Tag Archives: Open Access

The chain of communication in health science: from researcher to health worker through open access

Leslie Chan, Subbiah Arunachalam, Barbara Kirsop

Globally, the public and private sectors spend billions of dollars each year on biomedical and health-related research. Yet in many parts of the world, health care systems are far from achieving the health outcomes targeted by the UN Millennium Development Goals The reasons for this disparity are complex, but one key factor that has been consistently identified is the failure to translate research into effective policy and practices. Not surprisingly, then, health agencies and funding bodies around the world are paying closer attention to what is now generally described as “knowledge translation,” developing mechanisms that “strengthen communication between health researchers and users of health knowledge, enhance capacity for knowledge uptake, and accelerate the flow of knowledge into beneficial health applications.”1



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.


Open Access to Scientific Knowledge

S. Arunachalam

DESIDOC Journal of Library and Information Technology, Vol 28, No 1 (2008)

The open access movement, well known in the domain of journal articles, came about because of several reasons. These include scholars’ and researchers‘ willingness to share knowledge, and advances in technology which enabled opening up free access to information. It also include journal publishers who raised the subscription rates forcing researchers to look for alternative ways of sustaining knowledge sharing. The paper discusses two ways of achieving open access (OA) and argues that sharing knowledge and building partnerships have been recognised as the best and most optimal means of creating and benefiting from knowledge. It focuses on various fronts where OA is making good progress, and also deliberates on issues like OA endeavours in India, OA and sustainable development and what needs to be done in India to promote OA activities.


Global Research Libraries 2020 Asia Position Paper

S. Arunachalam

GRL2020 Asia, 2009

Predicting the future is never an easy task. (I say that in spite of the fact that India is home to millions of astrologers and followers of astrology.) Predicting how knowledge exchange will happen in about ten years from now is even more difficult because new technologies keep coming that transform everything we do in unexpected ways.

I firmly believe that the basic tenets of research libraries will continue to remain the same, unchanging like the laws of thermodynamics. (Everything else may change in physics – remember the uncertainties physicists face in defining physical reality: waves or particles, matter or energy, and so on – but not thermodynamics.) Research libraries will continue to be service organizations supporting the knowledge production activities of researchers and gathering and disseminating information. It will continue to play a key role in knowledge discovery. The major developments will pertain to the ways in which advances in new technologies impinge on knowledge acquisition, production and discovery.

Technology is a double-edged sword. In our context, it can facilitate both democratization of knowledge and privatization of knowledge. The Google book digitization project is fast becoming a distinct threat (of monopoly), and among the major institutions only Harvard University has opposed it. Journal publishers, especially in the area of science, technology and medicine and also in other areas of scholarship, are keen not to let go the current ways of doing things although technologies are in place to carry on with cheaper and faster knowledge dissemination. Institutions like ARL, SPARC, PLoS will find, at least for some time, the battle with the large publishing firms an unequal one. This tension between democratization and privatization will become increasingly pronounced in the near future. Unfortunately, public support for initiatives that will lead to greater democratization is rather slow. But then eventually, Ghandi won freedom for India and Mandela got rid of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Movements like Access to Knowledge (Yale Law School and others) and Internet archive (Brewster Khale and others) need to gain greater momentum for the democratization aspect of technology to offset the privatization efforts. But then we also see Elsevier floating free services and Google coming up with Google Knol.

As technology advances, it not merely helps us do things faster but it even transforms the way how we do what we do. Specifically, the ‘tool’ interacts with ‘content’ and advances the content. The more sophisticated the technology (or tool) the greater its capacity to transcend its original role of facilitating (or reducing drudgery). Now, technology of creating structured databases and data mining have led to developments where without actually performing an experiment Don Swanson (Chicago University) could see the connection between migrain and magnesium. Swanson is neither a doctor nor a life scientist. Ron Kostoff of the US Naval Research laboratory advanced such ‘connection finding’ further and called it the Discovery approach.

Increasingly, people will stay put in front of their computers, drawing a whole lot of tools, techniques, data and letting them all interact in the ‘cloud’ and collaborate with distant partners through the ‘cloud’.
Looking from the point of view of a traditional librarian, in some sense, we will be rediscovering what J D Bernal told his audience at the famous Royal Society conference on scientific information over half a century ago: we will no longer look for journals; we will look for individual articles (or more accurately, preprints or postprints). Going one step further we will be looking for specific parts of some work – some data or idea – and we will often pluck it from the cloud.

That brings me to the role of librarians and information officers. As always, they are the intermediaries connecting researchers and knowledge. But as the capacity of the individual researchers and the way they work change, librarians need to change too and acquire new niche roles. It is going to be exciting times in library schools.


The public domain under pressure

Gail Hodge , Paul Uhlir, Subbiah Arunachalam and Tom Moritz

Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, (2005) Volume 40 Issue 1, Pages 443 – 444

Public domain information, whether limited to judicial decisions or extended to all government-authored or sponsored works, has been expounded as a means of ensuring a knowledgeable citizenry, promoting economic advancement, and ensuring that publicly funded information is not “double taxed”. However, the public domain has come under increased pressures as the global information economy changes. The speakers in this session will address these pressures from a number of different national and disciplinary views.


Gail Hodge 1, Paul Uhlir 2, Subbiah Arunachalam 3, Tom Moritz 4

Workshops on open access in India

S. Arunachalam

CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 86, NO. 12, 25 JUNE 2004

Two workshops on open access and institutional archives were organized 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 (i) a thorough understanding of the global scientific and scholarly communication issues that open access addresses; (ii) the technical knowledge of how to set up and…….


