Re: Open Access in Developing Countries

From: Jan Velterop <>
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 12:11:30 +0000


Dr. Vinod Scaria is levelling charges of monopolism at BioMed Central that
are difficult to understand, unjustified, and unsubstantiated. This is
unfortunate and not very helpful to Open Access.

But buried in his posting is the expression of concern for the barriers to
science communication (be it as reader of toll-access literature or as
author of input-paid open access articles) impecunious scientists in
developing countries face. We are sympathetic to that.

Well-intentioned initiatives like HINARI (WHO) and AGORA (FAO) attempt to
alleviate some of the disadvantages developing countries have by making
toll-access science literature available to them at reduced rates or even
free. However well-intentioned, I'm afraid these initiatives amount to
little more than window-dressing in many cases. Sure, some of the poorest
countries, where scientists are as scarce as polar bears in the Sahara, have
free access. But others, who have an active scientific community, have been
exempted from the schemes by the toll-access publishers, because the money
made from those countries would be lost to the publishers if these countries
were included, however poor they may be. Elaborate security measures are put
in place to prevent 'leakage' or 'seepage' of the material from countries
that have free or discounted access to wealthier countries. This is very
logical, from a toll-access publisher's point of view, especially in regard
of online versions which are easily shared across borders, and a consequence
of the subscription-based publishing model.

In BioMed Central's Open Access model we see the cost of publishing as an
integral part of the cost of doing research. Research projects, and
consequently their publication, are not funded to the same level in
developing countries as in the OECD states. This must, of course, be
addressed. Input-paid Open Access offers a much more robust possibility for
differential pricing. There is no risk of 'leakage' or 'seepage' of the
material, by the very definition of Open Access. Transactions can be
tailored to individual circumstances of authors or institutions without
upsetting the principles of the model in any way. Researchers in developing
countries can easily be given discounts or even waivers (as indeed we put in
practice at BioMed Central). Thus far, we find that there isn't the
slightest unease of authors from wealthier countries at the thought of
Article Processing Charges we ask them to pay containing an element of
'subsidy' to support articles from their colleagues in less advantaged

Jan Velterop
BioMed Central

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dr. Vinod Scaria []
> Sent: 30 October 2003 17:08
> Subject: Re: Central vs. Distributed Archives
> ***************************************************************
> As we all know, Open Access Publishing is not gaining the momentum as
> far as Journals published from Developing Countries are
> concerned [with
> reference to western Journals]. Many reasons can be attributed like:
> 1. Monopolistic nature of Open Access Publishers like
> BioMedCentral
> http://www. which pursues the "author pays"
> and would drive away any author from Developing countries. Thus
> obviously publishers from Developing countries would have second
> thoughts before starting one at BMC.
> By meaning monopolistic, I refer to the almost complete
> control over open
> access publishing- say about >75% of open Access Journals in
> Medicine.and
> Mega organisations like PLOS are crunching the small
> publishers, as they
> can easily override the smaller ones with the mega funding they have.
> see:
> 2. As I previously stated in my Editorial in Internet Health-
> www. virtualmed. netfirms.
> com/internethealth/articleapril03. html ,
> the fear of losing revenue, which are the sole source of
> sustenance
> of many Journals [though some make a meagre profit].
> 3. Lack of sufficient expertise and
> exposure to Open Access Publishing. >>
> www. virtualmed. netfirms. com/internethealth/opinion0303. html
> http://bmj. com/cgi/eletters/326/7382/182/b <<
> But recent developments are worth mentioning - at least from
> India. Online
> Journal of Health and Allied Sciences www. ojhas. org , India's first
> Online BioMedical journal declared a couple of months back that they
> would go Open.
> [I am in the Editorial board of OJHAS from Sept 2003]. OJHAS is
> edited and published by a small group of scholars with no external
> support. Everything from Web Design to Editing and Review are done by
> voluntarily by the Editorial team. It also stands as a fine example of
> the fact that Open Access Journals can indeed be successfully
> organised
> and can indeed survive without an "author pays" model.
> Now coming to the Archival, Cogprints was our first choice
> for many reasons
> 1] It offers interoperability [as mentioned by Harnad]
> 2] It offers unmatched popularity
> 3] It has been there for years and we can be sure of the permanence
> 4] It is of course FREE.
> And as Harnad suggested, there is no reason why Journals should not
> be archived at Open Archives, be it self maintained repositories or
> Centralised ones. In fact Open Archiving of electronic journals is
> the need of the hour because our own studies [unpublished] show that
> Electronic journals are just as ephemeral as websites. Scholarly
> communication should never be lost at the cost of copyright
> restrictions. Many of these journals have perhaps done more harm than
> good by locking the access by copyright restrictions.
> Moreover, electronic journals are equally vulnerable to the vagaries
> of the Internet. For example, JMIR www. jmir. org went
> suddenly offline
> some time back [i think it was an year or so] making the whole content
> inaccessible. [But it reappeared later and now is an Open
> Access Journal].
> Thus in short, OPen Archiving of Journals as a whole is perhaps to be
> discussed in a wider perspective than just making it OPEN. The major
> emphasis should be the PERMANENCE of Open Archiving. I hope
> this post will
> surely trigger a debate on the topic.
> Kind regards
> Dr. Vinod Scaria
> Executive Editor: Calicut Medical Journal
> Assoc Editor: Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences
> Editor in Chief: Internet He_at_ lth
> WEB: www. drvinod. netfirms. com
> MAIL: vinodscaria_at_yahoo. co. in
> Mobile: +91 98474 65452
Received on Fri Oct 31 2003 - 12:11:30 GMT

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