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Discussions > Is Open Access only for rich countries? Participate now in an online dialogue on open access and the developing world
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Kerryn McKay
797 days ago

Here is Sumandro's launch statement on the next part of the discussion:  This is a highly interesting and stimulating standpoint which we invite you to comment upon and share your insights:

"The last years have been both satisfying and challenging for the Open Access community worldwide. On one hand, we have experienced numerous 'victories' of the OA agenda, such as the OA policy of Research Council UK, the Finch Committee report, and the OA policy of World Bank. Various agreeable arguments have been made forcefully to highlight the need for a transition to OA models of publication -- from betterment of academic practices, to economic growth to human development. On the other hand, the OA agenda seems like only one, and not a major one at that, 'openness' movement among a crowd of similarly prefixed movements. Further, the OA agenda increasingly appears to be a rather limited, rigid, and old one. Many other 'openness' movements such as Open Data and Open Educational Resources, one may argue, are more effectively designed to better academic practices, drive economic growth and influence human development.

In a powerful critique of the existing OA agenda, Peter Murray-Rust asks: 'Is "Open Access" the same sort of beast [as the modern ideology and practice of "Open"]?' <http://blog.okfn.org/2012/10/26/is-open-access-open/>. He goes on to list out the features of this 'modern ideology and practice of "Open"': meritocracy, universality of participation, a willingness to listen, openness of process, openness of results, and a mechanism to change current practices (please see his blog post for clarification of these features). Instead of having 'open' self-reflections about the changing context and the need for revised strategies, as Eve Gray explains, the OA agenda have often remained haunted by the Budapest Open Access Initiative past and failed to interact with emerging allies such as OA scholarly publications and grey literatures.

To ask the looming question bluntly, is there a need to envision a new, more contemporary if nothing else, version of the OA agenda? In the face of increasing acceptance of OA for journal-based research publications by national and super-national bodies, what are the next frontiers of the OA agenda? Does the journal-centric strategy of the existing OA agenda needs revisiting? The last question is especially pertinent in the context of developing countries, where policy-making is often influenced by privately-funded research. Access to such documents (and their underlying datasets) are significant in such cases for ensuring government accountability, or simply to induce a broad, informed discussion regarding making of national policies. At the same time, the diversity of national policy frameworks across the world poses a critical challenge to any global movement that aims to address global concerns while engaging with local specificities and demands. Similarly for OA agenda, it is crucial to discuss the possibility of a more participatory, flexible and open process of setting strategic agendas at national and regional scales. In this context, it might be useful to revisit the BOAI definition of OA, and question whether this definition is sufficient for a global OA agenda, and also whether the existing OA models (such as Gold and Green OA) are sufficient for delivering the promise of that definition.

To return to the context of various 'openness' movements unfolding worldwide, one may ask, if the OA agenda is now best pursued by dissolving it within other 'openness' movements? Should we talk more of an alliance between various 'openness' movements, or an expansion of some to incorporate the others? It may also be a good opportunity to ask if these other 'openness' movements address the specificities of the challenges in the developing countries in a more effective manner than the old OA model. It is important to initiate a culture of horizontal exchanges of learnings, successes and failures among various 'openness' movements. We are of course especially interested in what the OA agenda can learn from such experiences. Last but not the least, a serious engagement of the OA agenda is needed with the question of digital divide (at a global scale and within developing countries) and how it reinforces knowledge divides of various kinds. This is clearly a challenge faced by all 'openness' movements, and can emerge as a key area of shared efforts."

Kerryn McKay
812 days ago

Happy New Year to everyone!

Our discussions are still ongoing after the break that some of us took over the festive season.  Hope you are all well rested.  Let's take a day or two to read through what we've discussed so far, and then I will invite Sumandro and Eve to refocus us on the additional issues that we need to discuss. 

We might open this up as another thread if we find that the next set  of questions is somewhat removed from this particular thread which has proven to be so interesting.  



836 days ago

Dear Leslie and All,

Thanks for your response. As you now know too well, there is a lot of conscience raising work ahead (to counter e.g. ‘the perverse impact of metrics and rankings’) to get people to start picking the appropriate journals and other outlets for scholarly work, not to make the discussion too narrow. It is not just a matter of selecting an appropriate OA journal, but also to make a choice that makes ‘local lekka’ again if the research is of local / national / sub-SaharanAfrica origin - or ‘global South’ for that matter. By that, I mean an outlet that speaks more directly to and is more accessible to the audience where the research originated from or whom will benefit most from it (i.e. not add to the subsidy coffers or stack up promotion points). Do we not deserve the benefit of the decision where to publish, even with a given that public health is invariably more global in nature? We can have a long discussion on this point alone, but you know what I’m getting at?

The other point you make is that selecting an OA outlet can result in “run(ing) into the wall of costs that are often exorbitant”. Absolutely, no doubt and I agree, but then again the more aware OA publishers like BMC and many others might waive the APC in some cases and some don’t ask an APC for publishing at all. I wonder if anybody would have waived the APC for your article - you are based at UCT in South Africa, an UMIC (World Bank classification again!) country? What do you think? 

A last thought which hit me very hard. While talking to the students during the workshops, I mentioned that the some of the ‘Gold Road’ OA journals might waive the APC in deserving cases and that our province might very well qualify. Upon which on of the very alert students laughed and said ‘yeah, get the hooks into us again and keep the dependency going!’ I spoke to him afterwards and he had a very solid argument why he was not prepared to accept ‘handouts’, or ‘hand downs’ as he said grinning again. Somehow, we have to get the DST and DHET to come up with solid OA policies AND funding so, a new ‘culture of dependency’ on the big OA journal and other OA material publishers is not established.

Have a good one All, as I notice only Lesley is still working? 

Best, Jakes

Leslie London
836 days ago

Jakes asks an interesting question, amongst making many interesting points. Why would I submit a paper to a journal that is not Open Access and owned by a publisher with such a bad OA reputation? To be honest, the answer is that I didn't notice. We looked for a journal in the subject area with a good reputation and didn't stop to think about Open Access till afterwards. This is very revealing admission, since I should be, after all, reasonably aware of getting my research out there. But, in hurley burley of things, and given the overwhelming dominance of closed proprietary journals out there, Open Access didn't feature for me as primary in the criteria when selecting a journal. This coming from a supporter of Open Access - no wonder the vast bulk of researchers are not interested or, as Jake's students showed, are completely unaware.

No doubt, Open Access will increase in weight as a criterion over time, but it will be a long struggle before it becomes the automatic reason for choice. And, of course, when you do make the choice, you run into the wall of costs that are often exorbitant.

thanks, Jake


836 days ago

Hi All, I work in the public health field in South Africa in one of the poorest and most rural provinces of this country. I agree with Bhanu Neupane on many counts, but for a start the holidays are not approaching for all of us and hope I'm not too late for this discussion. I know that in SA most the academics 'switch off' around now and only 'switch on' again around the 2nd week of January, a very old tradition and a well deserved rest. I have been reading like crazy to try to get through all the postings and the documents / articles at the end of URLs the last couple of days to be able to respond in some way to what has been said thus far.

I am new to the Open Access field and landed up in this domain through the ‘Health Information for All by 2015’ (HIFA2015) movement as a logical next step. There is a lot of information that can be distributed (not the problem), but issues like localisation of information, local content (research output) and access (physical and otherwise) was not given enough attention. Thus had to shift my focus, as the ‘rumble in the jungle’ also silently shifted the slogan to HIFA2040 – now you can decide which jungle I’m referring to!

I tried to access HINARI before I left the HIFA2015 effort with an argument that the judgement on which countries can access HINARI, based on World Bank member economy classification, is not fair as there is tremendous regional variation within some countries for it to be fair. I was not successful obviously! (The groups are low income (LIC), $1,005 or less; lower middle income (LMC), $1,006–$3,975; upper middle income (UMC), $3,976–$12,275 and high income, $12,276 or more GNI per capita – World Bank data 2012) Therefore, I understand the analogy of the role of GDP (GNI) in economic development discussions (+ all disclaimers et al) as being the same as the Impact Factor (IF) being used in the citation / ranking / prestige game arguments. I simply say ‘Down the IF! Up the Altmetrics! I hope it is clear now that the IF is not a measure of productivity, but more a proxy indicator of consumption / distribution (to stick to the parlance). All energy used to discuss the IF is misplaced. To develop other metrics that measure impact in real terms is where the energy and discussion should focus. I believe that Tom is well versed to take a lead in this effort.

The two OA conferences in November were a real revelation and a very steep learning curve, but excellent thank you very much! All fired up on return many of my colleagues had to listen to my talk about Open Access and its ramifications and benefits. To my ‘horror’, none of them had heard of OA and no one was interested. I felt like Sridhar Gutam, as the main response was ‘so what?’ I thought then ‘OK, they are getting on in life and missed the ‘digital revolution’…….? I will catch the younger postgraduates and undergraduates, once we start admitting them to the evolving medical school…….

One very good development in postgraduate health education in SA is the recent new requirement that a masters dissertation is required as part of the 4 year specialisation process for all disciplines. This used to be restricted to the Community Health / Public Health Medicine and PHC and Family Medicine disciplines, but now it includes surgery, dermatology, or whatever,


After the conferences, I had to present two 5 day Research Methodology courses over the next 3 weeks, as the registrars (Drs specialising) were pushing their superiors for guidance on research – so it was pushed down to the ‘willing’ as they have not done research before. Running the workshops were very gratifying as I, hope that somehow this will contribute to increased local research output in the long term, not just now for dissertation purposes. During the workshops, I ran a simple survey to gauge some aspect of knowledge about OA, internet search skills, etc. Now I wish it was in a more formal way, so I could write it up and here Bhanu Neupane and I meet again.

These are some of the results: n = 10

  1. Nobody had heard of Open Access
  2. Literature searches: All used Google (not Google Scholar), except for one who used Bing
  3. All only used some of the top (in position) references on the 1st page (~6-8); nobody ever went to the second page.   
  4. Why? Main response was that ‘obviously’ the best references are the first ones
  5. Nobody used PubMed, although some had read / heard of it before
  6. Nobody had heard of Boolean operators or logic before………..
  7. Everybody had heard and was familiar with “publish or perish” and could explain what it meant in their way, not always correct, but still!

The workshop’s structure changed as we went along to plug some of the gaps picked up in this way. Thus reading Bhanu Neupane’s comment “From most of the posts, it’s again firmly established that - there is an immediate need for capacity enhancement to realize the benefits of OA”, then again later on the very disappointing feedback from the intern’s survey made me feel less alone, and lost. I think I will take you up on the seed-funding offer. Information literacy and OA awareness will be very high on my agenda until I move on one day.

