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Open access revolution not sufficient for scholars in developing world

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
6th August 2012

Excerpted from a longer article by Jorge Contreras, who argues that both ‘green‘ (self-archiving) and ‘gold‘ (author pays publishing) open access publishing models are not sufficient for southern scholars. More needs to be done.

He writes:

“Given the challenges faced by researchers in the developing world, is open access publishing likely to advance their scientific work in a meaningful way? The answer is almost certainly “Yes”, though not without effort, and not without adjustments to traditional ways of thinking about scientific research and publishing in the developing world. Here are a few things that might help to improve the situation:

1. Increase the number and quality of south-focused scientific journals. While recent years have seen an increase in the numbers of online open access journals in developing countries such as Brazil, Egypt, and India, most such journals are not internationally recognised. It is not surprising that today the best scientists in the developing world submit their work to international journals. Leading universities and research institutions in the developing world must support locally-published journals, not only financially, but also through formal and informal recognition of researchers publishing in such journals.

2. Develop a “south-Elite” index to differentiate among developing world open access journals on the basis of quality. A selective south-focused open access journal index could include the top 10 per cent to 20 per cent of journals published in developing countries, or with developing country issues as their focus. The availability of such a “south-Elite” index could encourage existing international indexes to include developing world journals, and persuade leading researchers in the developing world to view publication in such journals as desirable.

3. Developing world researchers should pay greater attention to research emanating from the rest of the developing world. Researchers in the developing world still look primarily to the industrialised world for collaboration and information. For scientific production in the developing world to improve and gain broader recognition, researchers in the developing world must engage each other’s work and forge their own collaborations with each other.

4. Develop new financial models to replace information philanthropy. Information philanthropy distorts information markets and influences behaviour in counterintuitive ways. Until it is supplanted by self-sufficient south-focused open access journals, the potential of developing world scientists will not be fully realised. Open access models have brought about significant changes in the world of scientific publication and knowledge dissemination. While such models have already had a positive impact on researchers in the developing world, more can be done to fulfil the promise of open access publishing for the global consumption and production of scientific research.”


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