Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Call to support OA journals in developing countries

Priya Shetty, Comment: The developing world needs its own science journals, New Scientist, July 9, 2008.  Excerpt:

The most vital debates at scientific conferences rarely take place during the formal sessions. At the World Health Organization (WHO) meeting of African health ministers in Algiers last month, the hot topic during the lunch breaks was the desperate need to improve the state of academic publishing in developing countries....

Local journals exist in developing countries, but many are failing.  These journals are locked in a vicious circle. Researchers think there is little value in publishing in them, preferring the cachet of globally recognised journals, meaning that they struggle to publish papers of the quality needed to attract future authors....

[M]any journals in developing countries are hampered by the traditional business model of trying to make a profit from print subscriptions - which is challenging, given the dearth of funds to cover subscription fees and the lack of decent postal and transport infrastructure. The revenues available to international medical journals from subscriptions and advertising (which is one reason many publishers are fiercely opposed to open access) simply don't exist in developing countries.

Publishing online is clearly the way forward, and the mushrooming of open-access journals in the west offers a model for how this can be done. Agencies such as the Wellcome Trust have thrown their weight behind open-access initiatives, partly to ensure researchers in developing countries have access to international journals. If the Trust itself began to fund the publishing of open-access journals in developing countries, that would be an even bigger positive step. Development agencies are starting to bankroll long-term efforts to strengthen health systems, but investing in local journals must become part of their funding portfolio too....

Comments.  I'd supplement this sensible op-ed in two ways: 

  1. Researchers in the South generally lack access to research done in the North as well as research done in the South.  The twofold solution is more OA from the North and more OA from the South.  We can accomplish this more easily and quickly with green OA, through repositories, than gold OA, through journals.  Hence, any call for gold OA in developing countries should be conjoined with a call for green OA in developed and developing countries.
  2. While "many journals in developing countries are hampered by the traditional business model of trying to make a profit from print subscriptions," OA journals in the South (like OA journals anywhere) needn't make the profits of the most lucrative TA journals.  Some, however, are not only sustainable, but profitable.  See for example, the 59 OA journals from Medknow Publications in Mumbai.  New support would help, but so would spreading the models that are already working.