I don’t want to write more, just in case everybody is of celebrating the silly season already and I’m speaking to myself. I concur that Katie’s ‘ecancermedicalscience’ effort is great example of what can be achieved, but don’t understand why no one has mentioned Roger Harris and their excellent The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries (EJISDC) <http://www.ejisdc.org/>? Some of us working with health information systems have found the EJISDC to be a valuable resource at all times; also run on a zero-budget and an example to others that it can be done.

Leslie London, my colleague in public health, argues eloquently as usual and makes some very strong points. …..public access to information is instrumental in and essential for human development…….  …touching on self-fulfilling cycle (prophecy)….  …..institutional factors to be tackled….. and in the end “Open Access does, essentially, become a tool for rich countries/localities to reproduce inequities in power in knowledge production and dissemination”. That is why after such a powerful argument, I’d be interested to know what the motivation was to publish with Elsevier? Unless it was, a paper submitted to Health Policy & Planning, but hard to believe there are still no alternatives.  


Wasn’t Dominique Babini’s posting a bit like ‘listening’ to very good music, not perfect, but much greater music than that emitted by Dame Finch’s Ensemble…….. Yes Matthew, there are concrete, practical lessons to be taken from Latin America for Africa (don’t know aboutAsia) and hopefully they are secure enough to spell out the problem areas to avoid. An example is SA linking up with the ScieLO success story. In addition, we can learn a lot from the North how not to make the same mistakes again!

Later everybody, Jakes

PS Thanks for all the wonderful postings and to Eve for the excellent sumaries. Also to my friend who took the gloves off - spot on!

Just wanted to feedback some information and not really, kick start the discussion again at this stage. That will depend on if anybody is still active on the discussion list….


840 days ago

I'd like to go back to Dominique Babini's post and the situation in the LAC region.

Reading Dominique's post and the GOAP page Dominique refers to (I haven't looked any further I admit), I get the picture of a parallel universe (!) where OA is normal, everyone is on board, and the main structures are in place to make it so. I figure there are problems that I don't know about, but I remain impressed until I hear about them.

Are there lessons to be learnt from the LAC experience that can be transferred elsewhere?

I hear it said that the models of OA emerging in the North have developed as a fix (and not necessarily a good fix) to shortcomings in the North's publishing model. (For instance, the Finch report, mentioned frequently here, was specifically about the UK domestic situation and reflects a largely domestic consultation and deliberation. Its proposals are then just about the domestic situation, including the tight focus on journal publishing.)

I also hear that it won't serve the South to adopt OA models from the North, because the system and shortcomings are not the same, and so the solution probably won’t be either.

So I guess my question is (and let me show off my ignorance!), are there concrete, practical lessons to be taken from Latin America for Africa or Asia (or the UK/EU/North for that matter), or is that to make the same mistake again?  

Bhanu Neupane
842 days ago

Thank you Eve. Its definitely not approaching Holidays, but it is more to do with deadlines and year-end reporting.


An intern of mine did a small survey of graduate students in the developing countries to find out about their awareness of Open Access.  We chose graduate
Students because they are most likely to publish their research findings  in journals.


We received a very disappointing feedback. Less than 20% of those students who had responded [111 (questionnaire was sent to 250) to our questionnaires knew about Open Access Journals . To most of the students, a journal was a journal and those which charged -surprisingly- were regarded as "quality" journal. Only 2
respondents believed that Open Access Journals also had a "peer
review" process. In general, other than those articles that they were
accessing using "ScienceDirect" were regarded as published without
any peer reivew process. More than 90 % didn't know existence of even a single
journal in their field of studies (Primarily Engineering). None knew what was
gold or green routes of publication. APC was considered as normal but most
respondents felt that APC is unnecessary and flet a big burden on their research
budget. None of the students knew about the business model of OA....


Bottom line is - those who are most likely to publish and understand the mantra of "publish or perish", still don't know what Open Access publishing is all about.

[In order to address this UNESCO is soliciting proposals from qualified team/group to develop a curriculum and self-directed learning tool for OA. If you think you have a team and can work with us, please follow this link https://www.ungm.org/Notices/Item.aspx?Id=23015

Eve Gray
842 days ago

The discussion has gone very quiet in the last few days. Is this a question of end of year fatigue (in South Africa we are into the year-end office party season) or is this a topic that does not resonate? That would surprise me, as many African researchers have been emphatic that we need more than journal articles.

A specific question - in the global South, where not much is published in journals about topics relevant to our countries and circumstances, is there a more direct line from open access to scientific publication and open education resources? Should we be talking about them as separate fields?

843 days ago

Here are few responses to the discussion so far:

*GDP and Citation Index*

Thanks to Dr. Sitaramam for pointing out the problem in comparing GDP and Citation Indexes. My initial analogy was between the way the GDP figures are treated in economic development discussions and the way Citation Indexes are treated in those of Open Access. Later although, I misleadingly suggested a similarity between GDP and Citation Indexes per se. Clearly the two do not measure productivity in the same way. GDPs do a quntitative assessment of productity -- how much has been produced in a country in a year -- and Citation Indexes do a qualitative assessment of productivity -- which produced artifacts are more influential/critical than the others. However, I clearly have not indicated at any statistical relation between GDP and Citation Indexes. Whereas, a further similarity between GDP and Citation Indexes is how both tends to wrongly estimate actual contributions to production. Prof. Sitaramam have thoroughly explained various limitations and inherent biases of Citation Indexes. Similarly, GDP is infamous for its inability to grasp production contributions by household and informal sectors, and various environmental implications of productive activities.

*To measure or not to measure*

The pressing question, however, is whether any such measurement of academic production (either its total volume or in terms of the critical/most-cited literature) is relevant for understanding the importance of Open Access in specific, and of academic practices in general. As Dr. Sitaramam authoritatively argues global academia is dominated by capitalist market forces. The 'rich countries', by definition, are better accustomed to and in a relatively advantageous position in that system. The 'not-so-rich countries', again by definition, are less accustomed to and in a relatively disadvantageous position in that system. Let me delineate between two critiques of Impact Factors, Citation Indexes and other such measurements of knowledge: (1) these measurements reinforce the capitalist mode of knowledge production and hence should be scrapped, as global academia must rise above the capitalist model, and (2) these measurements wrongly represent the relative productions, productivities and productive possibilities of knowledge among countries across the world, with specific biases against forms of knowledge practices in 'not-so-rich countries', and such wrong representations further distort knowledge policies by governments and private sectors across the world, and hence such measures must be revised and made more inclusive to better direct knowledge policies and practices. Now these two are very different positions. Especially since the latter assumes that the 'not-so-rich countries' are equally, if not more, interested in participating in the global capitalist knowledge markets (perhaps for lack of an alternative), and asks what kind of knowledge measurements can help them to do so. The former states the need to envision a non- or anti- or post-capitalist (without limiting the list of pefixes) global academia, and locates need to reform knowledge measurements in such a a context. I believe, it is important to clarify which position the participants of this discussion are taking, so as to better understand their motivations, critiques and visions.

*This Open Access or that Open Access*

The same two questions haunt the Open Access discussion too. Should the Open Access movement struggle against all kinds of capitalist production and monetisation of knowledge, or should the movement embrace the capitalist knowledge market context and decide to open up access to knowledge as a public good (paid for by collective contributions) in the same way a welfare state may provide support for the unemployed. Of course I only mark the two ends of the broad ideological and tactical spectrum, whereas Open Access movement can decide to lie somewhere in between to continue promoting open practices for both social goods and better and more inclusive business opportunities. I guess it is important, as always, to rethink the socio-economic assumptions that the movement is making. Thanks to Dr. Sitaramam again for presenting this agenda firmly to the discussion.

*Of journals and knowledge repositories*

Thanks to Dr. Scott for flagging the issue of knowledge repositories and journals. Another thanks to him for being central to the development of id21 and Eldis portals, which from personal experience have been as helpful and resourceful, if not more, in informing academic investigations and on-field practices as the various journals (closed and open access). I believe the 'quality controlled and peer reviewed journals' and 'knowledge-dump repositories' distinction to be a rather false one, espcially with the rise of social sharing and ranking practices. Moreover, a rising concern, especially in the social sciences, is that a lot of peer-reviewed Open Access journals have editors and peer-reviewers with limited understanding of developing worlds contexts and/or with particular theoretical positions that aligns well with that of the authors. This leads to acceptance and publication of certain papers that are either questionable for anybody with a grounded understanding of the socio-economic context concerned, or reinforcing theoretical silos and undermining even intra-disciplinary discussions. Democratisation of the review process is something that is increasingly crucial for both journals and repositories. Repositories have already started to incorporate continuous user-driven ranking and commenting of the archived materials, thus enriching the knowledge production and sharing within the repositories. Journals may also embrace similar strategies, encouraging public review of the submitted content and within-portal discussion around the same. Of course this may increase editorial support needed for individual papers and would require rethinking and deploying protocols for organising such review and commenting processes. The inspiring work by Katie Foxall makes it clear that many concerns such as of translation and portal operating costs are common to both journals and repositories. Both tend to be dependent on funding -- either by wellwishers or by funding agencies -- or to make tactical decisions to cut cost and reduce features that negatively affect the ability of the journal/repository to make knowledge accessible. The question of research data, and the importance of foregrounding such crucial materials along with the papers written using the same, further blurs the operational distinction of journals and repositories. A journal interested in publishing, with proper version controlling system, the raw data along with the papers using such data must move closer towards repositories in terms of the software backend of the portal.

*"They have to make the most of everything they produce"*

Eve Gray mentions that Open Access in grey literature, especially those produced by international developmental agencies, is an emerging and much-welcome trend. The importance of Open Access to such publications is even greater in governmental contexts such as in India, where reports and position papers prepared by non-governmental commercial and research bodies such as McKinsey, Huawei and Janaagraha have siginificant impact upon policy-making by the government. In such a situation unhindered public access to these documennts, and especially to the data underlying such positions, is of prime importance for effective citizenship and monitoring of the government. Eve Gray's crucial argument for making the most of all kinds of knowledge productions, especially those funded by the public agencies, leads one to further emphasise the need for *libre* Open Access models of publication that allow development of wide range derivatives, including translations, of such knowledge productions. However, let me also flag certain discomforts with the idea of the developing countries making the most of all their knowledge productions. Firstly, the idea demands a certain nationalist framework for understanding education in general and higher academic pratices in specific. Such nationalist frameworks are problematic, especially in times of economic crisis and when various academic courses are to be differentially priced even by national universities so as to reflect the market value of such courses (say if discipline X is not valued in the market, students should pay more to study it). Further, publication and auditing of certain knolwedge, such as those critical of the state's bio-agricultural policies, may be deemed counter-productive from a nationalist frame. Secondly, how does one measure 'making the most' out of a knowledge artifact? And here we are back to the measurements discussion mentioned above. Perhaps we can rephrase the argument as the following: the developing countries must adopt policies and deploy administrative means to allow *the various users of knowledge* to make the most out of knowledge produced by or about them.

