Third World Academy of Sciences and open access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 1 Oct 2003 13:03:33 +0100

Dear friends:

Here is a letter I am sending to many Fellows of the Third World Academy of
Sciences on the need for them to support institutional self archiving and
open access. TWAS is meeting soon in Beijing. Regards.

Subbiah Arunachalam

An open letter to Fellows of TWAS

Dear Fellow of TWAS:

Greetings from Chennai, southern India. I am a volunteer with an NGO and I
devote half my time to a project on ICT-enabled development and the other
half to science in the developing world. The common thread in both of them
is improving access to relevant information. The rural poor and the
marginalized need information that can benefit them and our project is built
around this simple premise. Scientists, as all of us know only too well,
also need to access information relevant to their work. However, most
scientists in the developing world do not get all the information they need.
Journals are expensive. Databases are prohibitively costly. Not all of them
have high bandwidth Internet connections. As telecommunication costs are
high they rarely use telephones.

The problem is not only with accessing information. Developing country
scientists also find it difficult to get their papers read by a wide
audience. They lack the much-needed visibility.

Fortunately, thanks to recent advances in information and communication
technologies, we have a great opportunity to make the playing field level
wherein irrespective where one works one can access information as well as
make one's own work widely noticed.

Experts like Stevan Harnad of Southampton have been advocating
institutional self-archiving of all our results before and after
publication in peer-reviewed journals [preprints and
postprints]. Physicists amongst us know the value the archive Computer scientists know the value of CiteSeer. These are
centralized archives. What Harnad advocates is decentralized or
distributed archives (or institutional self-archiving).

If every academic and research institution in both developing and
developed countries set up such archives and make them interoperable,
then the twin problems of access and visibility can be solved to a great

TWAS and like-minded organizations such as IAP, ICSU and Unesco,
should work towards setting up such distributed archives. Indeed, the
forthcoming WSIS meeting at Geneva provides us a great opportunity to
pass a resolution on this subject. Even if all the world's information
is freely available on the Net, it will not be any use if one does not
have a decent Internet connection. As Prof. Bruce Alberts said in one of
his talk at Geneva, we should launch a massive programme of connecting
developing country academic and research institutions to high bandwidth
Internet, even if it means heavy subsidy.

TWAS may try to persuade international (mulrilateral and bilateral)
organizations and philanthropic foundations to underwrite such a programme.
The forthcoming TWAS meeting in Beijing, I am sure, will consider these

I have pleasure in attaching my recent paper where I have articulated my



Subbiah Arunachalam
30 September 2003

Received on Wed Oct 01 2003 - 13:03:33 BST

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