07 November 2006

First AGRIS Workshop on Open Access held in India

On the 6th and 7th November about twenty participants - including the vice chancellor of an agricultural university, editors of agricultural journals, scientists and librarians of agricultural universities and institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)participated in the first AGRIS workshop on Open Access in Agricultural Science and Technology at ICRISAT in India.

The workshop was largely conceived by Jai Haravu, former librarian at ICRISAT and now an information management consultant, and Johannes Keizer of FAO, Rome. Johannes spoke about the AGRIS network and how it can help India develop an open access agricultural information network. Dr D K Sahu of MedKnow spoke on how we could convert Indian agricultural journals into open access 'feeless-free' journals; Subbiah Arunachalam (M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation) urged Indian agricultural researchers, librarians and policymakers to adopt open access; Dr A R D Prasad of the Indian Statistical Institute spoke of the need for OA repositories and how to sustain them, while Dr. Mitali Ghosh Roy of ICAR introduced the publishing activities of the ICAR. The day ended with a lively teleconference with three distinguished OA advocates - Peter Suber, Leslie Chan and Peter Ballantyne.

Day two started with a session on Indian initiatives - Sukhdev Singh of the National Informatics Centre talked on IndMED, MedIND and OpenMED; Mr. Srinivas described ICRISAT library services and their going digital (the ICRISAT institutional archive will be available in January 2007); and Francis Jayakanth of the Indian Institute of Science described India's first institutional archive, which currently has over 5,700 papers; and Dr. P Rama Rao of the National Academy of Agricultural Research management led a panel discussion looking at how the participants could influence policy and what they should do next.

Workshop participants agreed a roadmap for further actions.

Compiled from contributions by Subbiah Arunachalam and Johannes Keizer


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Anonymous Subbiah Arunachalam said...

The FAO-ICRISAT workshop was preceded by another workshop on electronic publishing and open access jointly organised by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian Institute of Science and M S Swaminathan Resaerch Foundation and held at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, 2-3 november 2006. Participants from China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Ethiopia were joined by OA advocates from the UK and USA to discuss how best we could persuade governments and funding agencies in the global South to adopt OA-friendly policies. The presentations made at this workshop are available at www.ncsi.iisc.ernet.in/OAworkshop2006/presentations.htm.

If the scientifically advanced developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa adopt OA in a big way, the other countries will follow.

For some reason, agriculture has been rather slow to adopt OA. With the emergence of arXiv at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1991 and the preprint exchange facilitated by CERN and SLAC even earlier, physics is the leader. With the emergence of PubMed Central, PLoS and BioMed Cenral and the progressive policies adopted by funding agencies such as the Wellcome Trust, biomedical research is making progress. However, it is agriculture along with related fields such as veterinary science, fisheries and horticulture that holds the key to the development of the yet to be
developed regions of the world. And therefore, it is all the more important that we facilitate free and unhindered flow of agricultural knowledge among scientists of the world.

It is precisely for this reason I welcome the Hyderabad initiative. If ICRISAT can set up its own institutional archive (and also digitize - by scanning - its document holdings) I wonder why other CGIAR institutions should not follow the ICRISAT example.

Organizations such as FAO, CGIAR, IAALD, CTA, US Department of Agriculture and ICAR should support OA initiatives worldwide.

Subbiah Arunachalam

November 12, 2006  

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