Dominique Babini
844 days ago

Hello everyone, thank you for your interesting and challenging input. As an introduction, I am an OA activist in Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC) since 1998 when at the Latin American Social Science Council (CLACSO) we started an OA cooperative social science digital repository which today has 30.000 full-texts from 21 countries of LAC, and 850.000 requests each month. 

OA in Latin America is very active and in very good health, as I have reported for the LAC Section in UNESCO´s GOAP-Global Open Access Portal.  OA developed by regional subject digital repositories, regional peer-review journal portals and, more recently, institutional repositories.

As in other developing regions, in LAC we have a longstanding tradition of cooperative subject regional information systems (ex.: agriculture, health, social sciences, etc.) which started some decades ago under the umbrella of UN global information systems and international cooperation, and today are adding-up full-texts to the bibliographic databases.  In the past decade, as mentioned by Helio Kuramoto in the background reading for this forum, we have also seen in LAC the development and growth of the very innovative OA peer-review journal portals Scielo and Redalyc, which provide platinum OA (free for readers/free for authors) to more than 1.000 peer-review journals from LAC.  Scielo works with a network of national focal points in 11 countries of LAC (it has also started together with the Academy of Science of South Africa a collection of 23 journals in South-Africa).  Redalyc works with journal editors in 13 countries of LAC.   These OA regional projects, managed within LAC to meet our particular needs, are starting to build their own metrics to complement the much used ISI indicators that so poorly reflect research output from developing regions (this year we have published the Spanish translation of J.C.Guédon´s article “Open Access and the divide between `mainstream´ and `peripheral´ science”).  Institutional repositories are a more recent development in LAC, with 219 IR. Eight countries (Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, México, Perú, Venezuela y El Salvador) have signed to work together a LAC cooperative interoperable infrastructure called La Referencia to promote and harvest interoperable national systems of digital repositories in Latin America, working close to COAR.

But content growth in digital repositories will be very slow until OA legislation and mandates are approved and changes introduced within the reward systems. In Latin America, three countries (Argentina, Brazil, Peru) have OA legislation being discussed in Congress, which will require OA digital repositories for publicly-funded research. 

Considering that in Latin America 2/3 of research is state-funded, I strongly support knowledge as a public good and as a commons (Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom book “Understanding knowledge as a commons”, full-text introduction).  Last month we organized, within CLACSO-UNESCO Latin America and the Caribbean Social Science Conference in Mexico, a Colloquium on Commons, with a panel on OA as a commons, inviting OA initiatives from our region. It has been a way to promote the idea of knowledge as a commons among researchers and funding agencies.

We do this because we are worried by progress of the Article Processing Charge (APC) OA business models in the North, proposals of great concern for us in developing regions, because international APC´s are higher than the average salary of a researcher, and higher than many university individual research support grants.  Who can assume that hybrid publishers and new OA entrepreneurs entering the OA APC business models, will not finally pretend earning 35% or more profit from this new OA business model, as happened in many cases with the traditional publishing model?  Maybe the name “gold open access” was a mistake, because its name is associated with “gold rush”.  What an irony that OA is increasingly being appropriated by mainstream publishers.  And what bad news that the UK Finch Report gives preference for Gold over Green.  As Stevan Harnad writes today in THE “It's not just the US and the Social Sciences that will not join the UK's Gold Rush. Neither will Europe, nor Australia, nor the developing world.”

In developing regions, as mentioned in this discussion and by the authors of the background reading, great work of promotion and cultural change needs to be undertaken to overcome the contradictory coexistence of a system where OA is promoted and implemented, but the evaluation system still uses traditional bibliometric indicators (mainly ISI which very poorly represents the developing countries journals) for promotion, tenure and financial reward.  I would add that we also need to develop new ways of quality control, and metadata that describe the evaluation procedure, for contents within our Green OA repositories, so these contents can be also considered for evaluation purposes.  In our region, main contents in institutional repositories are theses, journal articles, books and book contributions, multimedia, working papers, conference papers and learning objects.

Eve Gray
845 days ago

Kerryn is right – we need to look beyond journal articles if we are to do justice to open access in the developing world.

Our research into scholarly communication in southern Africa has endorsed the importance of including a wider range of outputs in an understanding of what OA has to offer. As a senior administrator in a university in the region put it, the major challenge that these universities face is to combine their ambitions of achieving excellence and international recognition with the need to produce research that is relevant to the needs of their own country. Cash-strapped national governments tend to ask for evidence that their research investment is resulting in a contribution to development goals, something that is not achieved through counting citations in international journals. 

The smaller African countries in particular, do not produce substantial numbers of journal articles, yet we found evidence that there is a substantial amount being produced, but not necessarily disseminated, by way of research reports and briefings, policy papers, and community-focused ‘translations’ and teaching and learning materials. These are often referred to as ‘grey literature’, but I think that this has to be revisited in a digital age,

This was an issue that came up in the Carnegie 3 conference on policy alleviation held in Cape Town a few months ago. There a government minister complained that research outputs were being produced that were relevant to the poverty alleviation mission, but that they were languishing in offices and not being distributed. This is ‘research going to waste’ complained one conference speaker, while another called it ‘theft’. Essentially research completed and not disseminated is research funding wasted.

The creation of subject or institutional repositories is beginning to address this problem. As these outputs are not peer reviewed and the institutions are concerned to ensure that what they have online reflects well on the institution and its researchers, some universities are developing quality control for this literature.

It is interesting that the World Bank and the FAO have endorsed this approach in recent months. The World Bank OA policy includes all the reports that they produce, as well as products published by outside publishers. Their policy for the former category of publications is that they must be published with a CC-BY copyright licence, allowing them to be data mined, translated into other languages, adapted for different audiences, and used commercially. This is an important indicator that OA has moved beyond the journal article alone.

And yes, Al is right that a repository can contain both journal and non-journal content. This is exactly what has been done in a soon-to-be-launched repository for the very rich archive (and current content) of the highly-regarded Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, which has been providing 'open' research content for more than 30 years.

I suppose the short version of this post is that developing countries cannot afford the silo mentaiity that Al talks about. They have to make the most of everything they produce.

Al Scott
845 days ago

Thanks Kerryn. Forgive me if I sound naive, but having spent 10 years running the id21 Research Communication "portal" (and latterly helping to run the Eldis portal) I come to the "repositories versus journals" question from the perspective of a knowledge intermediary. Given that the aim of Open Access is to enable knowledge to reach those who need it, do we need to continue with the distinction between broad repositories with no quality control and narrower - but quality controlled - journals? Can't a well designed repository contain both types of content, suitably distinguishing between them via a well-defined user-interface? From an end-users' viewpoint I can't see why peer-reviewed content can't live alongside non-peer-reviewed content - as long as the distinction is clearly labelled. I raise this because I sometimes wonder if there's a tendency towards silo-thinking when it comes to the distinction between repositories and journals. Maybe new forms of OA content delivery could transcend these distinctions?

Kerryn McKay
845 days ago

Hi Tracy, and welcome to the discussion. 

I think perhaps your introduction actually brings us to another important aspect of this particular conversation, in that it highlights one of the sub themes that we have not discussed in any great detail as yet:  considering educational and academic materials and the relevance of open access to areas such as translation, co-production (collaborative production?) and increasing access to these.  Also, the importance of OA in producing and sharing of non-state-supported educational materials

If we're looking at open access at the top end of academia, it follows that open access should be an element that flows through the educational and knowledge systems, not only at the end point of publish or be damned.  So beyond journals, is the other more 'formal' option open access repositories?  These have no particular quality control, peer review process.  Are they useful?  Should they be measured as legitimate places to gain knowledge?  And what about those open repositories that have been created in (for?) developing countries?  Arguably these are often top-down initiatives rather than a process of knowledge production that has been adopted and built upon by local practitioners to develop into a sustainable, diverse body of knowledge?  Should these platforms - so often funding-dependent and funding-driven - even be considered as part of this open access discussion?

Tracy Hanson
846 days ago

I am a new-comer to the site so I hope you all will bare with me as I try to find my way around.  But first I will just introduce myself and organzation as it seems to fit nicely into WSIS.  We are Next Generation Global Education.  Our mission is " to develop a Global Curriculum Continuum using Open Educational Resources that will transcend political, cultural and linguistic barriers to provide children worldwide anytime with a dynamic, interactive personalized education. In doing so we will assure students leaving high school are self motivated, independent learners, college or career ready, with experience in global collaboration and cooperation prepared to be leaders in the 21st century."

We ARE building a global classroom using the following ideas: Mastery of Learning, using CEO's, building curriculum based on learning styles, developing personal learning tools, and Global Project Based activities.

We welcome any individual, organization, or counry to join us.  We are global - no longer should we be separated by imaginary lines of states and countries.  Divided, we will always be conquered.  Together, however we will bring education into the 21st century and beyond.

For global education to be successful it must shed its traditional ineffective ways and create the synergy necessary to form a learner-centered global instructional model as we progress forward into the 21st Century. Through the education of our children, working and learning together in a world environment, we will be able to survive and thrive.

Tracy Hanson, Founder

846 days ago

Eve Gray’s summaries were good read. I was somewhat amused that there was still need to have any doubt of the far thinking brains that were behind the ISI. Current Contents which we were buying at a large price those days, would be surely defunct once internet catches on and some other market mechanism needs to be created that people would be willing to pay for. A glut of indices followed. WTO, GATT, patent life extended 20 years and the rush for human genome was not a coincidence any more than the major big guns that met in the USA with their president for the commercial implications of Iraqi invasion. It was fortunate that the human genome failed ( they guessed the number of genes by an excess of 300%) as we would be paying through our noses for the pharma till eternity. Since the days of colonialism, modus operandi has changed but the purpose remains. Very carefully thought out programmes  with lasting impact, unfortunately adverse.

Without sounding too aggressive, I must make a few more points, which are still missing, if it helps.

