Open Access News

News from the open access movement


Monday, August 10, 2009

OA and health disparities

The August 2009 issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization features an article and three reactions on OA:

Leslie Chan, Subbiah Arunachalam, and Barbara Kirsop, Open access: a giant leap towards bridging health inequities.

It is difficult to see how the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals can be achieved without free international access to the world’s publicly funded research findings ...

The United Nation’s HINARI, AGORA and OARE programmes, whereby registered libraries or qualified institutions in countries with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of < US$ 1250 per capita are provided free access to journals contributed by partner commercial publishers, have successfully filled information gaps for selected users. However, such donor programmes have several limitations. They are not driven by science (journals are donated by publishers at their own discretion rather than selected by researchers); they are only available to the poorest countries (as countries’ economies improve, they no longer qualify); some low-income countries are excluded (e.g. India, even though its GDP level qualifies it for access) because publishers fear damage to their existing sales; access is only available from registered libraries and on provision of a password controlled by libraries; publications may be withdrawn and there are no contractual arrangements regarding content continuity. ...

A key to resolving the deep knowledge gap lies in creating a global knowledge base that includes essential research emanating from both research communities in developing countries as well as from “international” research. Without regional knowledge, the picture is incomplete and may result in inappropriate programmes. ...

Services that have focused on providing maximum visibility to regional journals, such as Bioline International (70 open access journals from 17 developing countries), SciELO (approximately 500 journals from Latin American and other Spanish and Portugese-speaking countries) or MedKnow Publications (79 journals mainly from India), show high usage both from neighbouring developing countries and from wider international communities alike. ... The usage of full-text material from institutional repositories that have installed statistical data packages shows low-income countries are among the top users – again demonstrating a real need for previously unattainable information. ...

It has been said that the connectivity problems in developing countries render open access inappropriate, yet these problems, while real, apply equally to non-open access online publications. Moreover, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) recently reported that the research needs for access to new information drive connectivity and vice versa. ...

It is our view that the United Nations and other international organizations should give strong support to the open access movement, which holds such promise for both research and public health. ...

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