25 No. 4
July - August 2003
for Open Access
on Open Access to Scientific and Technical Information, held
in Paris in January 2003, dealt with an issue that could eventually
impact all IUPAC members. This timely seminar—organized
by INSERM, CNRS-INIST, and ICSTI, and supported by ICSU and
CODATA—explored the economic, political, and legal realities
of the Open Access (OA) movement.*
seminar on Open Access to Scientific and Technical Information1
held in Paris in January 2003, dealt with an issue that could
eventually impact all IUPAC members. This timely seminar organized
by INSERM2, CNRS-INIST3,4,
and ICSTI,5 and supported by ICSU6
and CODATA7 explored the economic, political,
and legal realities of the Open Access (OA) movement.
is Open Access, and why should it matter to IUPAC’s
Committee on Printed and Electronic Publications (CPEP)? According
to David Prosser of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic
Resources Coalition of Europe8 (an organization
that aims to reduce the costs of access to learned publications),
OA is a call for free, unrestricted access, on the public
Internet, to the literature that scholars produce. It aims
to accelerate research, enrich education, allow sharing of
learning between richer and poorer nations, and enhance the
return on taxpayer investment in research. These goals would
be achieved by using existing funds to pay for dissemination
rather than access.
the 75 poorest countries, 56% of medical institutions
have no subscriptions to journals and 21% have only
2 print subscriptions.
technological terms, OA is described by Jack Franklin, in
a background paper9 written for the conference,
as an attempt to establish "common standards whereby
articles stored on compliant servers can form a global library,
allowing searching, data retrieval, cross-linking, and stable,
long-term archiving." Until now, learned societies and
commercial publishers have cornered the market for such facilities:
publishing in refereed journals that have "high impact"
is currently the key to recognition, tenure, and promotion
for scientists. Since it would be prohibitively expensive
to give all researchers in all countries access to all the
information in up to 20 000 learned journals and countless
databases, OA has been described as a technology for "giving
the science back to the scientists" or allowing academia
to take back control of scholarly communication.
Harnad, of Southampton University in the United Kingdom, was
an early and exceedingly enthusiastic pioneer in this field.
He claims that OA is not a struggle against publishers or
an attempt to replace them, but it is a parallel movement.
It does not aim to solve the budgeting problems of libraries
and give access to all in the Third World, although it might,
as a side effect, do so. Instead, its main goal is to persuade
scientists to mount their papers on institutional servers,
giving access to all, so that the results may form the basis
of further work and research may progress faster. Higher citation
counts on the server would indicate the importance of articles
and contribute to the prestige and upkeep of the institution.
University provides open archiving software called Eprints10
to help create open access to the peer-reviewed research output
of all scholarly and scientific research institutions. Eprints
is slowly gaining visibility, although institutional servers
as recommended by Harnad have not proved as popular as discipline-based
preprint servers such as the well known ArXiv11
for physics and related sciences. A Chemistry Preprint Server12,13
was launched more recently. The Open Archives Initiative14
protocol for metadata harvesting sets standards for interoperability
of archives so that the reader can access all of them from
a single interface.
are not peer reviewed but OA peer-reviewed journals are also
beginning to appear. For example, all the original research
articles in the journals published by BioMed Central15
are immediately and permanently available online without charge
or any other barriers to access. Public Library of Science16
has recently announced that it will launch two OA journals.
The concept of open access is of particular importance to
scientists in the developing nations. A so-called North-South
knowledge gap is caused by the high cost of published refereed
literature and a South-North gap by the high costs of local
journal production and prejudices at mainstream northern journals.
As a result, researchers are unable to get research published
and cannot form partnerships with researchers abroad. This
is most serious in disciplines where a global picture is required,
such as AIDS, infectious diseases and environmental protection.
In response to a World Health Organization (WHO) poll, scientists
in 130 such countries expressed three needs. First they want
access to journals such as Nature and The Lancet. Second,
they want to be recognized by publishing in the top international
journals; they need international recognition in order to
get funding. Third, they need help with duplicate publishing:
they need to publish in both local and international journals.
The first need had the highest priority so WHO tackled it
first in the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative17,
said Barbara Aronson of the WHO.
who do not see journals, do not publish in them. They are
not peer reviewers. They do not go to meetings. Any price
is too high for these scientists. They work with a sense of
isolation. The poorest 75 countries have a GNP of less than
USD 1000 per capita per year. A further 47 have GNP of USD
1000-3000. At the other end of the scale (represented by the
audience in Paris) 20 countries have a GNP per capita of greater
than USD 25 000. The lower the GNP, the higher the level of
disease. In the 75 poorest countries, 56% of medical institutions
have no subscriptions to journals and 21% have only 2 print
subscriptions. In the next 47 countries, 34% of medical institutions
have no print subscriptions and 34% have only 2 subscriptions.
WHO has worked with leading Internet publishers to provide
access for the Third World in the HINARI project. Some 2100
journals are offered online through a user-friendly interface.
