What is known as “Open Access” today began very early on in Latin America with SciELO, driven in large part by the emergence of the Internet and the desire by researchers and educators in Latin American to have their intellectual outputs gain higher visibility, mainly in the international communities and with the public in general, and to democratize the access to their research results in scientific publications.
The open access philosophy came to represent a beneficial model for researchers and publishers, because it granted free access for the wider public and gave greater visibility to their articles. The model evolved gradually until it was eventually coined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, when it was formally called “Open Access”.
Open Access has various flavors, or variations, yet there is one pragmatic and inclusive definition given in the “Open Access Publishing in European Networks” document, distilled from Peter Suber’s “Open Access Overview”:
“Open Access is a way of distributing or making scholarly research accessible in the sense that it is digital, online, free of charge and free of copyright and licensing restrictions hindering free circulation and consultation.”
The results of Open Access in Latin America demonstrate the consolidation of this model.
The two main initiatives hosting academic journals and books in electronic format, SciELO and RedALyC, provide access to almost 1,300 journals and more than 750,000 peer-reviewed articles. This has increased the visibility of the region’s scientific production, something which did not occur in the past, and thus having a greater impact ;
The model has democratized the access to information by allowing unrestricted access to intellectual outputs produced with public funds. The SciELO Network alone registers an average of more than 1.5 million journal article downloads a day. In the case of its eBooks, there have been more than 15 million downloads registered since the inception of the SciELO eBook service in early 2012.
New complementary and alternative mechanisms to measure scientific impact of publications have been put in place, allowing to measure the value that this intellectual output represents to research and society. SciELO, has indexed 9 million outgoing citations from its content.
Open Access has forged new avenues for regional cooperation such as LAReferencia, which seeks to create an interconnected network of institutional repositories accessible from a centralized search system.
The impact of SciELO over its 15 year of continuous operation in 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries, plus Spain, Portugal and South Africa, is considered of such importance that UNESCO, with the support of the Japanese government, has produced an eBook, soon to be launched, of an in-depth description and study of SciELO and its impact on scholarly communication. The eBook includes templates which other countries can use and adapt to their local requirements to set up similar open access initiatives.
Legislation in Latin America mandating that publicly funded research results be made available in open access are still few and far between; nevertheless it has been passed in Peru and Argentina (both in 2013), and has been drafted and is being debated in the Congresses of Brazil and Mexico.
Latin America and the Caribbean have made great advancements in the field of Open Access, and now confront enormous challenges such as its economic sustainability and its capacity to resist commercial interests from publishing companies, and the measurement of the “value” and impact of its intellectual outputs. Where do you think Open Access is going in Latin America?
Bring your thoughts to this table and let’s discuss!
- Nicholas Cop is the Founder and President of Nicholas Cop Consulting, LLC, which provides information and education consulting services principally in the fields of digital resources and digital libraries, mobile technologies, Open Access initiatives and virtual worlds. He is a consultant to SciELO in the areas of strategic alliances, technology strategies and platforms, business models, and marketing and has had ongoing professional contact with SciELO since it inception in 1998 when he was working as the Director of OCLC’s Division for Latin America and the Caribbean. He was also a member of the first Redalyc Advisory Board until 2010. Nicholas is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese with a working knowledge of French and Slovenian.
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