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[MELBOURNE] A leading science publisher is granting journalists from developing countries access to its scientific papers that are not otherwise freely available.

Elsevier announced the initiative at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Australia last week (19 April).

The publishing giant plans to provide journalists with summaries of current scientific research from over 2000 of its journals ― including The Lancet and Cell Press.

According to Elsevier's communications director, Shira Tabachnikoff, journalists who sign up will also be provided with links to full articles appearing in journals published that month, as well as feeds and ideas for further articles.

"This is meant to bridge the gap between scientists and journalists, especially those in developing countries, who might otherwise not access major journals," she told SciDev.Net.

The announcement follows the success of an initiative allowing scientists from universities and research institutes in selected developing countries free access to scientific journals.

The three-pronged initiative provides access to research in environment, agricultural information and health research through the OARE, AGORA and HINARI portals.

The announcement came as journalists at the conference debated the factors that make reporting from scientific journals difficult, including the role of embargoes for certain research papers.

"Is it important to have embargoes for days, weeks and sometimes months for a topic whose knowledge would have averted human suffering?" asked Pallab Ghosh, a BBC journalist.

Phillip Campbell, editor-in-chief of the journal Nature, noted that publishers often agree that information whose release is considered to be in the public interest should not be subject to embargo.

But he defended the embargo system on the grounds that embargoes "promote openness and communication". For example, they can be valuable for journalists who are unable to attend press conferences at which the results of important scientific research are announced.