Wednesday, July 11, 2007

STM publishers in foreign aid

More than 100 STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) Publishers will extend programs to provide information for free or almost free to countries lacking access to information, training that can help save lives, improve the quality of life, and assist with economic development. You can say that STM publishers, small ones and major ones like Elsevier, Springer and Blackwell, are going into development work. So far they have been working with three UN organisations (WHO, FAO and UNEP) setting up programs, trainings and technical facilities to access information online for scientists, policymakers and librarians. Also Microsoft has been involved. The companies and organisations are extending the program and committing themselves until 2015, marking the target for reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

The publishers have committed to the three sister programs – HINARI (research on health), AGORA (research on agriculture) and OARE (research in the environment) – to provide online research access to more than 100 of the world’s poorest countries.

HINARI (Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative), launched in 2002 under the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO), with technical assistance from Yale University Library, enables developing countries to gain access to one of the world's largest collections of biomedical and health literature. Over 3750 journal titles are now available to health institutions in 107 countries, benefiting many thousands of health workers and researchers.

AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) [], initiated in 2003 and led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) with support from the Mann Library, Cornell University, together with major publishers, enables developing countries to gain access to an outstanding digital library collection in the fields of food, agriculture, environmental science and related social sciences. AGORA provides a collection of 958 journals to institutions in 107 countries. AGORA is designed to enhance the scholarship of the many thousands of students, faculty and researchers in agriculture and life sciences in the developing world.

OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment), an international public-private consortium introduced in 2006 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Yale University Library and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and leading science and technology publishers, enables 70 low income countries to gain free access to over 1,300 scientific journal titles owned and published by over 300 prestigious publishing houses, scholarly societies, and scientific associations. Another 37 countries will be added by 2008.

In a World Health Organization (WHO) survey conducted in 2000, researchers and academics in developing countries ranked access to subscription based journals as one of their most pressing problems. In countries with per capita income of less than USD $1000 per annum, 56 percent of academic institutions surveyed had no current subscriptions to international journals. These three programs, which are in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals, hope to solve this problem and make research as easily accessible in countries such as Sierra Leone as it is in England and the USA.

It is good to see that STM publishers take their social responsibility in this project. They provide scientists, policy makers and librarians with open access to scientific, technical and medical information, so that they can level themselves with other scientists, policymakers and librarians in other countries.

It is the first time that STM publishers go collectively into a social program. But the publishers are not into the project just for charity. For the STM publishers this project is a major occasion to test open access; they can see how open access works online and how they should formulate licenses. Also people in more than 100 countries are trained up, so that they know how to retrieve information; but once they are on information dope, they will stay on it.

Blog Posting Number: 809


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