Library & Information professionals

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Open Access of Biomedical Journals. A Revolution in Global Health Information Flow

Jitendra Narayan Dash1 D.K. Ahuja2

Library & Documentation Services,
National Institute of Immunology,
Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi- 110 067, India
E-mail:jn_dash@yahoo.co.in1,dkahuja@nii.res.in 2

Information exchange is critical for development of health systems. But there are many factors which inhibit free flow of information. Open Access (OA) may play an important role in free flow of information. Various initiatives have been taken by OSI, WHO, NIH, etc. Also some publishers such as PLoS, BMC have developed OA which are providing unrestricted access to their publications. OA movement has received good responses from authors and funding agencies. Resource is a major obstacle for OA, ‘Author pay’ model may have some weak points but it is not a new phenomenon. OA movement will be successful by effective participation of institutions, co-coordinating organizations, authors, publishers and libraries.
Introduction:
Universal access to information for health professionals is a prerequisite for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and achieving Health for All. Scientists, doctors and other health professionals in developing and underdeveloped countries are missing out on relevant information about health and this lack of access to information remains a major barrier to knowledge-based health care. Even in India according to a report in the National Medical Journal of India, only 15% of practising doctors regularly read journals. Also the information gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The publication of journals is now more commercialized. Less than 10 publishers of developed world publish more than 90% of peer-reviewed scientific literature. The annual price rise of journals is more than the inflation rate. Between 1999 and 2002, the global medical publishing sector grew by an estimated 20% taking its revenue to US$ 2.69 billion [1]. Growing profits for publishers mean less money for research. Since authors hand over copyright and libraries have little choice, but to subscribe to journals. This price rise severely affects the scientific funding in developing and underdeveloped countries. So there is a growing concern among authors that they are paying a high price to get their own research output.

Birth of Open Access
The phrase “Open Access” was coined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in 2002. The initiative was an attempt to see how much an organization called the Open Society Institute (OSI) could help resolve the scholarly communication. One of the outcomes of this attempt was a definition of OA:
By “open access” to this [scientific and scholarly] literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet permitting users to read, download, copy, distribute, print search or link to the full text of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for only other lawful purpose, without financial, legal or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution and the only role for copyright in this domain should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and to be properly acknowledged and cited. Budapest, Hungary (Feb 14, 2002) [2]

By June 2004, OSI had spent US$ 1299018 to support OA project that include (a)tools, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals[3] and special software, (b) Guides such as the “Guide to Business Planning for converting a subscription-based journal to OA” and “ Guide to launching a new OA journals”, (c) Advocacy by means of grants to educate scientists, European Funding Agencies, libraries and publishers regarding the benefits of OA, (d) International conferences, seminars and workshops to increase awareness of OA, (e) Grants to support the publication of articles by authors from developing countries in OA journals and (f) Grants supporting the creation of institutional repositories for OA articles [4].

Other initiatives for OA of biomedical journals

Public Library of Science (PLoS) [www.plos.org], a non-profit organization launched its first OA journal in print and online, PLoS Biology in October, 2003; another one PLoS Medicine was released in Oct 19, 2004. Now it is publishing a total of 4 OA journals and another one PLoS Pathogen is to be launched in Oct, 2005. Startup funds for PLoS publications are being provided through a US$ 9 million 5-year startup grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Biomed Central (BMC) [www.biomedcentral.com] is an independent publishing company established in the UK in 1999. Currently the company publishes over 100 peer-reviewd OA journals covering all areas of biology and medicine. Most BMC journals are published online only.

Pubmed Central [http://pubmedcentral.nih.gov] is a digital archive of life sciences journal literature at the National Institute of Health (NIH), USA. In Feb, 2000 it was launched by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), NIH. Publishers submit (some in delay) their peer reviewed literature to the repository of archive. Some also provide only link directly to the PubMed (online Medline literature) from their web content. In October 2003, PMC began accepting individual open access articles from journals that do not participate in PMC on a routine basis.

Open Archive Initiatives (http://www.openarchive.org) aims to create a global online archive of all published research and is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee, part of the UK government Higher Education funding councils of England, Scotland and Wales. Its chief proponent Stephen Harnad of Southampton University, UK, calls for all research after publication to be posted on personal or institutional websites and tagged in a standardized form, making it searchable, navigable and retrievable.

