they do not receive current issues of the journals and bulletins where the results are published.

One way forward, which I have been pursuing by lobbying UK ministers and others, is to ensure that the latest publications of such literature are sent, at no cost, to the regional and national meteorological services that are providing data in developing countries. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation is already providing current literature to some agricultural centres in the world’s poorest countries, through its AGORA programme. The OARE programme, launched last November, has similar arrangements for the environmental-science literature, including weather and climate journals — and more countries are being included in the programme next year....

The media organizations that focus on ghoulish pictures of climatic devastation around the world might also contribute.

Comment.  Yes, AGORA and OARE could help.  But they only provide free or discounted online access to subscription journals within developing countries.  To make climate data available to all climate researchers, including developing countries "too rich" for AGORA and OARE, like India, and to distribute datasets that are not published along with the articles analyzing them, we need straight OA.