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The global scientific community is being urged to do more to encourage researchers from around the world, and particularly developing countries, to archive their research in freely available online archives. And it is also being asked for suggestions on how this process might be speeded up.

An open letter by the Electronic Publishing Trust, which aims to facilitate open access to research, calls on all scientific organisations — including those in developing countries —  to raise awareness of the benefits and ease of placing research articles on such archives.

"At a stroke, the [South-to-North, North-to-South and South-to-South] knowledge gaps can begin to close," says the letter, which has been sent to several hundred individuals this week.

The letter is signed by Subbiah Arunachalam of the India-based M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Leslie Chan of the University of Toronto, Canada, and Barbara Kirsop, who heads the Trust's UK-based secretariat.

Many current initiatives to free up access to scientific research focus on the development of open-access journals, which provide free online access to users, normally covering their costs by charging scientists to publish their research.

The authors of the letter welcome this as a long-term strategy. But they add that for those in the developing world who cannot wait, it is better to encourage researchers to archive their published research in institutional archives.

This can happen without disruption to the traditional science publishing system, the letter adds. If scientists archive their research in this way, it will enable more individuals to access findings that are essential to their own research.

"We owe it to our scientific colleagues in the less privileged countries —  and to ourselves —  to 'just do it'," urge the authors of the letter, calling for suggestions on "how to speed up this reform".

Link to full text of the Electronic Publishing Trust's letter