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
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
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
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.
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:
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);
UN World Summit on the Information
Society (WSIS), declaration of principles http://www.itu.int/wsis/documents/docsingle-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/.
OF OA IN
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
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
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).