1.Sumandro, in his nice write-up, brought out the analogy between GDP and citation index. Actually, if you make a plot of GDP with the publications, as many have done, some relationship is expected since one needs to invest in research. On the other hand, publications and citation do not match. The bias against South becomes very discernible when you compare the citation of papers based on their addresses. Thus, citation indices do not increase with money spent by  a country as there is a disconnect between the level (quality) of work and its citation. The impact factor of a journal goes down by publishing the work of authors from developing countries as they do not get cited and the publisher must take due caution. One solution that I found in India and Brasil is for investigators to have US/European collaborators from major Universities. You get publications but they hog the credit. You get the leftovers. That is true even for agencies. Chandrayana, the Indian mission to the moon, found water and NASA went public with it. The point I make is that publications and GDP are measures of productivity and not citation index as Sumandro suggested.

2. I should further add that visualizing research publications as something to be read to assimilate and use is a terribly colonial view. That is NOT, nor can it be, the purpose of open access. It is like when we imported cloth from Manchester and starved our weavers. It is important to publish high level original work and be recognized since the decision makers are usually not well versed in making critical knowledge-based decisions and require some kind of vetting. To complete the loop between productivity in research and its application to society requires many levels of interaction and visibility plays a major role. It is here that hegemony in publications kills the esprit de corps that is required for meaningful research. Garfield was right in calling it information science. It is not meaningful, as any student of Shannon knows. Lack of good research also kills education since I found in three decades of teaching biochemistry and biology, the student response was uniformly the highest when it came directly from the lab than from the book. The sense of authenticity and purpose are very critical to education.

3.Hegemony in publications also has an influence on the kind of work people do. If 1% of the US citizens control 90% of the funds, how much medical research in the West caters to the 1% that can pay the top dollar? In many situations, scientists become uneasy when asked this question. It has implications on the work people do elsewhere. For instance, we found that the rural spend twice the urban for medical reasons as out of pocket expenses. Much has been said of public health in India and models from the West, appropriate technologies and so on, but there has been hardly any emphasis on  burden of disease estimates and, more importantly economic burden of disease. Most medical projects with outsiders that I see around never address to the questions which are importance here.  As a former medical man (I preach and my wife practices), I can vouch for the lowest ebb of clinical research in India and collaborations have been  a major culprit.

4. The fear of misplaced research where one could least afford it is not illusory. In plant sciences, it is not possible to develop a programme and get funded based on time tested classical tools without using molecular markers and probes. Specific companies have begun to control agronomic research. Recently when a paper has appeared of the success of BT cotton in India in PNAS, we tried to caution is some international science blogs that the results are doubtful since there were no Indian collaborators named and the studies were presumably done in the fields of the multinational. The blogs were deleted. In a url in my earlier post some more details are given in a Nature correspondence. I was in a FAO dialogue in plant breeding a for a length of time. Though we are now able to predict quantitative traits such as drought tolerance, plant height and yield in the test tube at the seed level in a single day (all published), there were no takers for the methodology from Africa even when offered on a platter. They are all looking for molecular markers.

5. In India, we went through a phase of misplaced enthusiasm for patents…the institutes spent a lot of govt. money and I do not believe a  cent has been earned besides spending public funds. Prosperity does not come by aping others but by doing one’s own work.

6. Thus many questions that come up in research and productivity have little to do with whether publications are open access or payment-wise. It is clear that there are more sharks than sardines swimming in the open (access) sea as well. The question is, do we have a plan what to do beyond platitudes and models to adopt for definitive ends?

6. It is difficult for a Westerner to accept a non-market ideology, by and large. Katie’s efforts laudable as they are make the more important point that accessibility can be made affordable in many ways. However, it still does not help where something really needs to be done.

                I started with a comment on GDP and citation index for one good reason. World Bank loves poverty line (in defining a poverty index), an arbitrary income level with which one can play around depending on the political needs, making any country richer or poorer at their will. We dispensed with the poverty line and succeeded in defining poverty in a commodity specific manner quantitatively. This was extended to health and education and we could obtain quantitative confirmation that when the woman controls the household expenditures, children fare far better, using systems theoretic and statistical modeling to squeeze the information from public data bases over the last ~40 years. These formal models have been extended to publication practices as models for higher education and research and these led to the idea that citation practices can give definitive information on biases. I will be very happy to share these with any of you who want to work together. We must address the disease and not the symptoms.

Lucy Browse
846 days ago

Hello everyone, I work at INASP www.inasp.info - it has been really good to follow the discussions so far and we really value the opportunity to participate in this way! As an organisation we work as a network south and north to strengthen the research communication cycle (availability, access, use, creation and uptake).

I think the points raised about article processing charges are very timely and relevant. As we know, some international journals offer fee waivers to developing countries. However, we need to explore how widely waivers are being adopted by publishers and also the impact that this might have in terms of a) encouraging submissions and publication from developing country researchers and b) the impact this might have on journals from Africa who may need to charge APCs at the current time to be sustainable. It is incredibly important that these journals continue to thrive and increase their visibility globally. This is an area the INASP/Association of Commonwealth Universities "Publishers for Development" initiative will be looking at over the months to come (www.pubs-for-dev.info)

As Sridhar Gutam says, it would seem there is also the very real need to advocate for the benefits of Open Access publishing to researchers - so we hope to be increasing the messages and case studies we are sharing in this vein on AuthorAID www.authoraid.info which is targetting early careers researchers. So if you have examples for us to share they would be gratefully recieved.

I think Allison Steven's point about encouraging other mediums for research/knowledge communication is also very important for engagement and dissemination.

All the very best, Lucy


Katie Foxall
846 days ago

Tom Olijohek - thanks for your kind comments.  The next language we're planning to translate is Portuguese.  Unfortunatley we don't yet have funding for doing the same thing in French but it's definitely one of our aims for the future.

Leslie - I really sympathise with your position - you may find this blog post interesting, written by an ex-editor of the BMJ http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2012/07/03/richard-smith-medical-journals-a-gaggle-of-golden-geese/

Eve Gray
846 days ago

It is interesting that the last two posts came in in sequence - one praising a great venture that produces a successful OA medical journal that does not charge publication fees, the other a bitter complaint from a leading public health academic in South Africa about charges for hybrid OA in an Elsevier journal.

This picks up on a persistent strand in the discussion so far that argues that charging for open access publication is a contradiction in terms and undesirable. I would also like to suggest that Leslie London’s complaint needs, as he makes clear, to be contextualized in the discussion on on impact factors and competitive research systems; the question of knowledge and power disparities; and in the discussion on capacity and infrastructure issues.

Katie’s post demonstrates that scholarly societies can develop models for maintaining scholarly publication that do not depend upon a commercial model and article processing fees, but can function on donor funding and other support. It is also interesting to note that ecancermedicalscience does not aim for the creation of an impact factor, but is involved instead in using and developing alternative metrics.

Another university colleague tackled me yesterday, with a similar story to Leslie’s, angry that a Royal Society journal in his discipline was asking for a £1,000 fee to publish an OA article. He felt he was caught between changing UK OA policy and the realities of a developing country university, where research funding was not as generous. As Leslie says, if he had been funded by Wellcome or the NIH, he would have been in a different position.

The clearest lesson is that there is a real problem in developing countries when it comes to the payment of APCs. There is no government support for the transition to OA with bridging funds, or research funders who will build publication costs into research grants. With some notable exceptions, like the Universities of Stellenboach and Pretoria, there are few South African universities with coherent policies for managing scholarly communication in their institutions. After the recent Biomed OA Africa conference, we know that Biomed Central and PLOS are both concerned, from the different perspective of a for-profit and not-for-profit OA publisher, about the dilemma posed by developing country academics wanting to publish in their journals. But who do they engage with, in the policy vacuum that we experience?

Some additional issues: Leslie’s complaint is about a hybrid journal, in which he would be paying an additional fee to open his article, which, as public health research really needs to reach a wider audience that those who can afford an expensive subscription. Hybrid OA options are not popular among developed country researchers - only a 3% uptake worldwide. Should this be an option to be discouraged?

That raises another question: what has my university done about addressing these issues and about providing information about the options that face its academics? Should academics consider hybrid OA? Or rather be encouraged to full OA? What would that cost, and what would the value be? Has anyone in the library or research office run the figures on what the university is paying for journal subscriptions? Not just the overall figure, but what are we spending on that hugely expensive chemistry journal per reader and per article read? I think we would be very shocked. Leslie is right – we also need much more clarity on the pricing and profit margins of the commercial journals and their APC charges, and his indignation suggests that as academics engage with this, there will be pressure on these numbers. Elsevier, after all, is already being boycotted. 

Where is the policy guidance at national level?  Among university associations in the region, only the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) has tackled this issue and mapped what would be needed to develop a communication pathway for open research dissemination. The South African Minister of Science and Technology expressed support for OA, but coherent national policy is lacking. Payment of substantial rewards for the publication of articles in ISI journals by the Higher Education Department remains a central platform of national publishing policy, a potentially corrupting influence, as Sitaramam has argued.

Leslie makes a powerful case for the desirability of open access for public health ressearch and the double bind that academic authors find themselves in in relation to the impact factor and the realities of the publishing system which, as Sitaramam has made powerfully clear, is powerfully stacked against us. It all goes back to what Bhanu has been asking for from the start - a need for coherent infrastructure and capacity development and for policy and strategy development that is broad enough to address the real issues.

Tom Olijhoek
847 days ago

To Katie Foxall,

Dear Katie, I am honestly in awe for all that you have achieved in the field of opening up information on cancer. I also applaude your move of translating spanish publications from Latin America.  Do you envisage to do anything similar for french speaking authors from African countries? I think that would be a very good move too.

Your example deserves following for other fields, for example for tropical medicine.

Leslie London
847 days ago

I was encouraged to join this discussion by Eve Gray after sharing a recent experience with her about an Open Access publishing dilemma. I am an academic working in the health field at a South African (Middle Income country) with a paper about to be published in an Elsevier journal. On requesting post publication Open Access status, we were told we would be liable for a US$ 3000 fee. No reduction for a South African author – despite a desperate shortage of research funding, we are too ‘wealthy’ to qualify for waiver. (Read that as … if we gave you a waiver, then our profits would start to take a hit and we think you can afford to cross-subsidise the few authors from ‘really poor’ countries who manage to get accepted into our journal.)

What struck me about this was

a)      The complete lack of transparency as to how this nicely rounded figure of $ 3000 was arrived at;

b)      The complete arbitrariness of the figure – having previously done the same for a BMJ linked journal, the ‘price’ of Open Access post publishing was not anything as astronomical as the price Elsevier levied on this article.

