Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 6

Memorandum from the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development

  The Electronic Publishing Trust for Development (EPT) wishes to submit the following comments to the UK Government Science and Technology Committee inquiry into scientific publications. The Committee's inquiry is likely to focus primarily on access to scientific research publications in the developed world, and specifically in the UK. We write to add a global perspective regarding access to the world's refereed scientific research.

1.  WHAT IS EPT?

  The EPT is a UK-registered charitable trust (No. 2059867), established in 1996 to support the needs of the scientific community in the developing world, both with regard to accessing the world's refereed literature and to ensuring research from these regions is included in the global knowledge base. Further information on our aims, activities, trustees and relevant documents is available from the EPT web site, www.epublishingtrust.org.

2.  THE PROBLEM

  The ever-escalating cost of research journals has lead to the "journals crisis". Although this has resulted in many cancellations of journals in the developed world, it has made it impossible for the poorer nations to access the literature they require. According to a survey carried out by the WHO (Information Services and Use, 2003, 149-159), 56% of medical institutions in countries with a GNP of less than 1,000 US$ have had no subscriptions to journals over the last five years, and a further 34% in countries with a GNP between 1,000-3,000 US$ have an average of two subscriptions only. The impact on the research base in these regions is easy to visualise.

3.  THE MISSING SCIENCE

  An additional consequence of the current "crisis" arises from the difficulty developing country scientists have in publishing their own research, since costs of publishing local journals is prohibitive and publishing in established western journals often difficult. Thus, the global science knowledge base is incomplete. We are all the poorer, since local research is essential for the establishment of effective global programmes in medical science (specifically infectious diseases and emerging new diseases), medical practice, environmental science, agriculture etc. A simple search for "malaria" on the Bioline International web site (www.bioline.org.br) that hosts refereed journals generated in the developing world, see below, demonstrates the value and extent of research from regions most affected by such diseases. The "internationalisation" of infectious diseases means that no country can afford to ignore research from these regions.

4.  A LOW-COST SOLUTION

  The advent of the Open Access movement offers a light at the end of the tunnel. Technology now provides a mechanism whereby refereed research can be made available to all on an equal basis, without restrictions. The knowledge pool can be filled with the missing information, it can be shared between all scientists and the progress of science vastly accelerated. The impact of Open Access on scientific progress and prosperity in the poorer nations is of major significance.

5.  RECOGNITION OF OA

  Recognition is growing that the means now exist to make unrestricted access to all publicly funded research a reality, and is accepted by an increasing number of international and national research and funding organisations, including, for example, the following:

    —  Wellcome Trust—(http://www.wellcome.ac.uk);

    —  Berlin Declaration (signed by many European research organisations)—(http://www.zim.mpg.de/openaccess-erlin/berlindeclaration.html);

    —  American Research Libraries Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resource Coalition—(www.arl.organisation/sparc);

    —  Bethesda Statement (http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/bethesda.htm); and

    —  UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), declaration of principles http://www.itu.int/wsis/documents/doc—single-en-1161.asp, which "encourages free access to open access journals . . . and open archives for scientific information".

6.  SOME MISCONCEPTIONS

  The concept of open access (OA) to the world's scientific research (paid for primarily by governments and provided freely for publication by the researchers themselves) has given rise to a number of misconceptions. A FAQ on OA has been developed by the EPT to address these from a developing country perspective. This is available on the EPT web site www.epublishingtrust.org. A very comprehensive general FAQ developed by the Budapest Open Access Initiative is on http://www.eprints.org/self-faq/.

  The EPT wishes to make clear that acceptance of OA does not mean abandoning peer review nor ceasing to publish in journals. It merely means the parallel archiving of all research papers in interoperable institutional archives searchable by all on the Internet, a process increasingly accepted by major journals. This process is almost cost-free since it can be carried out by individual researchers themselves, or by their institutions, paper by paper. Software for establishing e-print archives is available free to all. Alternatively, OA can be achieved by publication in the increasing number of OA journals. In these, the cost of document management is met by the contributors or their organisations, rather than the readers, so that accessing the content remains free to all. A Directory of some 700 OA journals that have contacted the organisation for inclusion is now available on www.doaj.org, and many more are not listed.

  Strong evidence is now gathering that the impact of research made globally available through OA is vastly greater than that published conventionally, http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue35/harnad/.

7.  RECOGNITION OF OA IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

  A number of journals published in developing countries are converting to OA, since the value to their countries of international visibility is recognised as being of far greater importance than the small amount of income the journals generate. For example, the Indian Institute of Science has established an eprints archive and there is now significant OA activity in the sub-continent (new institutional archives being established, workshops on OA being organised). A recent request for OA support has been received from Tashkent, again pointing out the importance of global recognition and partnership arrangements for science in Uzbekistan. Bioline International (www.bioline.org.br), a non-profit, Brasil/Canada organisation, managed at the University of Toronto, assists developing country publishers in this.

8.  LONG TERM SUSTAINABILITY

  The recent agreement to provide free or low cost journals to the poorest countries by publishers that make few sales in these areas is a welcome development (eg WHO HINARI and INASP PERI projects), and can alleviate information poverty for some countries in the immediate term. However, these efforts are unlikely to be sustainable and exclude many poor countries where collaborating publishers may lose sales, such as India. In the longer term the worldwide acceptance of OA is the only mechanism, immediately available and at almost no cost, that can provide equality of access as well as professional inclusion for developing country science.

9.  UK GOVERNMENT APPROACH TO OA

  The EPT stresses the importance of OA not only to less advanced nations, but to the progress of international science. It asks that the UK Government recognises the significance of making all publicly funded research information globally available, without restriction, and supports the international movement working to this end. It should be pointed out that although OA is considered by many to be "new" and "revolutionary", the concept has been operating in physics for some ten years now, without difficulty, with near total acceptance by the physics community and in parallel to the continuing publication of major physics journals (see www.arxive.org).

January 2004



 
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