India debates open access

The Scientist

India’s premier publicly-funded research organization is pushing to make all research published at its institutions open access. But its pleas are falling on deaf ears, critics say, as individual laboratories have been slow to take up the charge.

Image: India Most

Last month (Feb. 6), the head of research and development planning at India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Naresh Kumar, sent a memo to the directors of CSIR’s 42 labs urging that “all research papers published from all CSIR laboratories be made open access,” either through online repositories or by publishing in open access journals. Kumar also recommended that all journals published by CSIR be made open access.

It is now up to the directors of the various labs to decide whether or not to implement the policy. Subbiah Arunachalam, an information consultant based in Chennai who was involved in formulating the recommendations, said that “whether this will actually happen is anybody’s guess.”

“The uptake [of open access policies] is rather slow in India,” Arunachalam told The Scientist. “[The CSIR directors] will not take it seriously at all. I know these guys. For them, this doesn’t look important.” The directors don’t necessarily see the benefits of open access publishing and claim that the infrastructure is too difficult to implement, he said.

Arunachalam and leading policymakers and academics are meeting today (Mar. 24) at the CSIR offices in New Delhi and again Thursday (Mar. 26) at the Indian Academy of Sciences in Bangalore to discuss the merits of open access publishing and online institutional databases.

Indian scientists who publish their work abroad often can’t even access their own papers, said Leslie Chan of the University of Toronto, who directs the online publishing service Bioline International and will be speaking this week at the Indian conferences. “By putting these articles that are published elsewhere in some sort of repository, they become available to scientists in their own countries and elsewhere,” he said.

But the contents of institutional repositories do not have high visibility for the scientific community at large because researchers are not likely to start trawling through databases of foreign institutions, said Stanford University’s John Willinsky, who heads the Public Knowledge Project, a research initiative that develops software platforms to help journals publish online, and who is also presenting at this week’s meetings.

Instead of setting up dozens of individual databases, he suggests moving Indian journals in their entirety online through an open access publishing model akin to the Public Library of Science or BioMed Central. This would “hugely level the playing field,” Willinsky said, because the journal articles would become indexed by search engines such as Google Scholar, which helps papers get noticed by scientists around the world. “A move to open access will hugely increase the contribution [of Indian scientists] because these are journals that normally wouldn’t be subscribed to” by libraries in the West, he said.

It may be too early to consider such large-scale efforts, however. “We haven’t achieved anything yet,” said Aruchachalam, who stressed that the Indian initiative is still in its infancy.

While deliberations take place, Chan thinks that India can take guidance from recent open access efforts in developing countries elsewhere. “If India can learn from these existing projects then they don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Last month (Feb. 19), the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) announced a two-year pilot project to make one of the country’s leading journals, the South African Journal of Science, open access with no page charges for any scientists — not just South African ones — publishing in the journal. “The main driving force is to increase the visibility of the work that’s done in South Africa and other developing countries, and to make it globally accessible,” ASSAf’s president Robin Crewe told The Scientist.

A few weeks before South Africa announced its effort, the small Middle Eastern nation of Qatar launched an online repository dating back to 1970, around the time that Qatar became an independent state. The Biannual National Research Survey, released by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), provides a searchable online database containing a summary of all research conducted partly or wholly in the country before 2007. The QNRF plans to update the repository every two years. “We have in Qatar a significant gap in knowledge of past work and discoveries,” said Sattar Al-Taie, director of QNRF, in a statement. “It is important that we share our knowledge and progress internationally.”

“A lot of Middle Eastern countries are realizing that open access is a good way of promoting their research and attracting attention,” said Chan. Asian countries have been slower to warm up to open access, he notes, but they’re starting to come around.

As in India, leading Chinese scholars are appealing to transform the country’s journals. “At the moment, Chinese journals aren’t very popular” outside of the country, said Zuoyan Zhu, a developmental biologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Wuhan and the former deputy head of the National Science Foundation of China. Zhu contends that adopting an open access model “will greatly help the Chinese journals get accepted by the scientific community.”

Zhu is currently preparing a report for the CAS to assess the impact and logistics of making some or all of the Science in China journals — China’s premier English-language journal series — open access. He expects to submit the report before the end of year. Kumar, however, doesn’t want India’s CSIR to wait that long. “It is requested that the open access activities are implemented at the earliest [possible date],” he wrote at the end of his appeal to the CSIR directors.

Correction (Mar. 30): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Naresh Kumar urged for journals published by CSIR’s National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) be made open access. In truth, Kumar’s memo urged that all CSIR journals, not just NISCAIR journals, be made open access. The Scientist regrets the error.

Democratizing potential of Open Access: Perspectives from the Developing World

Africa Study Centre Leiden, 6-8 September 2006

I am going to discuss two questions:

  • Does global exchange of information enable ubiquitous access to knowledge?
  • By which means do information technologies contribute to the solution or intensify global and local problems?

I want to show that only through sharing knowledge and building partnerships and by harnessing technology in innovative ways we can hope to make this world a harmonious place to live.


Subbiah Arunachalam on Open Access in India -Video

Subbiah Arunachalam on Open Access in India – by Leslie Chan


Digital Oppurtunity Channel Interviews Subbiah Arunachalam

It is a world event with the backing of the Secretary General of the UN and we are a large country and a regional power. As a leader of the developing world we should take part and play our legitimate role in WSIS. We can voice our views strongly and put our weight behind proposals that we would like to be accepted and implemented.