A2K3 Panel XI: Open Access to Science and Research

Posted by Sunil Abraham at Sep 23, 2008 08:40 AM |
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Prof. Subbiah Arunachalam participated in the third Access to Knowledge hosted by The Information Society Project (ISP) at Yale Law School between September 8-10, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference held at the Geneva International Conference Centre brought together hundreds of decision-makers and experts on global knowledge to discuss the urgent need for policy reforms.

Original Article on A2K3 website

Download Subbiah Arunachalam's Paper
Audio file of Session on Open Access to Science and Research (Ogg, MP3)



Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of unnecessary copyright and licensing restrictions. Made possible by the internet and author consent, OA supports wider and faster access to knowledge. This panel featured Leslie Chan, of the University of Toronto; Subbiah Arunachalam of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and Global Knowledge Partnership; Eve Gray of the Centre for Educational Technology, UCT; and DK Sahu of Medknow Publications Pvt. Ltd. Peter Suber from the Yale Information Society Project and SPARC moderated this panel.

It’s a distant dream for most kinds of literature, where authors are unwilling to give up the revenue they currently earn from publishers. But it’s growing quickly for scholarly journal articles, where journals don’t pay for articles and authors write for impact, not for money. The result is a revolutionary opportunity to accelerate research and share knowledge. OA is especially important for researchers and medical practitioners in developing countries, where access to knowledge has been sharply reduced by four decades of fast-rising journal prices.

This panel will examine what universities and governments can do to promote OA, with a special focus on medical research and health information. Among the models discussed will be peer-reviewed OA journals, OA repositories, the WHO’s Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI), and the new policy from the U.S. National Institutes of Health requiring NIH-funded researchers to deposit their peer-reviewed manuscripts in an OA repository.

The questions to be addressed will include:

  1. How do access barriers slow research in developing countries? How does OA remove those barriers?
  2. What can universities do to promote OA?
  3. What can governments, and public funding agencies, do to promote OA?
  4. What special challenges do developing countries face in providing OA?
  5. What are some concrete examples of successful OA policies and projects in developing countries?
  6. Why is OA a critical issue for policy-makers concerned with public health, scientific innovation, and higher education?
  7. How does OA accelerate the advance and spread of knowledge in medicine as well as in other disciplines?
  8. How can OA promote the work of researchers in developing and transitional countries, both as readers and as authors?


  1. OA literature is digital, online, free of charge, free of needless copyright
  2. OA is compatible with peer review, copyright, revenue and profit, print, preservation, prestige
  3. 3622 peer-reviewed OA journals, 1220 OA repositories, 22 university OA mandates (15 countries), 27 funding agencies OA mandates (14 countries)
  4. Part of the problem: journal prices have risen 4 times faser than inflation since mid-1980s. Indian institute of science is the best funded research library in india providing access to 10600 serials.
  5. Harvard has 98990
  6. Yale has 73900
  7. Average ARL library = 50,566
  8. U of Witwatersrand = 29,309
  9. U of Malawi = 17000 ejournals, 95 print
  10. The case for OA is especially strong for publicly funded research, medical research, research from developing countries


  1. Why do we needopen access to science?
  2. Science as Knowledge commons
  3. Created by researchers, a communal activity, science is about sharing, internet has opened new opportunities
  4. Primary goal of science is the creation of new knowledge for the benefit of humanity
  5. Emergence of open access – seeks to restore knowledge commons to creators. Movement, like everything else, is uneven
  6. Physicists vs. chemists
  7. UK, Netherlands and USA – have had many more successes
  8. Brazil – doing very well – but China and India are not doing so well with open access
  9. Restore the knowledge commons is to the community
  10. This movement is like any other movement which is uneven
  11. Developments in India
    1. 3.1% papers in chemical abstracts
    2. 30,000 papers a year indexed in SCI
    3. Problems of Access and Visibility
  12. New Developments:
    1. Consortia – able to provide a lot of journals
    2. open courseware
    3. arXiv
  13. Problems: papers that are published are put in inaccessible journals, and people in global South laboratories would be unable to access this knowledge. The Government gives the money but the research then ends up flying out
  14. The policy front:
    1. Individual efforts
    2. National Knowledge Commission has recommended OA
    3. Number of institutional repositories
    4. Need advocacy and training programmes
    5. Action missing from key players
  15. Some individuals are doing a great job and putting all their materials online
  16. Medical information and developing countries
    1. No nation can afford to be without access to S&T research capacity
    2. Neglected diseases are not a priority for pharmaceutical companies
    3. HINARI – any country that has per capita less than $1000 is eligible


