Two articles in this week’s PLoS Medicine on open access discuss not only how important true open access (as opposed to just free access with no rights attached) is but also notes the challenges that remain before it becomes a global norm, not just something that works for the developed world. In their essay “Towards Open and Equitable Access to Research and Knowledge for Development” Leslie Chan, Barbara Kirsop, and Subbiah Arunachalam from the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development argue that access and distribution of public knowledge is currently governed by Northern standards, a situation that is increasingly inappropriate in what they call the “age of the networked Invisible College.” Taking as a starting point that open access is sustainable and that in the way it builds independence has the capacity to establish a strong research base, they nevertheless say it is essential that standards for the assessment of journal quality and relevance in new open access journals do not ignore development needs nor marginalise local scholarship.
In a linked Editorial we agree that much remains to be done in improving access to information in the developing world. However, by providing a logistical framework for open access, open access publishers have thus far done much to make it possible more widely. The next crucial step is to engage with readers, researchers, and authors in the developing world to understand better their information needs.
The impetus for these two pieces came out of the recent debacle when some publishers withdrew journals from HINARI and showed how fragile access to medical journals that are not OA really is. We discussed this issue earlier on this blog, and there was an especially lively and rich discussion on the HIFA2015 site . We are now proud to be supporting HIFA 2015 – and we’d encourage readers of this blog to join it.
We’d also like to encourage debate and feedback on the issues raised by these two pieces. Please let us know your opinions: respond to us directly, post a comment on the blog, or on the HIA2015 listserve.