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Editorial

Open Access to Research Is in the Public Interest

  • Bevin P Engelward mail,

    To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Bevin@MIT.edu

    X
  • Richard J Roberts
  • Published: February 13, 2007
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050048
  • Featured in PLOS Collections

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Access to research publications – A Nepalese perspective

Posted by plosbiology on 07 May 2009 at 22:15 GMT

Author: Ravi Shankar
Position: Assistantr Professor
Institution: Manipal College of Medical Sciences
E-mail: ravi.dr.shankar@gmail.com
Submitted Date: February 16, 2007
Published Date: February 16, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

I read with interest the editorial on open access to research (PLoS Biology 2007;5:e48). The two major open-access publishers in the field of medicine and health sciences are the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and BioMed Central (BMC). In Nepal, in the field of medicine the major journals are the Journal of the Nepal Medical Association (JNMA) (www.jnma.com.np), Kathmandu University Medical Journal (KUMJ) (www.kumj.com.np), Journal of the Institute of Medicine (JIOM) (www.jiom.com.np), Journal of the Nepal Health Research Council (www.nhrc.org.np/journal/i...) and Nepal Medical College journal among others. These journals offer full text access to articles through their websites.

The articles are on the web and there is no strict space limitation allowing researchers to describe their studies in greater detail and also includes supplementary data. The BMC series of journals publishes articles immediately on acceptance eliminating the long waiting time required for articles to be published in print journals.
A possible problem may be that the cost for publishing is transferred to the authors. In Nepal, we usually do not receive any funding for research and the grant provided by the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) is only around US$ 1000. We lack funds to pay for publishing our research. While PLoS and journals in the BMC series automatically waive fees for scientists from Nepal, the journals associated with BMC may or may not do so.

In South Asia and other regions many journals have page charges. In Nepal, the NMCJ has started levying page charges. The charges vary depending on whether the researcher is from Nepal, from other South Asia countries or from elsewhere.
Public access to information still remains a problem. Internet penetration and level of education is low and most of the websites are in English, a language with which many are unfamiliar. Accessing of websites by the general public for health related information is still in its infancy.

In Nepal, there is no central medical library. Each medical college has its own library. The science and humanities colleges and research institutions also have their own libraries. The high cost of journals is a major problem. Also in many libraries, the receipt of journals is much delayed sometimes by as much as a year.
In this bleak picture open access journals have come as a ray of hope. The Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) (www.who.int/hinari/en) was started by the World Health Organization and many leading publishers. HINARI in Nepal gives free online access to over 3000 biomedical journals. The sister programmes of HINARI give access to research in agriculture and the environment. Many publishers are offering the option of open choice publications where the authors pay manuscript charges and the article is freely accessible to everyone.

However, many problems remain. In Nepal, not all researchers have access to the internet. In many locations, the internet speed is slow. HINARI requires a succession of steps to be carried out before an article can be accessed and this may be difficult to do if the internet access is slow. Also articles published before 1995 are generally not available. After downloading the article printing it may be difficult. Access to laser printers is not generally available to researchers and the general public.

The author is a member of a drug information center (DIC) and the DIC provides articles on drugs and therapeutics to clinicians and other personnel on request. We also provide information to laypersons on request. In Nepal, HealthNet also provides access to many journals to subscribers. However, access outside the Kathmandu valley is usually difficult.

Thus open access journals, HINARI and the internet have substantially improved access to research in Nepal. There is still a long way to go towards ensuring access to research publications in Nepal and other developing countries.

No competing interests declared.