tech2 News StaffOct 02, 2020 15:02:19 IST
In a move to make international research more accessible to researchers in India, the government is pushing for a ‘one nation, one subscription’ access plan to scholarly journals. Currently, research papers are hosted by academic publishers (Elsevier, Oxford University Press, Wiley, etc.), who offer subscriptions to a selection of journals in various research disciplines for an annual fee. A nationwide subscription would give scholars and researchers in the country access to a variety of journals under a single, national subscription plan. The Indian government is reportedly negotiating with scientific publishers around the world to set up the journal-access plan, with researchers consulting on the process, as per a report in Nature. The proposal comes under the new science, technology and innovation policy, under development by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and the Department of Science and Technology.
In the weeks to come, a draft of the journal-access plan will be released, and an approval from the Cabinet could be expected by the end of the year, the report added. If successful, India would be the largest country to strike a deal that would give access to articles otherwise behind a paywall, to all citizens, researchers said.
The national journal access plan is a subscription service at discounted rates, and not the same as the open access (OA) movement, which is relatively new. Conceived some 25 years ago around the time of the internet, OA has since become a global movement to promote the free and rapid sharing of scientific information among researchers. It ensures greater (digital) dissemination and findability of research results, and as a result, a larger potential impact on both science and society. But, open access has also attracted the interest of members from the broader public. In Germany among other countries, research institutions have come together to purchase subscriptions that allow its academia and citizens to access research from around the world under a national journal-access plan.
A different, politically-motivated global effort is underway to make for open-access to research, called ‘Plan S’. Led primarily by funders, researchers and institutions in Europe for Europe, the scheme is looking to speed up the transition to a fully OA-world. The consultation period for Plan S came to an end in early 2019, and generated responses that filled thousands of pages, and igniting a broad debate around OA, said Jon Tennant in a story he authored for the Conversation on Plan S. Some of these concerns overlap with that of nationwide open-access.
“Publishers want to make money in exchange for a service. Senior academics, who have built careers on publishing in traditional journals, might feel that disrupting this undermines their status. Learned societies need revenues generated from publishing to support other activities for their members,” Tennant said. “One difference to the Plan S debate is that the ideological and practical case made for Open Access has already been won. The question now is simple about implementation and the development of an equitable system for access to research around the world.”
Plan S requires scientists and researchers who benefit from state-funded research organizations and institutions in the EU to publish their work in open repositories or in journals that are available to all by 2021.
India has already made its stand clear on Plan S – it doesn’t work for us. The volume of research coming out of India is high – the third-highest in the world as of 2018. But journals, and particularly open-access publications, ask for processing fees up-front to have research published in them. This isn’t a feasible option for India, with its diverse research output coming from a variety of institutions that may not be able to afford the fees on an ongoing basis.
A national journal-access plan would be a considerably different approach to OA, and one that the government is already considering, with a fair degree of seriousness. Whether these discussions are a success will largely depend on whether publishers accept discounted rates for having research published in their journals, according to the Principal Scientific Adviser to the government.
“We must formally discuss with publishers, learned societies and OA journals to come forth with a policy, and negotiate with them…what we do will be what we think is best for our context.,” Prof VijayRaghavan, told The Wire in an October 2019 interview. “A separate matter from all of this, which simultaneously must be addressed at its full level for this to be effective, is how we must evaluate individuals, groups of individuals, institutions and research in general. Unless that undergoes a sea-change globally, all of this will be cosmetic.”