Category Archives: Science Communication

Scholarly communication in the age of the commons – A southern perspective

International PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference 2009 Harbour Centre – Simon Fraser University July 8, 2009 – July 10, 2009

Keynote Abstract:

The contours of the geography of science and scholarship have been changing and the change is likely to be even more pronounced in the years to come. The dominance of the advanced countries of the West is eroding and the erstwhile colonies are no longer content to remain hunting grounds for safari science. Some of them are unwilling to play second fiddle to science in the advanced countries any longer and want to be equal partners.

The need for science to be performed everywhere and take roots in all countries is now well recognized.

The toll-access journal system that was set up some 350 years ago and which has served well till a few decades ago evolved, for historical reasons, largely to serve the needs of North-North knowledge exchange and have failed to take cognizance of the aspirations of the South. In addition, the spiraling costs of journal subscriptions have effectively locked researchers from the South out of access to new knowledge and the much-needed international dialogue, thus making the notion of universality of knowledge and science a distant ideal and not a practicable goal.

Even advocates of open access do not fully recognize how important it is today for scientists in the North to learn about developments in the South. The value of South-to-North flow of knowledge was well demonstrated by what happened during medical disasters such as avian flu and swine flu when speedy exchange of not only research results but also research data enabled dealing with the disasters quickly.

Open access to knowledge is not merely important in science but also in development. Organizations such as IDRC and to some extent DFID support open access to all the reports from development projects they support.

If OA is so very important to the South, why is the progress slow? While computers, internet access and bandwidths continue to pose problem in a number of southern countries, in general the situation is improving. The more important factor is scientists’ apathy. Scientists in the South, by and large, do not exercise their rights to the full; often they give away on a platter copyright to their research papers to journal publishers. The publishers themselves indulge in practices that would entice publishing scientists and librarians to act in ways that would benefit the publishers. Funding agencies and governments of southern countries are not as proactive as they should be.

Focused advocacy on the advantages of the public commons approach can bring about some revolutionary changes. Such advocacy should be aimed at all levels of stakeholders. Some examples of what is being done in India will be presented.

Arun

How do journals on the periphery compare with mainstream scientific journals?

S. Arunachalam and K. Manorama

Scientometrics Volume 14, Numbers 1-2 / July, 1988

Based on the premise that citations in scientific journals can tell us a lot about the journals, we have compared Indian journals in the fields of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, geology and ecology with leading world journals. The two criteria compared are the age of references and the journals often cited in each of the journals considered. Our results show that although overall Indian science is mediocre, parts of India’s scientific enterprise are cognitively better related to world science. The peripherality is not uniform across the board, but some areas like astronomy and to some extent physics are closer to the central or mainstream science than others. Although citation analysis is not normally used for cross-field comparisons, this paper demonstrates that, if used judiciously, citation analysis can yield valuable insights into issues involving many fields.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02020244

Information technology: What does it mean for scientists and scholars in the developing world?

S. Arunachalam

ASIS Bulletin, Vol 25, No 4 1999

Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for literature and author of the trilogy Beloved, Jazz and Paradise, once said that it seemed as if writing about the life and sensibilities of Black people didn’t really count; it was not thought important enough to merit attention; it was peripheral.

http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Apr-99/information_technology___.html

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Volume 25, No. 4

Information for research in developing countries – information technology, a friend or foe?

S. Arunachalam

Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (2003), 29(5):pp. 16-21.

Inti. Inform. & Libr. Rev. (2003),35,133-147

The difference between the advanced and developing countries in the matter of access to information for research has been continually increasing. The advent of the Internet and electronic sources of information has not only exacerbated the gap but also led to the exclusion of developing country researchers from taking part as equal partners in publishing, refereeing, and in international collaboration. If handled imaginatively, the very same technologies can help bridge the information gap between the rich and the poor countries and help improve research productivity worldwide. Many initiatives that are already in place are described and suggestions are given on steps to be taken by developing country researchers.

http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Jun-03/arunachalam.html

http://openmed.nic.in/283/02/information.pdf

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1057-2317(03)00032-8

Quality of Science and Science Journals in India

CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 83, NO. 3, 10 AUGUST 2002

Quality science and science journals India Vohora and Vohora are concerned about the poor quality Indian journals They ask why should not country more than billion people and with large infrastructure for science produce quality journals Mere numbers cannot ensure quality any field especially science How many Indian athletes have won gold silver medal the Olympics None Countries with less than tenth India population regularly take home many Olympic medals Vohora and Vohora have made enquiries the Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre and the National Institute Science Technology and Development Studies about improving the quality Indian science journals and possibly Indian science Unfortunately these are not the right agencies best their role can peripheral Only publishing scientists physicists chemists life scientists mathematicians earth scientists clinical and medical researchers etc can improve the quality science Vohora and Vohora suggest that scientists journal editors and learned societies should take the initiative fact both the Indian National Science Academy and the Indian Academy Sciences and NGOs such the Chennai based Peopleoriented Patriotic movement for Science and Technology PPST have held several meetings and discussions improving the quality both Indian science and Indian science journals Many letters and commentaries have appeared Current Science well the pages popular magazines such Science Today and Science Age

http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/aug102002/195.pdf