SPARC [http://www.arl.org/sparc] (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) aims to return “Science to Scientists” in three ways; by encouraging scientists to create journals that directly compete with those thought to be overpriced; by giving confidence to scientists to create journals in new areas of inquiry; and by backing scientists who create web-based resources other than journals for their communities. SPARC began in 1998 as part of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), USA, but is now a worldwide network of libraries and research institutes; each offering funding to the overall cause.
HINARI [http://www.healthinternetwork.org] (Health Inter Network Access of Research Initiative) is a remarkable step undertaken by 30 leading biomedical publishers in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO). This makes availability of nearly 2000 journals online to clinical investigators at institutions from more than 100 developing countries. Institutions of countries with GNP per capita below $ 1000 are eligible to access [5]. Institutions of countries with GNP per capita between $ 1000 to $ 3000 pay a fee of $ 1000 per year/Institution.
But institutions of several developing countries like India, Pakistan etc. whose GNP per capita according to World Bank is less than $ 761 and recognized as low economics countries are not eligible for HINARI. It seems that publishers only wish to provide access where the marketing of journals are not developed.

Highware Press [http://highwire.stanford.edu/] located in Stanford University, hosts the largest repositories of free full text life science articles in the world. It hosts free online access to 103 journals for countries appearing in the World Bank’s list of “low income economies’. The users do not need to sign up for this service a special software “digital island” detects the user’s country and grants access accordingly.

Flying publisher started by B.S. Kamps, publishes online medical literature. In 2000 it launched the compilation of free full text medical journals [6] which provides a common platform to access nearly 1440 biomedical journals. It is supported by generous educational grants from pharmaceuticals such as Amgen, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Pfizer etc.

IndMed [www.indmed.nic.in] Some Indian journals are providing free full text over the internet, some others journals have developed their web version in collaboration with Indian Medlar’s centre (IMC). IMC compiled all the free full text Indian biomedical journals i.e. 33 and can be accessible through MedIND database [7].

Who pays for open access?
There are some OA journals published by non-profit bodies such as professional associations or government organizations. Some journals are being made free to those in the developing world and many journals are making the content free on the web after a delay of 6-12 months, so that their subscription prices are not be affected. Generally the publishing cost of journals is managed by subscription prices, advertisement charges and author charges; also sometimes grants from government and non-government organizations may be released. Comparatively in electronic publishing the cost of publishing is less than print but the costs can’t go away. In case of OA journals somebody has to pay. OA publishing is still new with only about 5 per cent of total scientific journals output in biomedical sciences available through OA. The OA publishers such as BMC and PLoS charge a processing fee of US$ 500-$ 1500 per paper from authors. PLoS has an option if authors of accepted papers cannot possibly pay the publication charge then the fees may be waived. This author pays model is not new, many authors regularly pay several thousands of dollars in page charges, correction costs, reprint cost and other fees to their publisher. For example the EMBO Journal allow authors six pages text free, but are then charged $ 200 per page beyond that[8].
In response to this author charge, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has allocated part of their grants specifically for publication fees and other funding bodies such as the NIH, the Max Plank Society and the Wellcome Trust has endorsed this model. But in developing countries where fund for research is inadequate this extra charge may be a burden. Now this “author pay” concept is being refined to a “System pays” model which works on the principle that the money for subscriptions comes from scientist’s grant when their institution takes its percentage to fund its library and reprint charges. Also in the developing world as free online access to scientific literature is increasing seen as political imperative, organization such as the WHO, the Oxford based International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications and Brazil’s SciElo are likely to become more willing to pay open access publication charge for authors who cannot afford them. Also OSI already pays such cost for authors who can’t pay to publish in PLoS journals. Publication fees are not borne purely by authors but are shared by the many organizations whose missions depend on the broadest possible dissemination and communication of scientific discoveries. Some of those may provide funding for OA publication as intermediaries between authors and journals as OSI does. One of the main obstacles for OA is resources. It must be solved in making journals accessible not only to readers but also who cannot afford to pay the page charges in order to have their article published. Otherwise the authors will use OA journals as it is free and try to publish (their) work in Science and Nature- also for free [9].

