Open Access Week 2021
We’re celebrating Open Access Week (OAW) this year by thinking about different users of research, those who consume and benefit from it. This responds to the theme of “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity”.
We’ve a lot to learn from Latin America
When the ‘Global North’ and the ‘Global South’ are discussed, the North is often positioned as being more privileged, more developed or simply wealthier than the South. That however, is not the case with open access.
Redalyc covers Latin America plus Spain and Portugal, providing a vast digital library of open access journals. Supplemented by tools such as the SciELO database and AmeliCA open science network, it means that open access publishing in this part of the world has become the default and research users can access it straight away for free.
Arianna Becerril-García, co-founder and Chair of AmeliCA and Executive Director of Redalyc has said: “In Latin America, we don’t need Sci-Hub”. Sci-Hub of course, is an illegal website scholars use to access journal articles behind paywalls; the fact such a site needs to exist means there is a problem. Becerril-García says this because Redalyc provides a scholar-led, non-profit system which contrasts with the European and US norm of publishing papers in journals run by commercial publishers which are well-managed and often guarantee prestige, but also may only allow read access to those with funds or library access.
Indonesia: world leader of open access
Indonesia researchers make over 80% of their journal articles free to read, making the country a world leader in open access; in the UK, the figure is closer to 60%. This is because of Indonesia’s strong tradition low-cost open access, with journals and websites charging low fees or making no charge at all. This has been backed by the government, who want the research to benefit its citizens and businesses.
This has started to change however. Irawan (2021) argues that Indonesian researchers are being encouraged to publish in high-impact international journals to raise the country’s research profile. Since open access fees in such titles can be unaffordable, this means a shift towards higher prestige but closed access.
Driving innovation in Nigeria
In Open Access to Knowledge in Nigeria: A Framework for Developing Countries (2019), Ola argues that knowledge feeds the knowledge economy and shared access to this knowledge in Nigeria can drives development across Africa as its population of 1 billion quadruples over the next 90 years.
Okpala (2017) notes that the ‘serials crisis’ is a definite problem for Nigerian libraries, who should champion open access as the route to spread knowledge widely and overcome this issue. Samuel (2016) meanwhile, sees open access as the way to provide Nigerian businesses and other organisations gain the intelligence they need to help realise the country’s ambitions.
Non-profit models for publishing research in Latin America and Indonesia mean open access has flourished there, benefitting local populations and providing intelligence not available when it is kept behind paywalls. Open access too, can be the solution according to Nigerian authors charting the country’s ambitions to develop.