Of course, when journal publication is a profit-making (actually, one could more accurately describe it as profiteering) business, there is an inherent conflict of interest amongst publishers offering Open Access with a profit motive retained. On what basis does a publisher claim it costs them US$1000, US$2000 or US$3000 to recoup costs? It seems as long as the system allows the market to operate unfettered, this kind of arbitrariness will continue. Foolish me – if I had the Wellcome Trust or the NIH as a funder of this work, I would have been able to rely on the leverage of a powerful funder to prise the publisher away from their unwavering pursuit of profit. But because I didn’t, I (or my university) have to carry the full costs of the system.

One has to ask how such a system can be morally sustainable? When the Pharmaceutical Industry told us that the costs of Research and Development for antiretroviral drugs justified the exorbitant costs of medicines for people with AIDS, public outrage and concerted civil society action caused the industry to think twice. And, lo and behold, the prices of drugs started to plummet. Where were those costs that the industry claimed they needed to recoup when patented drugs started to be priced at 10% or lower of the original prices asked of poor countries? Of course, I would not like to see journal publication become a commodity in the same way that medicine costs can be titrated down by market forces, but the principle is striking – in the private sector world of profit-making, lack of transparency is simply a recipe for a free-for-all in profit taking.

Why is this important? As many on this dialogue site have pointed out, Open Access is absolutely essential for enhancing public access to information, which is, in turn, instrumental for human development. In the health sector, new findings are of little use when they sit in pay-for-access journals affordable to those institutions (almost all in the north) with the money to do so. We end up with an unvirtuous cycle – those in the north with the resources are able to capture the bulk of research funding, are able to access information (whether Open Access or not), are able to publish their research more easily in Open Access journals (because their institutions can afford the article processing charges, or post publication Open Access fees in ‘closed’ journals) – and so their research is more widely circulated – no wonder the African research project is invisible to the world. It is a self-fulfilling cycle.

I agree that Open Access is not the only cause of the problem, as pointed out. There are many institutional factors that need to be tackled to surface the knowledge production success in Africa (and other developing countries) alongside Open Access. For example, even when researchers from African countries publish in peer-reviewed (ISI listed) journals, the chances of their being cited by northern researcher is lower than the chances of a northern researcher (esp a US researcher) having their work cited in a paper. So, the Thomson’s system simply reinforces the endless cycle of disparities in knowledge creation and valorisation.

Nonetheless, it would help greatly if Open Access made some inroads into this unpalatable situation. We need a sustainable model, business model or otherwise, which is fair, transparent and functional for making knowledge circulate in ways that are useful to society, not to the private profits of publisher shareholders. Otherwise, I think that Open Access does, essentially, become a tool for rich countries/localities to reproduce inequities in power in knowledge production and dissemination.

Leslie London

Katie Foxall
847 days ago

I'd like to add an open access success story to the discussion.  ecancermedicalscience is an oncology journal which was founded 5 years ago by the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy.  The main aim of the journal has always been to publish cancer research, news, videos etc completely for free (platinum open access).  We are able to do this with the help of funding from charities, grants and sponsors - we have never charged authors or readers.

I sometimes encounter disbelief that we've been able to do this successfully but, as has been mentioned, the publishing world is changing so rapidly that there's no reason why other organisations can't do this in other fields (and obviously some already have).  The journal does not have an impact factor as we have concentrated instead on being indexed in all the main repositories including PubMed Central and Scopus.  We'll be integrating altmetrics and article level metrics in the new year as we believe they are a fairer and more accurate method of measuring impact.

Regarding OA in developing countries - we have just embarked on a project which aims to provide cancer information and publishing services to Latin America.  We'll be offering a free translation service so that the research of Spanish speaking authors will have wider dissemination in the English speaking world, as well as providing a patient and general public educational site.  We're also actively campaigning to attract authors from developing countries worldwide.  Our collection of oncology videos, filmed with experts at conferences which many researchers from developing countries cannot afford to attend, is the largest in the world and they're all free to view.

I hope this example highlights some of the opportunities that exist in OA publishing.


Eve Gray
847 days ago

A digest of the discussion as we move towards the end of the first week

 The discussion took a very interesting turn in the next three days of discussion. This reminded me of a sentiment that I had during the Biomed OA in Africa and Berlin 10 conferences – that the complacencies of the usual discussion were being cracked open by an encounter with the realities of the global South.

 To backtrack a little: much of the discussion on OA in the last 10 years has rested  on a narrow band of publications – scholarly journals – and a narrow constituency of researchers. The aim of OA is to expand readership for published articles and increase their impact (sometimes with the expectation that greater access to scholarly articles will automatically lead to impact on teaching and learning and community needs. What needs to be done, this version of the argument goes, is to set up an institutional repository and/or publish OA journals. Then you are away.

 What has emerged in this dialogue is an expansion of this vision to include more complexities:

The focus of OA

Sumandro suggests that we need to look beyond the production of research information to its consumption, in it relation to socio-economic classes – distribution as a question of equality.

This is not dissimilar to a version of OA that has been picked up on in South Africa as a heritage of the anti-apartheid struggle years. In this vision it is not just scholar-to scholar discourse that is important in OA, but the wider range of communications that scholars produce in their engagement with policy makers, communities, and teachers.

Would an OA landscape that addressed teaching and learning and community impact be a more persuasive concept to work with in the developing world, broadening the base of the people involved  and hence its potential for success


Bhanu, picking up on the questions he had raised about research capacity in an earlier post, related this to UNESCO’s investigation of what would be needed by way of training and development to enhance capacity to realize the benefits of OA. This surfaced the realization that we need to know what disciplinary framework in which to situate OA, what curriculum would be needed, what competencies, what career opportunities.

What he is raising here is an interesting question from another perspective. We keep finding ourselves asking ‘Where does this fit within university structures?’ Why is there such a gap within the institutions in understanding the nature of digital scholarly communication and how It needs to be implemented?’

Tom Olijhoek, at the level of technology capacity, stresses the need for the development of mobile-based digital communication infrastructure, in order to ensure the physical means of access in the developing world.

 John Stampe says that OA does not really solve the problem of doing research in developing countries, of adequate research funding or the problematic impact of the IF. He suggests that open access journals and repositories are most valuable in providing the base of accessible prior research on which to build the foundations of research development. Both regional and international journals and repositories are needed, he argues.

The Impact Factor

Guna provided further information on the impact of OA for Indian journals. Tracking OA journals showed that there were 976 journals in the various indexes and that the impact factors of Indian journals were on the rise. However, it would take time for the impact of new OA journals to grow.

Tom Olijhoek expands his argument on the IF, saying that we do need article level impact analysis and a wider range of measures but not the flawed Thomson Reuters IF.

Sumandro then picks up the argument, describing a recursive process in OA discussion, in which we provide critiques of the failings of the impact factor, then lapse back into using improved impact performance as an argument for OA, because of its currency in higher education.

 The power dynamics of scholarly publication

V Sitaramam came out with guns blazing, his target the commercial basis on which journal publishing is built and the corrupting effect this has on the scholarly community and its practices in a post-Friedman world. ‘OA in itself’, he says, has not mattered an iota.’   He argues that ‘to pay for open access is a contradiction of terms and to say it is needed by developing countries is not to understand the nature of control of research and its appropriation by the West in the name of peer pressure and control of clubs.’

Sitramamam’s target is the use of citation and impact as an exclusion mechanism, keeping the control of science firmly in the hands of Western scientists. Developing country scholars are complicit in this game as they play for prestige, effectively exporting developing country science to the North.

This echoes Jean Claude Guédon’s description at the launching workshop of the UNESCO OA initiative, of the old boys’ club of scholars in the journal system who cozily set up the first journal index. Would he agree with Sitaramam that Garfield’s original development of the indexing system was not innocent?

This is a vitally important issue. Developing countries have tended to back off confrontation on this issue, preferring to play safe with the dominant game. Is there the courage in the emerging economies to claim their own agendas, or will we continue, as the South African Higher Education Minister claimed, to operate in a neo-colonial space?


848 days ago

As is common in all such discussions, many of the underlying assumptions remain unexamined or unquestioned. Let me restate a few such questions to see if this discussion to which I was invited remains to be interesting and even useful, at least for me. I will be forgiven if I recommend discussion with the gloves off. While considering research and access to it, it primarily involves both the right publish and the right to read. Only secondarily, it involves personal gain and recognition which facilitates that. Unfortunately, now, the cart is before the horse.

1. Open access that requires heavy publication charges removes the primary right above. That is a source of inequality in making the right to publish limiting to a fewer number. Several associations such as citation and impact factors are loaded with assumptions, which are often self serving and enhance inequalities.

2. When we read a publication because the research area interests us, we are, in a way, guided by the author as to what formed the basis of his/her contribution. Citation therefore becomes the key factor that guides us into the origins of ideas and their dissemination. If this is allowed to be contrived , as is now rampant, two things follow: firstly, the story that develops in the reader’s mind will be faulty leading to cul-de-sacs in research domains that take decades to repair (Kuhn never considered nor (probably) understood the darker side of the force shaping the paradigmatic approach); secondly, it tilts the balance towards  gross inequalities. It no longer matters what is said…it matters who said and where. That is not academics…that is politics. This is why I wrote earlier that plagiarism is a far lesser sin that citation amnesia that the West suffers from.

3. When we talk about North-South divide and inequalities in publication and whether open access remedies that, we are still talking about creating clubs (F1000 being one such). These are still driven by development of brand equity. Why should address matter for a good idea to be published? Before we talk about Africa, we need to consider what countries and what GDPs. Do I hear a similar protest from Somalia? If we talk about relevant research of use to a community, what has that got to do with publication in a ‘reputed’ journal? If you can split water efficiently to make hydrogen for a fuel cell, it does not matter even if you don’t publish it as long as you produce fuel for a vehicle with it that runs economically. Will you be willing to share that knowledge? That is the critical question. In fact, nearly all research with application is outside the domain of publications. Does research make countries rich? It is clear that rich countries do research and do their best to keep it that way.

4. I have no doubt in my mind that Eugene Garfield and his colleagues, not innocently, contributed to the increasing dominance of market forces in academic research and impact factors have had only a negative impact on the society at large, developed or developing. By appealing to personal gain in the scientific community, impact factors have changed the ethos of research and the social values and commitment have degenerated markedly and rapidly.

5.All the brouhaha about citation indices and impact factors creating filters due to the enormous expanse of publications does not alter the singular fact that in any major area of research, a startling discovery, one that makes all the difference, continues to occur only once or less in 8-10 years. The rest are professional papers. That paper that makes all the difference has a tendency to get buried in the collective citation amnesia. Today, Mendel will not be rediscovered. Someone from an Ivy League joint will publish it in a club journal. We now have market forces. So we will try and even patent curcumin, neem and host of old things purloined in the name of discovery.

