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Open Access Publishing in the Developing World:
making a difference

P.V Ramachandran*, Vinod Scaria**
*Professor of Radiodiagnosis, Medical College Aleppey ,Kerala,India and Editor in Chief, Calicut Medical Journal
** Intern, Calicut Medical College,Kerala,India and Executive Editor,Calicut Medical Journal

Addresses for Correspondence

Dr.P.V Ramachandran
Professor of Radiodiagnosis
Medical College Aleppey

Dr.Vinod Scaria
Calicut 673009

J.Orthopaedics 2004;1(1)e1


Open Access has already become the buzzword in scholarly discussions and publishing circles. The scholar community, which was denied barrier- free access to vital research, has already begun dreaming of the free world where exchange of vital research is seamless. The Open Access Movements are gaining momentum and public acceptance worldwide. 

Though Open Access has gained momentum around the globe, the philosophy has not evoked enthusiasm in the developing world. Many factors including lack of information motivation could be attributed. [1]

Scholarly Publishing in the Developing World:

Scholarly publishing in the Developing world is still dominated by the conventional print technology, which is both expensive to produce and distribute. This has added to the burden of the low profit margin of publishers, which significantly hamper further investments. Moreover, the International readership of these Journals, are abysmally low which indirectly reflects in the low visibility and impact of these Journals. Though Internationally, these journals may seem dubious entities not worth recognition, the impact in terms of the power to kinder changes in healthcare should in no way overlooked. These Journals have been serving the Information needs and have been the sole source of up-to-date vital information for medical professionals in rural areas. It has been emphasised that these regional journals are essential in maintaining the health of the population. [2]

The low visibility added with the access restrictions significantly hamper the growth of these Journals into mature internationally recognised entities.

Open Access: How it can create a change:

Open Access can change the scenario by a multi-pronged approach. Firstly by releasing the content in an open access license, which inherently includes reuse permissions, will make it available in different forms and different avenues free of cost. This significantly improves access. For example, a recent editorial published in Calicut Medical Journal[] was translated to vernacular language and republished in a popular health magazine, which made the article accessible to a community which had no access to the primary literature.

Secondly improved access -and Open Access in general has been shown to significantly improve the citations and thereby the impact. [3] Since Impact Factor is a well-recognised scale for assessing Journals, an improved impact would add to the credibility of the Journal, which in-turn ad to increased submissions and further increase in access.

Thus by being Open, simply creates a positive change in access to good quality information, which is the need of the hour. It has been shown that by just removing the access barrier, the access to research can be significantly improved.[4]

Publishing online also reduces the cost of production and distribution significantly, and there is no additional cost per copy unlike conventional print Journals. It has been substantiated that Open Access significantly reduces the cost of publication [5]

Open Access Publishing in the Developing World: Initial Success Stories

Our preliminary assessment indicates that well planned Open Access start-up Journals from developing countries were largely successful. For example, Calicut Medical Journal covered 1 million hits in just less than 5 months. Specialist journals like Internet Health [] also boasts of such high visibility. These and other Journals like Journal of Postgraduate Medicine [] also rank highly on search engines, which is an indirect indication of their visibility.

Problems of Open Access in the Developing world

The major problems of Open Access in the developing world are: Low level of awareness, scanty support and other access barriers. 

The primary obstacle in the way of growth of Open Access movement in the developing world is the low level of awareness among academicians and Publishers. Most academicians are not well informed on how they could improve the visibility of their publications by making it Open Access (including OA archiving at Repositories). Many are not aware of Open Access alternatives, which has been a major food for thought in the Open Access community all over the world. It is interesting to note that new OA publishers are trying to make changes.

Lack of support is another factor hampering the creation of new OA Journals. Most of the high output countries in the developing world are somehow excluded from funding by major support organisations. Non-financial support and comprehensive consultancy services for new start-ups are also lacking and it is almost impossible for new start-ups, funded by small organisations to meet the financial liabilities of engaging an established consultancy service from the west.

How can we make a difference?

Open Access movement is thought to be borne on three pillars [fig1][6] -

Pillars of Open Access 




©Vinod Scaria. [Can be reproduced with attributions]

of Open Access Publishing, Open Access support and Open Access Archiving. Strengthening the OA framework indicates the need to strengthen all the three pillars to ensure stability.

This necessitates a strong framework and infrastructure to ensure support to new OA Journals. Existing OA Journal teams have acquired valuable expertise on their own. Their valuable insights could do a big difference to newer Journals. To this end an alliance comprising of Editors of Open Access Medical Journals is advancing past its conceptual blueprints. This alliance is thought to guide new Open Access Journal teams through their teething problems and create a receptive environment and a fertile ground for new Open Access Journals.

There is also the need for hard financial support for new Open Access Journals. Though many funding options are available including article processing fees, advertisements and society affiliations, the sources of funding should be considered in a one-one basis and selected with utmost care and streamlined to the needs and resources of the Journal.

Academicians and publishers need to be well informed regarding the benefits of Open Access. It is heartening to note that several organisations like the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation [MSRF] have taken lead role in popularising Open Access among academicians.

Academicians and Researchers also need to familiarise with Open Archiving. The importance of nurturing the Open Access Archiving culture among researchers in developing countries has been described.[1] Open Archiving of papers is recognised as one major and simple step in making literature freely accessible. [7] Researchers should also be made aware of Alternative Open Access Journals.


Recognising the potential of Open Access in creating a positive change in the existing academic scenario all over the world and more so in the Developing countries, we feel there is an acute need to build infrastructure in the domains of Publishing, Archiving and Support- addressing the special needs of scholars and publishers in the developing world. All policies need to be taken with particular emphasis on regional Journals and small publishers.[8] We feel this could be realised by formal and realistic alliances between scholar communities, Publishers and funding agencies and Philanthropists. We hope this paper would attract thought and resources in this direction.


[1]Arunachalam S.India's march towards open access. SciDev.Net 05 March 2004 .Available at URL:
[2]Ramachandran PV.Online, open access journals: the only hope for the future.Calicut Medical Journal 2003;1(1):e1 
[3]Anonymous. The Impact of Open Access Journals
A Citation Study from Thomson ISI.
[4]Richardson M,Saxby C. Experimenting with Open Access publishing. Nature Web Focus available at URL:  
[5]Costs and Business Models in Scientific Research Publishing .Wellcome Trust. Available at URL: 
[6] Scaria.V Open Access to Scholarly Communication:New Perspective for Health Professionals and Scholars.PsyPlexus 26 March 2004 .Available at URL: 
[7] Harnad S.The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition
[8] Scaria.V Scholarly communication in Biomedical Sciences, Open Access and the developing world.Internet Health 2003;1:1 

Competing Interests:
Both authors(PVR,VS) are Editorial team members and co-founders of Calicut Medical Journal, an Open Access Medical Journal published by the Calicut Medical College Alumni Association. The latter(VS) is a publisher, Editorial board member ,and consultant to Open Access Journals including Journal of Orthopaedics.

The authors received no external funding in relation to this manuscript

The opinion stated in this paper are solely that of the authors and in no way reflects that of their employers or organisations affiliated.





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