  1. Infectious diseases (chikungunya goes Italian)
  2. Non-infectious diseases (india becoming global hub for diabetes)
  3. Industry effects (how safe are clinical trials)
  4. Several examples (such as MedKnow, Journal of Postgraduate Medicine) of free access to no-fee journals.
  5. A journal from India has the most visits from London
  6. A journal called International Journal of Shoulder Surgery but visitors are from Melbourne
  7. More original research articles, 40+ articles in 2005 vs. 160+ articles in 2008 in IJU, more issues per year for journals, check on scientific misconduct, international recognition (11 journals in SCI in 2 years)
  8. Going online increases citations – this is an open access advantage
  9. Scientific output of new economies: medicine
  10. Open access publishing is not alone sufficient – there are disappearing journals. Commercial publishers are taking over, there is a lack of continuity, non-interoperability/archiving
  11. 20-80 phenomenon (majority of journals are not OA)
  12. Local journals are not preferred (high IF journals)


  1. Role of Universities and Researchers
  2. You need citations in order to advance in academia – if your papers get picked up and ripple throughout the research arena. What about policy impact?
  3. “Impact factor” is evil. Open access was meant to counter the tyranny of impact factor, so OA journals should not try to battle it out in this arena.
  4. Issues involve “big science” and “lost science”, research literature as infrastructure, integrating the gold and green roads to open access.
  5. Institutional repositories and open access journals
  6. There’s a lot of Big Science that costs a lot of money (like LHC)
  7. But we have another big hole – the 10-90Gap. 10% of the global health research spending is allocated to diseases affecting 90% of the population
  8. The G8 countries account for 85% of most cited articles indexed in ISI
  9. The other 126 countries account for 2.5%
  10. How much of these journals are relevant in terms of content?
  11. We are operating with a dominant model of knowledge dissemination from the Center to the Periphery
  12. We end up having “lost science” in the developing world because of that knowledge
  13. Perpetuate the cycle of knowledge poverty in this way
  14. African countries need to have in place appropriate mechanisms and infrastructure for training and exploitation of knowledge. This will enable them to make meaningful evidence based policy that pertains to local needs
  15. Researchers in developing countries ranked access to subscription-based journals as one of their most pressing problems
  16. HINARI: health sciences
    1. 108 countries, 1043 institutions, 5000 journals
    2. Collaboration of >45 publishers: free or reduced-cost access to journals for developing countries
    3. Others: eIFL.net, AGORA: agricultural sciences, OERE: environmental sciences, PERI
    4. Dissemination through information philanthropy. http://libraryconnect.elsevier.com/lcp/1001/lcp100109.html
  17. Open access: the solution to the “lost science”
  18. Two routes to Open Access (OA) – open access journals and respositories
  19. African health sciences: two years ago there was a n article published in this journal and authors found that over 50% of these drugs were substandard or fake. This got the local newspaper, and then BBC, and then other researchers started looking at it
  20. Open Access repositories:
  21. Institutionally-based (universities, etc) or subject-based (e.g. PubMet Central, arXiv.org)
  22. Collect copies of articles published by the institutions researchers
  23. Researchers themselves deposit knowledge
  24. Benefits for authors (research output instantly accessible for all (higher impact)
  25. Research output of international research community accessible to author
  26. Partnerships/collaborative projects develop as a result
  27. Career prospects advanced – publications noted by authorities
  28. Opportunities for new research discoveries, data mining etc
  29. Alternative impact assessment
  30. Benefits for funding bodies: what has been discovered with our financial support? Was it a good investment?
  31. Researchers have a moral and intellectual obligation to ensure that their research is accessible
  32. Universities share a common goal and public mission advancement of knowledge for the betterment of human kind
  33. Open access is key to the MDG


  1. When we talk about open access, we talk about change and change delivery.
  2. It’s not just intellectual property and copyright issues, but values, cultures, systems, practices, everything that underlie the process moving towards scientific research
  3. We faced the biggest problem in facing change – we’ve seen a massive overhaul, of transformative reports, of leveraging the country into a different direction. Undoing the damage of apartheid and colonialism
  4. What is meant by international? What is meant by local?
  5. African knowledge for Africa: we need to rejuvenate, regenerate our own knowledge
  6. SA: first heart transplant in the world. Have their own vaccines. Operate as a leading scientific country
  7. Growing international competitiveness – publication is perceived as a matter of journal articles in international journals. Little or no support for publication in nationally-based publications
  8. Much research output in grey literature, not easily findable or accessible
  9. The Medicines and Related Substances Control Act, 2001
  10. Research has to address the burning economic issues of a country
  11. Things are changing…slowly
  12. Support for open access publications
  13. What needs to be done – open access journals are necessary.
  14. Changing values and promotion systems – we have to somehow pick up on the vision of that vibrant African dance movement, translate this feeling
  15. Providing support for publication efforts
  16. Expand the range of publication outputs
  17. Ensuring the social impact of research
  18. There is a huge amount of research being pumped out and being printed out by NGOs
  19. Great literature is almost inaccessible in universities
  20. Could not access African journals – no access from their own countries or neighboring countries
  21. Electric Book Works has manuals for health-care workers – manuals are very high-quality, out of University of Cape Town
  22. Often forgotten that science information is necessary to trickle down, if everything is online, we can get things to trickle down
  23. Harvard said: it is our duty to disseminate our research. Stanford: Caroline Handy – when you publish research, research for community use is part of the duty
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