Is OA is reliable?
Some questions rise to OA, such as in biomedicine in particular, Whether the OA business models and the websites they promulgate are sustainable in the long term? Will they lead to an increased range of reliable outlets for publication? Some argue the primary weakness inherent in OA models is that they are based on authors paying for publication, either directly or through sponsorship from institutions or interested third parties. As a result, science will have a less effective filter or will require the introduction of new post-publication filtering mechanisms. This “author pay” method may be taken by authors to publish biased research and it may be difficult for authors of developing world to publish in OA journals. Research papers may be funded by funding agency, but who will fund for review or notes etc.

As long as peer review is concerned, according to executive editor of PLoS Vivian Siegel, a former editor of Cell, PLoS journals are competing head to head with existing high profile titles such as Nature and Science [10]. BMC also maintained some criteria for journals to be included in its service. Nine of its journals have attained ISI’s Impact Factor more than one. Recently, in a survey of authors in the PNAS (Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, US) found nearly 50% of authors expressed a willingness to pay an “OA Surcharge” of $500 or more to make their paper OA[8].

What can librarians do?
OA movement started a new era of global information flow. Librarians can help to filter to huge flow of information and to select topics of interest to the local users and present them in an appropriate form. They are seen by scholars, OA journal publishers and administrators as partners on the scholarly communication process. As partners librarians must learn to COAPP [11] with the problem:
C-Collect OA journal literature
O-Organize OA journal literature
A-Archive OA journal literature
P-Preserve OA journal literature
P-Provide OA journal literature
So libraries need to initiate self-archival or institutional repositories activities. Collection is easy by just copying the data from one location to other. Using OAI-PMH (Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) to collect the metadata is the next best thing. Organization can be done by traditional cataloguing. Dissemination is the hardest problem; successful indexing technique is only as good as the structure of the underlying data.
In developing countries the librarians could also help to increase use of national journals and local publishers and make them more visible. But they will have to vigilant with the change of OA policy of journals which are the core journals of library collection; otherwise the sudden disruption of OA will be problematic for their archiving. For example, recently British Medical Journal changed its OA policy, know it will provide all articles for OA for the first week of publication only, after that articles besides research papers are closed for one year then they will be OA. So accordingly, the libraries will have to consider whether they have to subscribe or not. The more successful OA becomes, the more irrelevant our traditional view of library budget will be.

Conclusion
OA is encouraged by various organizations and funding agencies such as OSI, WHO, NIH etc. so that there will be a free flow of information not only from north-south but also south-south and south-north. Now scholars of developing countries have access to the journals at the same time as their western counterparts. Not surprisingly, these efforts face resistance from publishing companies. For example, Elsevier argues that OA publishing is an untenable business model that threatens the viability of niche journals [12]. But it is supported by scholars from all corners of world. In addition to OA literature, the recently launched free citation web-crawler Google Scholar will be helpful to trace the scholarly literature [13].

References:
1. Tamber, PS.Godlee, F.Newmann, P. Open access to peer-reviewed research: making it happen. Lancet 2003;362:1575-77.
2. Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI)(2002)http://www.soros.org/openaccess
3. http://www.doaj.org
4. Guerrero,R and Piqueras, M. Open access. A turning point in scientific publication. Int Microbiol. 2004; 7:157-161.
5. http://www.healthinternetwork.org/src/eligibility.php accessed on 18/7/05
6. www.freemedicaljournals.com accessed on 18/7/05
7. http://medind.nic.in accessed on 18/7/05
8. Doyle, H.Goss, A. Kennison, R.Who pays for open access? PLoS Biol. 2004; 2(4):0409-0410.
9. Celec, P. Open access and those lacking funds. Science 2004;303:1467.
10. Horton, R. 21st –century biomedical journals: failures and futures. Lancet 2003; 362:1510-12.
11. Morgan, EL. Open access publishing. Long Island Library Resources Council Meeting at Dowling College. New York 2005.
12. Banks, M. Connection between open access publishing and access to gray literature. J Med Libr Assoc 2004; 92(2):164-5.
13. Dash, JN. Citation Web-crawler Google Scholar. Current Science 2005;89(2):242.

1 Comments:

  • RT @karenblakeman: New useful search engine that returns full text scientific articles not subject to access fees http://www.knowmade.com/free-fulltext-pdf.html

    By Blogger Bryce, at 9:30 AM  

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