6. Is there a way out of all this mess? Open access approaches have not addressed enough to the source of evil…the market forces. In fact, much of their planning seems to be driven by the same forces that they claim to remedy.

7. Is there a place for impact factors? Yes, there is. The impact factors, based on citation together with some collation of information of  publication history are to judge the journals for their biases, individual, national, racial or whatever. Instead, they are being used in the wrong direction to personal promotion. A major source of publication misdemeanors is to track the rejection route. Since less than 10% of the papers get published on the first attempt in a prime journal, the track of rejection of eventually published papers must be a rich source of information, never utilized thus far. It is easy to collect ad collate in this day of internet with proof of the track. Journals need to be graded for their biases rather than their impact, if we wish to uphold our faith in academic values. These bias factors need to be published openly to keep the integrity of publications ethics.

                The copy right law needs to be amended that all published work beyond 5 years is open ( the number suggestive and open to debate). In this day and age, we may consider abolishing citation altogether where lists can be made by the journal automatically on the key phrases which the author identifies critical to his paper.

                I suggest that we take research integrity as of paramount importance and create a structure for monitoring the ethics of the publication world instead of complaining. For those who are interested, formal models of the influence of market forces on publication ethics as well as methods for computing ethics of publication practices have been developed, awaiting takers. I am yet to succeed in interesting Indian governmental agencies in this.

848 days ago

Tom Olijhoek: Thanks for your views upon my posting on IF and the OA journals. I just want to say that I am not against the impact factor and its practice. There is no other alternate to measure the surrogate of journals for its quality or impact. I strongly admit that the article level metrics (citations/impact) has more value than the journal level. http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040157 . The well established commercial journals (hybrid) opt all or some of their contents into OA (based on APC). In this case, the OA contents will have great citation and impact than the closed access contents. The article level metrics of hybrid journals have proven that.  A study on article level metrics  http://www.plosbiology.org/article/metrics/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000242 


The Medknow (India) and SciELO (Brazil) publishing models have proven that the impact factors of their OA journals are on the raise. http://openmed.nic.in/1371/ 


These two publishing models are good example for DCs - Where majority of journals do not ask APC and they are running successfully.

I do not mean that “WE DO NOT WANT TO USE THIS ANY MORE“. Impact factor based evaluation is globally accepted and used by many researchers, organisation and funding agencies for various evaluation purposes for long time. We have to use the IF of journals carefully. I think the Impact Factors will be there in practice until the alternate comes. 

But my point is "OA journals are budding and growing rapidly. Impact factors of OA journals will take time to compete with well established toll access journals.

850 days ago

The location of citation indexes in Open Access discussions seems to be analogous to that of GDP in discussions of economic development. After cautious disclaimers and detailed critiques of effectivity of GDP in measuring economic development, the discussions of economic development tend to slip back, sooner or later, around comparative analysis of GDPs and their growth rates. Often the same happen in discussions of Open Access when after the usual caveats a range of citation indexes and associated numbers are refered to to make a case for Open Access, especially in the context of dismantling global knowledge divides. Interestingly, both GDP and citation index are measures of productivity, and not of distribution and thus consumption.

The Open Access discussion of global knowledge divides often focuses on issues of production and especially on issues of production in the higher end of academic practices, that is graduate and post-graduate research. I believe the Open Access discussion must broaden its focus to issues of consumption and especially consumption of knowledge across socio-economic classes (that is issues of distribution of knowledge, not in the sense of publishing but in that of equality) to become more relevant in not only the not-so-rich countries but across the world.

Focusing on consumption and equal consumption across socio-economic classes will surely bring forward the importance of possibilities such as Open Educational Resources (especially in primary and secondary levels of education), and open licenses to enable translation of primary and supplimentary texts. Further it appears that often Open Access knowledge resources adopt a digital-only publication strategy, usually due to lack of resources for analog publication. This way Open Access publications may reinforce pre-existing digital divides in access to knowledge not only globally but also within countries. Taking consumption as an entry point to assessing possibilities and impact of Open Access may foreground such issues.

Earlier in the discussion, Allison Stevens has sharply identified the structural biases in modern academic system (especially higher education) that pushes academic publications towards certain journals and certain publishers (in case of books). As V Sitaramam suggests, strong economic interests and academic nexuses dominate global academic publishing business. While expanding (and perhaps realigning) the Open Access agenda we may think of how that can contribute to questioning of these structural imbalances within higher academia. Sridhar Gutam and Bhanu Neupane have already emphasised the need to build local capacity for appreciating and promoting the benefits of Open Access. Further, I believe that the Open Access agenda may find new inspirations and opportunities if it widens its field of application to primary and secondary levels of education, as well as to various non-academic users of knowledge. To repeat myself, an approach based on consumption of knowledge may allow the Open Access movement to make broader alliances with various user groups of knowledge -- from parents of school going children to practitioner communities to local entrepreneurs. Of course this may create the risk of the agenda being too broad and losing its edge. But the open access to knowledge agenda was perhaps meant to be broad and inclusive.

Tom Olijhoek
850 days ago

Dear all.
I want to react on the post by Guna, where he states that: 
A recent study revealed that the IF of OA journals are approaching the same scientific impact and quality as subscription journals 
The OA journals are budding and growing rapidly.Impact factors of OA journals will take time to compete with well established toll access journals.

  I think that it is true that OA journals score better and better using the rules for the Thomson_Reuters impact factor. BUT WE DO NOT WANT TO USE THIS ANY MORE. It has been shown many times that the impact factor is not measuring quality of individual articles in given journals. Especially during the Conferences in South Africa at the beginning of this month this point has been made repeatedly. It is therefore not appropriate to try and convince the world that OA journals improve in quality using the
 argument of a better Thomson Reuters Impact factor. We should develop better assessment methods that measure real impact, what I call relevance, and let these methods show the quality of open access articles and journals ( and other output different form articles in journals ).
In addition I want to stress the point that physical means of access to information in the North and the South differs , that access in the South will not for a long time be comparable to access in the North for fixed means of access (cable-PC). In contrast to the North access in the South would be helped very much by concentrating on the development of mobile infrastructures and applications. Of course these solutions will theen once they are in place , work in the North as well. Only for instance countries in Africa simply do not have reliable infrastructure for fixed internet access. Therefore in my view open access capacity building should include the support of mobile networks and applications designed for access to scholarly information, scientific information and educational material.
This strategy would result in wider access to information and access to education through mobile applications that are ideally suited for developing countries like those on the african continent.
I include a link from G+ via Glyn Moody that shows the evolution of mobile networks in developing countries.

850 days ago

Does a doctor give an advice that diminishes his returns? Does a lawyer give advice against litigation that diminishes his practice? Does a government ( Let us watch Cameron!) enact laws that modify its hold on the press and police? Does the press diminish its publication of its sensationalized stories that sell the rag? The whole debate on open access reminds me of a literal-minded student of mine, when responded for a query by asking whether the Pope is Catholic, answered me actually, "I don't know. I am not a Christian!" Open access... to what end? To read or to publish? These two are different end games and some confusion persists towards these different ends. In India, all our journals are open access and without the cost of publication. Yet, they struggle hard to stay alive. Impact factors have much to say about that. Open access itself has not mattered an iota. Where Milton Friedman has been the new God as in the USA, nothing makes sense unless couched in terms of market forces. To pay for open access is a contradiction of terms and to say it is needed by developing countries is not to understand the nature of control of research and its appropriation by the West in the name of peer pressure and control of clubs.

The original sin rests with the scientific community which is primarily self seeking when it comes to credit mongering. Plagiarism has been made much of, which is actually petty theft. The grand larceny relates to non-citation, which is the standard Western practice for any work that arises elsewhere. Citations are controlled by clubs, which is a crime in these days of automation.

When I suggested  in an article to Current Science, India, that the plagiarist is a praise-worthy patriot, (attaching a photograph of mine with tongue in cheek in case the editor missed the point) the editor found it embarrassing to publish. The argument was simple. Since the worth of science squarely rests with the West, amply justified historically, the right things to do is what the West does. That is where the advancement of science lies (the pun was unintentional, though GM crops and climate change tell us otherwise). Either reconfirm their ideas or pursue the logical path they set out as progress. Always give them credit. If acknowledged, shed copious tears of joy and, if ignored, remember that it is not becoming of your station to question the superiors. If you have the hubris to chalk out a different course, you will be ignored and when you cannot be ignored any more, a couple of reviews written in captive journals (that is what these high impact journals are to control the written word, since the reviews are invited) will soon take over the original author. You can always be handled.

                Here is the nub. The conscientious scientist who is seized of the situation in totality would apply market analysis to the problem. Should he spent Indian money for the Western research as all his colleagues are doing to get promoted or get awards or should he be patriotic and not waste Indian money? If the West wants their results confirmed in their journals, is it not market wisdom…with globalization and WTO to boot… to republish their data in their own journals? Is plagiarism the stuff that heroes are made of? A thoroughly equitable solution… stiff upper lip and all that…and yet we blame him? My heart bleeds.

The original sin also rests with publishing houses (which includes societies which declare themselves to be non-profit), which have a monopoly on the access to publicly funded research. To enhance their marketability, they have to create an exclusiveness and created an equivalent of Academic Hit men (after the fashion of economic hit men) without whose support, this level of control would not have been possible. Open access is a new slogan for an old problem. Nothing has been solved. I attach two urls that are relevant to these considerations.



850 days ago

Eve Gray: Summed up well the discussion of these three days. Your views on ISI impact factors of journals is true. I just want to say a few on this:

Citation indices were originally designed by Henry Small and Garfield for information retrieval. Latter they increasingly used for bibliometrics and studies involving research evaluation. Citation data is also the basis of the popular journal impact factor. Many studies had cautioned the use of IF. http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/vladivostok.html" style="text-decoration:underline;">http://www.bmj.com//content/314/7079/497.1?variant=full-texthttp://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/vladivostok.html

Any journal indexed in ISI Thomson databases will have an impact factor (or latter it would have). Not all journals published are indexed in JCR or ISI databases. They have their own threshold to consider the journals in ISI databases. We collected and compared the journal sources indexed in three major databases and found that there were 970 OA journals in JCR 2011 (science edition).  Also we found that the impact factors of Indian OA journals are on the raise. Please see our recent article http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/103/07/0757.pdf

A recent study revealed that the IF of OA journals are approaching the same scientific impact and quality as subscription journals (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/73

The OA journals are budding and growing rapidly.Impact factors of OA journals will take time to compete with well established toll access journals.

