Agricultural research ‘should be open access’

Copyright: World Bank

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[NEW DELHI] Providing open access to agricultural research in India will help drive development and reduce poverty, says Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science.

Alberts said information and communication technologies (ICTs) enable a new form of knowledge-sharing whose potential has not been "adequately exploited". He was speaking at a meeting on open access in agriculture, held at the International Centre for Crop Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, this month (7–8 September).

Given that agriculture is a "critical component" of India’s science sector and that the country has a tremendous advantage in terms of diversity in agricultural science and practice, providing open access to agricultural research results could improve in national and state policymaking, Alberts said.

Sharing agricultural knowledge and know-how throughout the world would have great advantages, he says. "We need to link researchers together into not only highly productive, interactive communities, but also to use ICT to connect them and their resources to extension workers and farmers everywhere."

Stevan Harnad, Canada research chair in cognitive sciences at the University of Montreal, Quebec, pointed out at the meeting that universities and libraries subscribe to only a fraction of the roughly 25,000 peer-reviewed journals that are published worldwide, in all languages and all disciplines.

This means "research is having only a fraction of its potential usage and impact".

India’s Agricultural Research Service Scientists’ Forum (ARSSF) agrees that the country’s crop research journals should be made open access. Sridhar Gutam, ARSSF joint secretary, told SciDev.Net that it is time the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) took a policy decision on open access journals.

In January, India launched ‘AgroPedia’, an online repository of agricultural information (see India debuts agricultural Wikipedia).

Gutam says that there is a broad understanding among the ICRISAT meeting participants that an open access agricultural research publications repository will be created within AgroPedia, where participants will be able to deposit their research articles.