Wednesday, 9 March 2011

UNESCO supports Open Access in the Global South

  "UNESCO supports Open Access for the benefit of the global flow of knowledge, innovation and equitable socio-economic development".

This is the first conclusion of the report 'A Global Perspective on Open Access' the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO released last Jan 20th, 2011 after an expert meeting on the issue was held in Amsterdam. The meeting objective was to broaden the discussing in the Netherlands with experiences and opinions of academics and librarians from Africa, Asia and Latin-America.
A few paragraphs from the report follow:

"Open Access has become a passionately discussed topic all over the world. (...) Yet the issues at stake demand a global perspective. The voice of the Global South is not sufficiently heard in these discussions".

"In this document a comprehensive definition of Open Access is used, comprising both peer reviewed scientific publications and research data, and including access via institutional repositories. Long term preservation (‘Permanent Access’) is an essential part of Open Access".

"Open Access should not be seen as an end in itself, but as an instrument for enhancing access to scientific knowledge. As such, Open Access can be defined as a 'global public good': an instrument to stimulate the growth and quality of global science, as well as an instrument for realizing the rights to share in scientific advancement and its benefits, to education and to information (articles 27, 27 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights respectively). So UNESCO can use Open Access to advance, among other things, the quality of education, public health and economic progress".

"When discussing the position of the Global South in the worldwide promotion of access to knowledge it should be noted that this region is all but monolithic. The most vigorously developing countries in the world are situated in this region, and science is definitely included in their general dynamism. So there is a mutual interest for North and South to share research findings and data through two-sided linking of scientific information and promoting the internationalisation of science. Open Access facilitates the communication of research findings worldwide. Awareness raising among scientists and other stakeholders on the possibilities and advantages still needs to be enhanced.

But awareness raising is not enough. There are several practical obstacles to sharing scientific information in large parts of the world: the lack of access to expensive scientific journals, publishing models that charge authors for the article process costs, poor or unreliable access to internet, the lack of local databases for research data. As sustainable Open Access to scientific publications and data is one of the most promising tools for the progress of science in the global South, the specific problems of researchers in this part of the world should receive more attention of all policy makers".

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