It is unfortunate that the unhealthy development of many predatory publishers.  

Eve Gray
850 days ago

I am interested in what John Stampe says, because this was a fairly persistant theme at the Biomed OA Africa conference and the Berlin 10 conference in South Africa earlier in the month. What was coming across quite strongly was that it was no good going on about OA as long as we were disabled by an inappropriate system for evaluating research. The sentiment that Tom Olijhoek raised above, that the ISI Impact factor must go, was echoed by other speakers and from the floor. In particular, Michelle Willmers had a vivid graphic for the way in which the link between strategy and reward systems was disrupted by the blind application of the IF.

Eve Gray
850 days ago

A digest of the first three days of discussion:

The debate was kicked off with questions about the very low profile of African research output as measured by the common metric of journal articles published. Questions were posed about the appropriateness of the journal focus and about the role of international and local OA journals.

Bhanu Neupane, who heads the UNESCO OA initiative argued that we should not look at OA in isolation, but also at ways to modernize and expand R&D systems and research facilities.Capaicyt building will be important.

Roger Harris presented a successful development-focused journal, the Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, a leading journal in its field, for researchers and practioners, with a mission to address the global divide.

Tom Olijhoek, of the Open Knowledge Foundation argues that the impact factor needs to go. He welcomes the proposal from Matt Cockerill of Biomed Central for support to enhance the sustainability of African OA journals, but also draws attention to Michelle Willmers’ argument that the majority of research output is not in the form of articles. His solution: ‘we need community platforms to disclose the rich information lying dormant, mobile infrastructure and a core number of online open access journals based in countries from the South.’

Muthu Madhan provided a link to a rich article in Ariadne, which compared the provision of donor-funded access to commercial journals and OA publication through OA journals and repositories, which are closing the south-north digital divide. The conclusions questioned the relevance and the reliability of the supply of journals in donor-funded initiativea and aregued that the exchange of research findings must be bi-directional across the developing and developed world to ensure the appropriateness and reliability of information for development.

Alison Stevens challenges the prestige-driven focus on journal articles and argues that an excessive focus on journals – which do have an important role role in long-term documentation of key findings – distracts from other forms of scholarly communication and the ‘translation’ of research for other audiences. She argues that this is going to need substantial systems change and an equally sunstantial level of reflection by scholars on the fact that much of the value of their research emerges in outputs other than journal articles. She also stresses the potential role of communication experts who can help frame information appropriately for different audiences.

Guna raised the question of participation as opposed to access and pointed to the fact that Indian publication in OA journals is higher than the global average. India publishes over 1,000 journals and 360 OA journals but in 2009, only 101 journals were included in the Science Citation index, of which 46 were OA. This circles back quite neatly to the opening question about the low profile of developing country research. 

And finally, Sridhar Gutam calls for the education of research administrators on open access in order to dispel the ignorance of its advantages among many scholars.

Consistently, the arguments stressed the limitations of the dominant metrics for evaluation of research effectiveness; the importance of OA journals from the developing world; the growing voice of developing world scholars in northern OA journals; and the need to look beyond journal articles in building a scholarly communications programme for the global south.

Capacity issues were also important - both technical capacity and connectivity and the need to enhance research capacity and infrastructure.

John Stampe
850 days ago

First, I would say that many of the problems in doing research in developing countries are not really solvable by open access For example, adequate funding of research or use of impact factors. While I could discuss this, I will focus on open access.

One important aspect of open access that can play an important part of research is in finding previous work in the field in which to base your own research on. Trying to be able to get research results from all of the various toll (non-open) access journals that exist can be a difficult to say the least, especially without any support - which often is the case.

Open access journals and repositories help this situation by increasing access to prior research. Especially, helpful would be regional and local open access journals and repositories, but international open access journals are also vital to address the problems.

John Stampe

Bhanu Neupane
850 days ago

From most of the posts,  its again firmly established that - there is an immediate need for capacity enhancement to realize the benefits of OA.  "Research stakeholders" in the developing countries must realize what benefits are there in OA. UNESCO’s attempt to better understand exisiting  state of capacity enhancement opportunity established the following facts:

“Though paucity of formal education programmes in OA is encouraging in terms of opportunities, it is disconcerting to note that we have a long way to go before we reach a favorable stage for launching them. While there is sufficient ground both in terms of need and knowledge base, to begin the next phase of OA movement — education for OA, there exist some persistent questions. Some of the questions that arise are (or we need to be asking) are:

  • Which are the broader academic programme/disciplinary frameworks within which we need to situate OA?
  • Curriculum development — exploration and identification of the contours of the domain and research questions
  • Competencies of faculty — who are the people competent to develop and deliver the curriculum on OA?
  • Where do we place these graduates? What are the opportunities for careers in OA?”


Sridhar Gutam
850 days ago

I was following the discussions since beginning. I would like to say here that OA is required to everyone. Be it developed or developing country. All needs access. The commercial OA publishers are using the authors pay model and making the articles OA. However, most of all the publishers are allowing the researchers to archive their own version of papers. But when I talk to my peers, many of them are not bothered to listen to what is Open Access, why it is necessary and why it should be on agenda at the institute policy matter discussion meetings. when we say that OA is for public good and it going to help the researchers to know how their research is being cited, used, adapted or improved, many does not hear it. The research administrators should be educated about the need for OA and the scholarly societies should come forward and make their journals OA.

850 days ago

Thank you very much for inviting me to take part of this discussion. I am grateful to Mr Sunil of CIS. 

There are two aspects in OA one is publishing in OA domain (journals/ repositories, etc.) and another is on accessing the OA contents. Recent studies have witnessed that the publication from India in Gold OA journals is higher (16%) than that of the global average (8-10%) in 2009. It retains almost the same in 2011 (i.e. 15% of gold OA articles from India). see the article:www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/101/10/1287.pdf

There are some obstacles. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/sep/03/developing-world-open-access-research-hurdles

But, not all the developing countries are poor in publishing papers in OA journals.

Allison Stevens
851 days ago

Thank you for this participatory platform and for welcoming different views. In my role as a communications practioner in academic research and education, I can identify with some of the open access challenges in Africa.

In practise, the prestige associated with getting published in an international peer-reviewed journal is still pervasive. Journals take all prestige, which means that the other outputs we produce (such as policy briefs, working papers, posters, blogs, etc), are not left with much academic peer-to-peer recognition or reward (in the way journals enjoy). Yet as others point out, it is these other outputs that impact development in Africa. And as has been raised by many public health managers and policy-makers, they simply do not have time to read lengthy, technical, complicated journal articles – they constantly request short, reader-friendly materials.

That more emphasis is placed on getting published in journals means that less attention, less time, less value and less thought goes into thinking about using other mediums of communication to get the research out. So prestige and promotion are relegating other more popular research outputs to a lower status.

Journal publishing is of course important, especially as a long-term record or documentation of a key finding and as a source of reference that other researchers can go to in order to find out about current thinking. And some open access journals such as PloS Medicine are accessed via PubMed by non-academics which is great for development because that means that the research is reaching other public bodies.

Certainly in my profession, translating research from open access journals into other research outputs is such a pleasure because the Creative Commons license gives us automatic permission to re-use the material provided we give full credit. This means that the process of research translation is much shorter than for example, sending rights permissions emails to a toll access journal publisher who may take up to two months to reply to our request.

And that someone can google a topic and potentially discover a journal article that is open access is great news for  communications because that means they can access the article without paying to read it.

But we do need some changes. We need a system whereby we embrace the ideal of open access by not only recognising journal publishing, but also (and equally) recognising the importance of publishing research in a format that most appropriately meets the information and knowledge needs of those who can use that research to improve society’s development. This would require not only massive system changes (e.g. changing human resource policies to recognise other ways of communicating so that researchers’ promotional paths are not obstructed), but also a huge degree of realistic reflection on the part of researchers (recognising the fact that Africa’s knowledge potential is hidden in other modes of outputs, being brave enough to bypass prestige for the benefit of the public good, willfully engaging with communication specialists who could help them map out suitable ways of communicating, etc).

Another concern is how to get African researchers to submit research to African journals, not just international high impact journals. How can an African journals’ impact factor increase if all the ground-breaking research goes to international journals?

I thank Eve Gray for her eloquent launch post and recommend a reading of Michelle Willmer’s work in scholarly communication at UCT:


Open access publisher Biomed Central kindly answered some difficult questions I posed to them about key themes emerging from the recent conference in Cape Town on:



Allison Stevens

Communications Officer, UCT

South Africa

M Madhan
851 days ago

Eve Gray: I am giving links to articles that discusses about OA in developing countries.  They have some anecdotes which would be of help to us in discussing the case

M Madhan
851 days ago

Open Access to Science in the Developing World

M Madhan
851 days ago

Access to Scientific Knowledge for Sustainable Development: Options for Developing Countries

Eve Gray
852 days ago

The statistics posted by Bhanu Neupane on the African research enterprise make for sad reading. There are historical reasons behind this picture, but let's look forward for a moment. As Tom Olijhoek has just pointed out, there is research going on in Africa, but the use of misaligned measures for reporting on research performance is distorting our appreciation of what is being produced. There is a double bind here: if governments go on judging research performance according to publication in ISI journals and the impact factor, then the poor outcome will make them reluctant to increase their investment.

A more optimistic picture is provided in the open access journal arena. In the wake of the OA Africa conference, Ruth King posted a list of the excellent articles that had been published in Biomed Central by African researchers. Then, in a post in this dicsussion, we were pointed to an article by Muthu Madhan and Subbiah Arunachalam on the successes scored by Indian scientists in leading OA international journals.

A broader question - what would research publication look like if it were aligned with African and other developing country research strategy? A case in point is set out in the submission by the Southern African Regional Universities Association to an Extraordinary Meeting of SADC Ministers of Higher Education which made recommendations for an expanded research mission in the region. This encompassed knowledge diversity, interdisciplinary research practices, regional collaboration, a good mix of applied research, transnational projects on areas of high regional relevance, and support for indigenous knoweldge production for econmic success and social progress.

What would a publication programme look like for a research enterprise like this? It seems to cry out for open access. And how does this vision reflect in other developing countries?

Tom Olijhoek
852 days ago

Hi all, I am running an open access working group at Open Knowledge Foundation called @ccess and doing consultancy work for various organisations.

