15 July 2009

Open access to Indian AgInfo: Progress, barriers still to overcome

"It is paradoxical to note that despite the intent of scientists to make their published research as widely be read as possible, most of the world cannot access their work."

A paper by Paraj Shukla and Anand P. Singh for the 2009 IFLA Congress give a broad account of current open access initiatives in Indian agriculture.

They highlight some problems and barriers to the adoption of open access:

"There is a greater need of changing the mindset of researchers and policy-makers regarding
the public-funded research and access to information." The authors argue that generating sufficient "will" for open access in the scientist community is hampered because:
  • Scientists mostly are ill-informed about copyright and prior-publication issues and fear losing opportunity of publishing their work in a high impact journal.
  • Scientists are apprehensive that due to swift spread of OA concept, publishers of the ‘elite’ journals would change the subscription-based model of revenue to ‘author pays’ and levy charges for publication.
  • Many scientists think website to be an adequate substitute for repository and lack understanding of advantages of using institutional repositories.
  • Many scientists do not understand data on the impact of their work and how their performance compares against peers.
  • Level of awareness about OA and its inherent advantages is low amongst scientists; even if they are aware, they have little understanding of self-archiving modes and methods.
These barriers in the science community are further compounded, they argue, by:
  • Confusion and lack of awareness amongst Library & Information Science professionals about technical and functional differences between Digital Library, Archive, Repository, etc., and their respective uses.
  • Policy makers and administrators have little understanding of both physical and functional aspects of repositories.
  • At many libraries and network centres of agricultural institutions, minimum scalable infrastructure for establishing repositories is not available.
  • Availability of trained manpower for creating and maintaining repositories is a problem at most of the institutions. Many agricultural institutions lack an independent cell for IT-related support.
  • Most of the agricultural institutions seldom collect feedback from the scientists regarding their needs and preferences. It is important to incorporate the latter into implementation of OA.
  • The need of compliance with OAI-PMH protocol is not appreciated by policymakers. Free access is often confused with OA.

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