That the system should be intuitive is vital because of the
high cost of Internet access in some countries and because
bandwidth is poor. HINARI has offered free access in 69 of
the poorest countries since January 2002. In January 2003,
low-price access (USD 1000 per institution per year) was offered
to a further 43 countries. As of January 2003, 438 institutions
in 56 countries have taken up the free service and 247 institutions
in 32 countries have low-price access.
initiative aimed at the developing world is that of the International
Association for the Promotion of Cooperation with Scientists
from the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union18.
The organization’s International Network for the Availability
of Scientific Publications and the Program for the Enhancement
of Research Information provide funding to facilitate online
access to full-text journal databases, offer electronic document
delivery services, and train scientists in information and
Raseroka of Botswana, president-elect of the International
Federation of Library Associations and Institutions led a
panel discussion on how to ensure that developing nations
can participate in OA initiatives. The panelists emphasized
visibility, raising awareness, and training as part of the
solution. It was pointed out that the Open Society Institute19
is negotiating national licenses and arranging training in
some countries. According to the panelists, infrastructure,
capacity, and bandwidth need to be developed; permanent local
structures must be put in place; durability and sustainability
Sally Morris of the Association of Learned and Professional
Society Publishers discussed the economics of publishing.
As she pointed out, the processes of peer reviewing, copy-editing,
maintaining electronic journals systems, providing customer
support, linking, including in abstracting and indexing services,
and performing research are expensive. Unfortunately, electronic
publishing does not reduce costs as much as some people think,
Pieter Bolman of Elsevier questioned whether the OA approach
was any better than the current model. According to Bolman,
the proposed "author pays" business model means
that library funds have to be rechanneled to authors. Authors
do not like page charges and libraries may resent further
budget cuts. As Bolman sees it, the OA model favors rich authors
and there is no proof of its sustainability. He states that
OA is also not the answer to secure archiving.
property issues were also discussed. Thomas Dreier of New
York University concluded that information policy is largely
influenced by the economic concerns of global players and
copyright should not be held responsible for unsolved issues
of information policy. Paul Uhlir of the National Academy
of Sciences spoke of moving from intellectual property to
"intellectual commons." Although researchers do
want recognition, their motivation is mainly rooted in intellectual
curiosity. Peer production (as in Project Gutenberg20
and NASA’s Clickworks) is not dependent on monetary
reward, but on intellectual commons, he said.
political issue is that major research budgets do not take
account of the costs of the dissemination of results or the
building of databases. Indeed, researchers themselves often
do not understand the costs and complexities of disseminating
the results of their research as evidenced by some of the
project proposals that CPEP examines. Many of the issues surrounding
OA and its economic models are still controversial and unresolved.
Even learned societies, and committees such as CPEP, have
to face the fact that society programs are to some (large)
degree dependent on publishing income. There is, as they say,
no such thing as a free lunch.
1. Conference Web site http://www.inist.fr/openaccess.
2. INSERM, the French Institute of Health
and Medical Research, http://www.inserm.fr.
3. CNRS, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,
4. INIST, Institut de l’Information
Scientifique et Technique, http://www.inist.fr.
5. ICSTI, the International Council for Scientific
and Technical Information, http://www.icsti.org.
6. ICSU, the International Council for Science,
7. CODATA the ICSU Committee on Data for Science
and Technology, http://www.codata.org/.
8. SPARC, Scholarly Publishing and Academic
Resources Coalition, http://www.arl.org/sparc.
9. Jack Franklin’s background document
"Open Access to Scientific and Technical Information"
is on the Web at http://www.inist.fr/openaccess/en/etat_art.php.
10. Southampton University, open archiving
11. Physics e-print service http://arXiv.org.
12. Chemistry Preprint Server http://preprint.chemweb.com.
13. W. A. Warr. Evaluation of an Experimental
Chemistry Preprint Server. J. Chem. Inf. Comput. Sci. 2003,
14. Open Archives Initiative http://www.openarchives.org.
15. BioMed Central http://www.biomedcentral.com.
16. Public Library of Science http://www.publiclibraryofscience.org/.
17. WHO’s Health InterNetwork Access
to Research Initiative (HINARI), http://www.healthinternetwork.org/.
18. INTAS, the International Association
for the promotion of co-operation with scientists from the
New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, runs the
International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications
(INASP) and the Program for the Enhancement of Research Information
19. Open Society Institute http://www.soros.org/osi.html;
Budapest Open Access Initiative http://www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml.
20. Project Gutenberg, backed by hundreds
of volunteers, supplies free electronic books on the Internet,
of information consultants Wendy Warr & Associates <www.warr.com>
is chairman of IUPAC’s Committee on Printed and Electronic
Publications and IUPAC representative on ICSTI. She was the
IUPAC representative to the seminar on Open Access to Scientific
and Technical Information.
is the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, CNRS
is the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, INIST
is the Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique,
ICSTI is the International Council for Scientific and Technical
Information, ICSU is the International Council for Science,
and CODATA is the Committee on Data for Science and Technology.
last modified 30 June 2003.
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