Publishers Remove 2500 Journals From Free Access In Bangladesh; Put Them Back When People Notice

from the gotta-pay-to-do-research dept

We’ve discussed in the past some of the more ethically dubious moves by the big academic journal publishers, and the more you look, the worse it seems to get. Glyn Moody has the story about how a bunch of publishers all agreed to remove free access to thousands of journals in Bangladesh. Apparently they had previously allowed such free access, noting that Bangladesh was a developing nation, but now they claim they’ve seen enough sales to pull the plug on the free access. Among the journals removed:

From 4 January Elsevier Journals withdrew access in Bangladesh to 1610 of its publications, including the Lancet stable of journals, which had been available through the World Health Organization?s Health Inter-Network for Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) programme. HINARI was set up in 2002 to enable not for profit institutions in developing countries to gain access online to more than 7000 biomedical and health titles either free or at very low cost.

Springer has withdrawn 588 of its journals from the programme in Bangladesh and Lippincott Williams and Wilkins 299 journals. The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society for Animal Science have withdrawn access to, respectively, two and three of their journals.

And this resulted in the bizarre situation in which some researchers in the country no longer had access to their own research:

Tracey Koehlmoos, head of the health and family planning systems programme at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, said, “We are a little less than 300 scientists eking out world class research on a shoestring budget without the purchasing power capacity of a big university in the West. HINARI has been our lifeline. My colleagues publish in many of these journals, and now we won?t even have access to our own papers.”

Access to knowledge is important for creating new knowledge. Blocking off such access to these scientists and researchers is a really unfortunate move.

Thankfully, as I was finishing up writing this piece, I saw the news that, given the outcry of protests about this, the publishers backed down (pdf). However, it seems troubling that it should take a public outcry for these publishers to realize this was a bad idea.

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Companies: elsevier

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Comments on “Publishers Remove 2500 Journals From Free Access In Bangladesh; Put Them Back When People Notice”

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The service that scientific journals provide (peer review) is already divorced from the service they charge for (peer-reviewed publishing).

Essentially, people buy the journals in order to support the peer-review process.

Given that publication of these journals is already an expression of the CwF+RtB model, I’m kind of disappointed by what has happened, here. If people want the journals to be there for them to publish in, and to provide them with a forum in which to publish, surely they should be willing to pay into the upkeep and maintenance of those journals?


Re: Difficult...

I don’t think that people buy the journals in order to support the peer-review process.

Moreover, people aren’t buying these journals. Universities and research institutions are, but, as was pointed out in the article, some places that are doing great research on their own can’t afford the prices that the publishing companies want to charge.

Finally, how in the world do you get that these journals are “already an express of the CwF+RtB model?” Journals are, for the most part, a way to ensure tenure more than a way to disseminate information. Peer-reviewed journals are a joke.

Alex Danielssays:

Re: Difficult...

Basically the scientists at universities do the research. The scientists at universities do the peer review. Then the publishers sell the books to the universities.

Is it me or the publishers could be taken out of the equation completely? The money spent by universities on buying the journals could pay for the peer review, pay for the online hosting of all the publications (to give free access to other universities) and to fund more research!


“… some researchers in the country no longer had access to their own research…”

Erm… researchers don’t have access to their own research anywhere in the world unless they or their institution subscribe to the journal (unless it’s an open source one, of course).

The researchers at my institution have their research published by the likes of Elsevier and LWW etc, and the library has to subscribe to those journals so that they can read their own papers.

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