At the recent open access conferences in south Africa I was invited to do 2 presentations, one of them on the impact factor and why we should get rid of it. As long as scientists strive to publish in high profile journals open access journals will not become the default of scientific publishing. The idea launched by Matt Cockerill at the OAAfrica2012 conference to support a number of promising open access journals in Africa on the road to self sustainability is a good one. also the notion by Michelle Willmers that 95 % of output is not in the form of articles is important. I think we should establish a online publishing platform to disseminate this 95 %.

On the other hand access in Africa is especially difficult because of problems with computer-internet infrastructure. I have therefore proposed to focus on making information available via mobile technology solutions rather than the PC based access that works only very well in the North. A number of examples exist that show rapid growth of mobile networks and applications for the african market like in Kenya. So My suggestion is that we need community platforms to disclose the rich information lying dormant , mobile infrastructure and a core number of online open access journals based in countries from the South. This goes for Africa but also for other countries.

Roger Harris
852 days ago

The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries (EJISDC ISSN: 1681-4835 - http://www.ejisdc.org/) has published more than 370 peer-reviewed research papers since its inauguration in 2000.  It is completely open access; there are no subscriptions and no publishing fees; in fact no (negligible) financing is involved at all.  It was recently independently rated as a very close number 2 journal globally in its field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), but has published far more material than any other. Our ethos began and continues as being an outlet for research in our field that is conducted by and is of interest to readers in developing countries. The journal now accepts around 25% of submissions for publication. It is indexed by Scopus. 

Given the lack of budgetary constraints, we have never felt the pressure to publish fewer papers - we believe that all quality papers should be published in a timely fashion.  Our zero budget model contrasts with the more traditional academic publishing, where researchers are paid nothing for their material and are then charged exorbitant fees to read it. The big three publishers that dominate the industry consistently enjoy profit margins of 30-40%. They charge astronomic subscriptions for the top journals that put them out of reach of pretty much every university in the developing world, forcing them to choose between a journal subscription or hiring a professor for a year. Little wonder that there are concerned academics (like those of us working with EJISDC) who have had enough, with the growing boycott of Elsevier journals. At the time of writing, around 13,000 academics have signed up to an online pledge not to publish or do any editorial work for the company's journals, including refereeing papers (see http://thecostofknowledge.com/).

The value of information and knowledge in the development process is now well-understood and it is to the shame of the top academic publishers that they continue to prevent access to it by the developing nations that stand to benefit the most from being able to use it. The approach of EJISDC, demonstrates how open access to research achieves its moral imperative without discarding the benefits of peer review that academics depend on.

Roger Harris

Co-Editor-in-Chief, EJISDC

Hong Kong 



Bhanu Neupane
853 days ago

Thank you Eve for such a powerful opening remarks. Other than the small typo on
number of population, I agree fully on what you have noted (the population of
Africa is just over a billion).

I will take one of the pointa that Eve has raised, why Africa is only producing only
0.3 % of the global research? Arguably, 15% population should produce 15% of
the global researc:

  • Africa's RD budget is not even 0.5 % of its total GDP;
  • literacy is only 70%. 
  • Adult literacy rates are still below 50% in Benin, Burkina Faso,
    Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
  • Other than South Africa, where the R&D expenditure increased
    some 7 folds between 1998/99 -2008/09 (to 21 Billion Rand/annum), for the rest of the countries, the R&D expenditures have stagnated are have grown only marginally.
  • Annually 20,000 most educated young women and men (who could
    potentially undertake research) are leaving Africa for better opportunities in
    the West (ECA estimates). Does this mean 10,000 less research papers
    annually,  if only half of these highly qualified men and women each published one paper per annum? 
  • Although the contribution of improving the existing state of Tertiary
    Education has been established by a team of Harvard Scholars (ref.  below) no serious tertiary education reforms have taken place.
  • Situation of Labs and research facilities are very poor.

There are silver linings though. High level mechanisms have been set up (such as
AMCOST and AUC) but the situation is far from being unacceptable and needs attention.South Africa has emerged out as an example, therefore Africa now has a home-grown model for development. I would submit that we will have to start deliberating not only on benefits of Open Access for Africa but also on ways and means to modernize existing R&D system, research facilities, Tertiary Education system and implement measures to stop brain-drain. 

Some Reference: http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Documents/fs20-literacy-day-2012-en-v3.pdf; http://www.idrc.ca/EN/Resources/Publications/Pages/ArticleDetails.aspx?PublicationID=704



and here is some basic information on OA situation in Africa http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/portals-and-platforms/goap/access-by-region/africa/(If you have new information please send that to me  and I will quickly update that in GOAP)


Bhanu Neupane


Kerryn McKay
853 days ago

Eve Gray, who is currently travelling between Gauteng and Western Cape, has written the following launch post, which is quite controversial in some aspects, but a great way to start this discussion.  As follows:

The open access dialogue is intended to open up discussion on how open access is being used in the developing world, and whether this differs from developing country OA. The aim is to canvass views with the idea of identifying what policy initiatives might best support developing country OA.  

This opening post in the OA dialogue kicks off by looking at the very low profile of developing countries in global research publication and the resultantly low estimates that are made of the contribution of developing countries to global research production. Is open access helping to reverse this global divide by increasing the exposure of developing country research? And what strategies are being used to achieve this goal?

These questions struck me forcibly when, in early October, the Indian press picked up on a new report that analysed India's contribution to global research output. 'India accounts for only 3.5 p.c of global research' was, for example, the headline in the technical paper Silicon India, a result that was reported as 'shocking'. Silicon India quotes the report in question as saying that India had 'a long and distinguished history as a country of knowledge, learning and innovation', but was now failing to reach its potential. Even in computer science, where India's reputation is strong, the contribution to world science was only 2.4%. In the same tone, at the Biomed Central OA Africa conference in Cape Town a few weeks ago, a West African delegate stated, in a contribution from the floor, that the whole continent of Africa, with its population of 9 billion people, produces only 0.3% of the world's research.

Is the contribution from the developing world to the production of knowledge really so low?

The answer to this question is in fact hard to come by, although the answer is almost certainly 'no'. What is certain, however, is that the figures cited above are not a comprehensive reflection of the research endeavour of India and Africa. They are, rather, a very narrow measure - the proportion of journal articles published by researchers on these continents in the Thomson Reuters Web of Science journal indexes. This has come to be used all too often as the proxy for estimating research productivity, along with the number of patents registered. It is no accident that the developing world research performs badly in this context, as it is being judged according to the ability of researchers to publish halfway across the world in competition with much better resourced academics. Moreover, inclusion in the ISI indexes depends upon the recognition of 'mainstream' research, while many of the critical issues that are of importance in developing country research are dismissed as 'local'.

What the use of journal publications as a measure for research performance does usefully indicate is that the publication and dissemination of research is critical - if it is not made public and distributed, it is invisible.

Questions of journal publishing were very much in mind when the Open Access movement was launched. The Budapest Open Access Initiative, in 2002, commonly regarded as the founding documents of the open access movement, was explicitly concerned with creating OA to 'the peer reviewed journal literature' . The goal of open access that the BOAI articulated was one that explicitly supported the inclusion of the whole world:

'Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.'

Ten years later, there is still a strong emphasis on journal articles in open access - both the deposit of journal articles in OA repositories and support for the development of OA journals.

There are a number of questions that arise - most cogently, how has this focus on journals worked for the developing world?  Often the rhetoric for supporting either green or gold OA has been the advantage in getting higher citation rates in the ISI. Is this what we should be aiming for?

When it comes to open access journals, should developing countries be aiming at publishing their own journals, or are they gaining more through publication in international journals?  

We would like to hear more about OA journal initiatives, green or gold, success stories and obstacles.

But also, should we be focusing on journals? If we step away from developing world practices, what are the real publishing needs that face us? 

Comments, opinions, responses to the above?  All welcome!

Al Scott
853 days ago

Dear all - looking forward to an interesting series of discussions. As I'm based in the knowledge services team at a UK-based research institute (IDS) I'm especially keen to hear  reflections and concerns around Open Access from people in organisations based in Developing Countries. Open Access debates are raging here in Europe, particularly within the research & publishing communities, but developing country perspectives are often sidelined, overly simplified or misrepresented. So hopefully our debates here on the WSIS platform will help to inform these northern discussions.


Alistair Scott

Information Systems Manager
Knowledge Services
Institute of Development Studies, UK

Bhanu Neupane
853 days ago

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the WSIS KC - knowledge communities platform. We look forward to your contributions.

Please visit setting just below the menubar and make sure that e-mail and community notifications are set to "ON" to receive messages.

To create a true Community, it would be excellent if you'll provide a little information about yourself and your activities. By providing a little more profile information, you'll encourage members to comment on your activities, to ask questions, or to share similar interests.

The WSIS KC User Guide provides a very user-friendly step-by-step guide to updating your Profile and changing your Notifications as well as all the other cool features of the Community.

Bhanu Neupane
Coordinator for the OA Community on the WSIS KC
UNESCO OA Programme

Kerryn McKay
854 days ago

Dear Open Access debaters.  We kick off tomorrow and all opinions, perspectives and ideas are most welcome. Eve Gray will start the discussion with posting some little boxes of thought that we can begin to unpack :) 

Who we are, where we come from, and our 'take' on open access is key.  This is most particularly in order to ensure debates like this can continue, so that perspectives on open access can be heard.  As such, we will be providing a link to a short questionnaire to get feedback on your experiences at the end of this in the first series of the debates.  We would really appreciate you taking the time to complete the questionnaire as it will give us an additional layer of value  ... we will remind you again at the end of the discussion and send you a link to complete the survey.

See you tomorrow.



open internet -ICT-education school drop-outs
854 days ago

This is Rajesh from India working for premier science Institution in India.  OA is of utmost importance to developing world. In general OA is simply always understood to be  a access to academic content. OA must go beyond that and must help in better understanding and be an associate for student community to achieve a meaningful degrees and diplomas.


Eve Gray
857 days ago

Bhanu, it is good to hear from you. It would be great if the discussion that is starting next week could help inform your February WSIS meeting. We have already had a number of people signing up, including some very important players - I anticipate lively debate!

Eve Gray
857 days ago

it is very good timing that you are having a meeting in Brazil next week, Tel. I hope that we can get some dialogue going between the particpants and the online discussion here. It would be great to pick up themes and issues across the two events, perhaps in Twitter as well.

Bhanu Neupane
857 days ago

Dear Colleagues,

This is a very useful debate.  Unitl now we dont have any imperical evidence to establish what OA is actually  contributing to the the developing world? Not least we still don't have a methodology in place that can help us with it.  

UNESCO will be organizing a high-level meeting to discuss Open Access during the WSIS review in February 2013.  I will be very happy to circulate a copy of the conclusions of this debate.

Thank you