Open access publishing takes off in India

Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 05:02 Hrs
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Bangalore: A small but growing number of Indian journals are moving to the free open access format of internet publishing.

"Many leading journals published in India are already open access. These include the journals published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, Indian Council of Medical Research and the Calicut Medical College," Subbiah Arunachalam, a prominent Indian campaigner for open access, told IANS.

Open access (OA) is free, immediate, permanent, full text, online access for any user on the Internet to digital scientific and scholarly material. It specially focuses on research articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

An open access article has limited copyright and licensing restrictions. This means anyone anywhere with access to the internet may read, download, copy and distribute that article.

Both the government of India-run National Informatics Centre and the Mumbai-based private firm MedKnow publish open access journals on behalf of about 75 societies.

"India publishes about 100 OA journals. Actually, these are hybrid journals - print plus electronic, with the print version sold against a subscription. No Indian journal charges a fee from the authors for publishing papers," said Arunachalam.

In Mumbai, the MedKnow model, run by a young medico, D.K. Sahu, who opted out of practising medicine and chose publishing, is considered an innovative model by standards in India and beyond.

Beyond individual journals, OA is making its impact at the level of repositories too.

About 30 institutions have set up their own institutional open access repositories using free software and open source software such as EPrints and DSpace.

The Indian Institute of Science (IIsc) was the first to set up the IISc EPrints archive, which has over 8,000 records.

The National Institute of Technology at Rourkela is the only Indian institution to have mandated open access for all faculty and student research publications.

There are three subject-based central repositories - one each for library and information science, medicine (NIC) and catalysis (Indian Institute of Technology at Madras).

India is making headway at the level of open access courses too.

This refers to programmes for study, which offer access to everyone, regardless of whether they are formally students or not in an institution - an interesting way of building skills and spreading knowledge.

"The NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning) programme, jointly mounted by the IITs and IISc, is a world-class open courseware programme. IIT and IISc faculty prepare the course material and these are recorded in real life teaching situations for transmission over the web or as a video film or as both," said Arunachalam.

NPTEL has its production centre and the classroom (studio) at IIT Madras.

Meanwhile, the National Knowledge Commission has recommended mandating open access to all publicly funded research and the recommendation is now with the Prime Minister.

The topic was discussed both in the Libraries Working Group and in the Open and Distance Education Working Group of the Commission.

Groups like the Indian National Science Academy have also been looking deeper at the potential of OA.

The Indian Academy of Sciences is reportedly planning to place all papers by all fellows, past and present, on an open access archive. But such plans take time to implement.

At another level, a number of workshops have been held on topics such as open access and its many tools and initiatives involved with it - EPrints, DSpace, Digital Libraries, Open Course Ware.

India's Department for Scientific and Industrial Research has also supported some research and advocacy.

At the private level too, some initiatives are underway, involving participation from India and beyond.

In November 2007, the mainstream publisher Sage Publications and the Hindawi Publishing Corp announced they had entered into an agreement to jointly launch and publish "a suite of fully open access journals."

Under the model, all Sage-Hindawi journal articles are to be made freely available online via the Hindawi platform, funded by author charges.
Source: IANS
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