Sharing Knowledge with Developing Countries

September 26, 2004, [MD]

While playing with the University of Toronto’s library pages, I did some random searches and came across an article about “Participation in the global knowledge commons” by Leslie Chan and Sely Costa. First of all, this is an example of how digitalizing academic publishing, and making it accessible for free-text searches makes knowledge more available (quite obvious, this piece has not even been published, but even if it had, in say Third World Quarterly, it is not likely that I would have come over it.)

Most peer-reviewed journal articles are now archived online in huge database repositories, which typically cost a lot to access (if you are at a university, you’ll never even notice this, because your university library probably has a site-wide license - however, they pay large amounts for this privilege). This article discusses some attempts by the UN (WHO) and the Soros Foundation to enable libraries and non-profit organizations in poor countries to access these databases. It argues that while these attempts are certainly laudable, the ideal solution would be twofold. Firstly, moving towards public author archiving of all published articles, making them available for no fee at all, and secondly improving communications and information sharing between third world nations (studies done in similar contexts, let’s say of poor countries coping with AIDS epidemics, might be more useful then say studies of expensive drug treatments that are unavailable in third world countries).

It also cites the Public Library of Science, a newly started organization that publishes open peer-reviewed journals in both biology and medicine (more to come?), and which excited me a lot when I heard about it. It probably differs a lot from field to field, and journal to journal, but when working at PRIO, I learnt that for the Journal of Peace Research, nobody except the publishers really made any money off it (the editor, the peer-reviewers etc are all paid by their respective institutions), so it would seem to make a lot of sense to make it available publically?


Stian Håklev September 26, 2004 Toronto, Canada
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