Re: India Open Access Workshops: Press Release

From: Peter Suber <>
Date: Mon, 24 May 2004 12:15:35 +0100

[Forwarding from Subbiah Arunachalam. --Peter.]

Workshops on Open Access in India

Two workshops on open access and institutional archives were organized by
Subbiah Arunachalam at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai,
during 2-4 and 6-8 May 2004, with a view to developing a cadre of open
access experts in Indian higher educational and research institutions. The
primary purpose of the workshops was to provide Indian scientists and
librarians with (a) a thorough understanding of the global scientific and
scholarly communication issues that Open Access addresses, (b) the
technical knowledge of how to set up and maintain an Open Access
institutional archive, and (c) an awareness of the local institutional
policy and organisational requirements for a successful, sustainable Open
Access institutional archive.

In all, 48 participants, representing general and agricultural universities
and government laboratories under the various councils and departments,
were trained in the two workshops. Some of them were scientists and others
librarians, drawn from different parts of India and from different
disciplines. There were four faculty members: Leslie Chan of the University
of Toronto, Leslie Carr of the University of Southampton, D K Sahu of
MedKow Publications, Mumbai, and T B Rajashekar of the Indian Institute of
Science, Bangalore. Incidentally, Leslie Chan was a resource person and
Sahu a participant at the workshops on Open Access Electronic Journals that
Subbiah Arunachalm organised two years ago at the Indian Institute of
Science, Bangalore. In the intervening two years Sahu had brought 20 Indian
medical journals into the open access domain.

The workshops were held in a multipurpose classroom where each participant
was provided with an Internet-connected PC preloaded with Linux (RedHat
7.3). Apart from discussing the philosophy of open access and the current
international developments, the faculty members helped the participants
learn to set up interoperable institutional open access archives using the
Eprints software developed at the University of Southampton and the Open
Archives Initiative's Interoperability protocol. Participants were asked to
load papers from their own institutions and prepare the metadata.

Among the issues discussed at the workshop are: Who is responsible for
setting up IR? How can we promote participation at the institutional
level? What should be the institutional and national policies? Should they
be concerned about copyright? Which journals allow authors to archive their
papers? What are the long-term sustainability issues?

Why open archives?
All scientists, including social scientists, need to publish their
findings. Indeed, research is incomplete as long as it remains unpublished.
As John Ziman called it, science is public knowledge. The last few years
have witnessed the unprecedented rise in the subscription costs of journals
and even well-endowed institutions in rich countries find it difficult to
retain journal subscriptions. It is for this reason that the open access
(OA) movement is gaining ground around the world. While access to (and
impact of) the peer-reviewed literature is a global issue, the impact of
Indian research is of particular concern to Indian scientists and policy
makers who feel that it receives less representation than it deserves in
international journals. Besides, others in the rest of the world do not
really notice much of the work that is carried out in India. If Indian
scientists publish their papers in expensive journals, then even other
Indian scientists do not notice them, as not many Indian institutions may
subscribe to those journals. OA will improve access to Indian research and
hence help to maximize its use, recognition (and citation) by researchers
across the world. Indeed, OA will be of much greater advantage to
developing countries than to the western countries.

Institutional archiving is now widely seen as an immediate and low barrier
route for providing open access to an institution's research output. The
time is also ripe as there are now international standards for achieving
interoperability between archives, and free software for setting up
archives are readily available. We preferred as it is designed
to gather and display metadata that are better suited for formal scholarly

Today there is great interest in open access around the world. The Budapest
Open Access Initiatives, the Berlin Declaration, the Welcome Trust's
statement on open access and the Declaration of Principles by the World
Summit on the Information Society are prominent examples of the growing
recognition of the importance of open access. In the USA, Congressman
Martin Sabo has introduced a bill suggesting that findings of all publicly
funded research must be made freely available to all. In the UK, a
committee appointed by the House of Commons to inquire current and
potentially useful practices in science publishing is hearing evidence from
a number of experts and institutions. Several discussion lists are actively
promoting exchange of views on open access. The Open Society Institute is
providing funds to promote open access initiatives.

         In India, the India National Science Academy (INSA) devoted a
whole day for a seminar on open access at its annual meeting held at the
National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, in late December 2003. INSA held a
further symposium on open access and institutional repositories on May 13,
2004, as a direct result of the Chennai workshops. Indian Academy of
Sciences, Bangalore, supported the two workshops on open access journals
held in March 2002.

Prof. M S Swaminathan, the eminent agriculture researcher and development
evangelist, and Prof. P Balaram, one of India's leading life scientists and
Editor of Current Science, gave guest lectures. Both of them emphasized the
need for promoting public good research.

Most participants are keen to set up archives at their institutions within
the next few months. A discussion group has been set up and all
participants and resource persons are members of this group.

Says Leslie Carr, "The Indian context imbues scientists with a keen
appreciation of the need to disseminate their work more widely. This is
much more evident than in the UK, US and Europe. Consequently one would
expect widespread adoption of open access archiving technology - as this is
the strategy that allows researchers and institutions to take
responsibility for improving the access to their own work." The workshops
represent an initial kick-start for open access archiving in India, and
that the momentum that these "early adopters" generate will result in more
and more institutions buying into OA archiving in India. This could well
make India (and by extension the rest of the developing world) a driving
force in the OA movement.

Participants were requested to keep the organizers informed of the progress
they make. Arunachalam is planning to visit the different institutions to
monitor the progress. Before the end of the year at least a dozen
institutions are expected to have their own institutional archives up and

Taking advantage of their presence in India, the British Council, Chennai,
organized talks by Leslie Chan and Leslie Carr to a select gathering of
librarians and publishers. Leslie Chan also gave talks at the Indian
Institute of Science and the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, as well
as at the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi. These talks were well
attended and generated considerable enthusiasm for promoting open access in

As a follow-up to these workshops, Arunachalam is planning to organize a
three-nation policy makers workshop for India, China and Brazil to which
will be invited representatives from the InterAcademy Council, the
InterAcademy Panel and the Third World Academy of Sciences.

It is clear that technical infrastructure is no longer an issue both in
India and
elsewhere. It is a matter of leadership and institutional commitment. In
that regard it is very encouraging that Indian science policy makers such
as Dr R A Mashelkar, Director General of the Council of Scientific and
Industrial Research, and Prof. M S Valiathan, President of the Indian
National Science Academy, are keen to encourage setting up of open access
institutional repositories.

The workshops were supported by the Open Society Institute, the
International Development Research Centre, the British Council and the
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (Government of India).

Subbiah Arunachalam
MS Swaminathan Institute, Chennai
Trustee, Electronic Publishing Trust for Development
Received on Mon May 24 2004 - 12:15:35 BST

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