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Wider participation in access programmes is essential to make journals and other relevant content available to developing country researchers, says a report.

The report, released by the UK National Commission for UNESCO last week (16 June), reviewed the participation of learned societies — organisations that promote an academic discipline — in journal access programmes.

These programmes provide free or low-cost access to academic literature for developing countries. The commission conducted a survey of 40 UK scientific learned societies, with responses received from 27.

The survey found that 25 of the societies participate in one or more journal access programmes, with the PERI (Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information) programme of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) the most popular.

Societies who currently did not participate in access programmes cited lack of awareness as a key reason, leading the commission to urge programme providers to ensure that learned societies are better informed.

Richard Reece, a member of the working group that produced the report and a professor of life science at the University of Manchester, told SciDev.Net that, in the past, there might have been reluctance from some learned societies to participate in such programmes due to fears regarding intellectual property — perhaps from those whose work they publish.

But he added, "I don't think that is the case [now]. I think that we have to try and level the playing field out and give those that don't have access to this [scientific] information much more ready access."

The report also indicates that third-party publishers could play a key role in the willingness of a society to join journal access programmes.

"[In some survey replies], it was indicated that those learned societies publishing through third-party [publishers] actually relied quite heavily on the advice of their publisher on things like which journal access programme they should participate in, if any," says Natasha Bevan, natural sciences programme secretary for the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

Bevan told SciDev.Net that UNESCO are awaiting feedback from various learned societies that have received the report, including those that did not respond to the survey, as well as journal publishers and access providers.

"We need to see whether or not, based on this feedback, UNESCO would be able to play a facilitating role. It all depends on the interest that we get."

Link to full report