Promoting open access to peer-reviewed research publications online

Fred Hayibor
There is a demand-driven pressure from the global citizenry for the building of an open society in which information and communications technologies will drive an Internet of Minds. More and more, information hoarding is giving way to instant sharing and the power of knowledge is shifting from fisted hands to open ones.

The mass media is agog with incessant pressures from civil society on Governments for a right to freedom of access to information. In academia, what began as the Budapest Open Access declaration in 2002 has rippled throughout the world of higher education and research and resulted in institutional open access mandate policies and institutional repositories. Consequently, there is a gradual shift in the scholarly communication paradigm from a user-pays to an author-pays model to promote barrier-free online access to the scientific and scholarly literature.

These developments are evolutionary and academics are often in an ethical dilemma regarding how to balance quality and access of scholarly research, that is, while they subscribe to the rigour of peer review and editing that commercial publishers offer, they also want their research to reach the widest possible circumference of global users for high societal impact and increased citation counts. Publishers’ paywalls are often a barrier to access, particularly in the least developed countries (LCDs).

The big question is, what is the cost of free and who bears that cost…?

The zeal by academics and scientists to set knowledge free is however, unperturbed, and commercial publishers are forced into adopting new economic models that provide a win-win solution to them and the creators of the content they publish. Article processing charges (APCs) are becoming popular as more and more commercial publishers are setting up Open Access Journals with the same quality of editorial rigour as the proprietary ones. The big question is, what is the cost of free and who bears that cost in an academic institution that adopts the Open Access principles and mandate? Are universities willing to cover APCs for their faculty’s research publications if they insist on making the authoritative (published) versions open?

In the meantime, research funding organizations and philanthropists such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and more popularly the United Nations through their Research4Life (R4L)family of programmes, are entering into public-private partnerships with publishing giants to make large volumes of peer-reviewed research publications available free or at a low subscription fee to educational and research institutions in the LCDs.

UHAS Library subscribes to Research4Life’s HINARI (Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative) programme. Beginning January 2018 UHAS was also granted access to the four other R4L programmes: AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture), OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment), ARDI (Access to Research in Development and Innovation) and GOALI (Global Online Access to Legal Information) through the HINARI single sign-on.

Visit the R4L training portal to learn more about the programmes and partnership, eligibility, and how to navigate the portals. The June 2018 R4L Partners’ Newsletter also provides exciting news including upgrades and feature enhancements to the R4L portals and increase in participation by peer-reviewed journals.

Written By: Fred Kwaku Hayibor