Thursday, July 12, 2007

Web access to social science journals in Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean - the case of CLACSO’s network

Presenter: Dominique Babini, CLACSO-Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales

Time: 11:00AM - Thursday July 12th, 2007
Location: SFU Harbour Center, Fletcher Challenge Theatre, Vancouver, BC

Link to Abstract

The presenter, Dominique Babini, began by illustrating the limits of traditional methods for circulation of research results in Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean. On average, 500 copies of books and 300 copies of journals are made and distribution is limited due to the extremely high costs of postage.
Printed forms of research material are typically kept in repositories with limited accessibility by the public. A particular network, CLACSO (Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales), was featured in this presentation. CLACSO is an academic network consisting of over 180 university and ngo (non-governmental organization) social science research centers and graduate programs in 21 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The objectives of the Council are the promotion and the development of investigation and education in social sciences; the fostering of the exchange and the partnership between institutions and investigators both inside and outside the region; and the effective dissemination of the knowledge produced by the social scientists between the social forces, research organizations and society.

With the introduction of electronic publishing, it has been possible to breakthrough the boundaries surrounding print distribution, increasing the ease of widespread dissemination of research material. Through e-publishing, web access to full-text articles have been made available through institutional websites and portals such as CLACSO.

Regional portals:
CLACSO (social sciences: 400 downloads/month)
Redalyc (social science: 2 million downloads/month)
Scielo (all disciplines: 3 million downloads/month)

Using an open source virtual library software by Unesco, CLACSO now has links to 71 journals in 17 countries.
Content: 62% of published documents are university journals
Journal format: 88% are in print and digital form while 12% are digital-only
Access: 97% are pure open access with no restrictions, while 3% are restricted (of which 2% simply requires an input of name & mailing address; 1% requires a subscription)

Due to the fact that many users do not have high-speed web access, files in .pdf format are very slow to load. To address this issue, an HTML version can be seen for the majority of papers in addition to the pdf version. It was also emphasized that the appropriate citation for each paper is provided to ensure that authors receive due credit.

In addition, through establishing a working group of journal editors, librarians, and text programmers, a network in which to share monthly news and announcements have been made possible.

Ongoing developments and pending issues
- issues of sustainability were discussed, with a need for ideas on “HOW” to sell. Currently, of all the sales online, 95% are still traditional sales while only 5% are true online sales. Although open acces has been established for 10 years, last year alone $3 million was spent on purchasing journals from european countries. Support for these expenses are needed.
- the process of decentralization has begun.
- digitizing old volumes and articles
- increasing the clarity on proper citation for each article
- improving the ‘Search’ function. It was noted that very few journals in the network have a search facility. Also, searching by subject is not available. Instead, searching must be conducted by the citation’s reference number, which is much less efficient.
This program receives support from CLACSO member institutes, the Swedish government (SIDA) and the Norwegian government (NORAD).

In summary, there was great emphasis on the idea that the public needs to have access to the research conducted in their country. One of the primary goals of CLACSO is to promote and support this notion. This touches on the moral and ethical issue of individuals having "The Right to Know". In addition, unnecessarily restricting access to information creates the notion of artificial scarcity. This may potentially result in lost opportunites for fostering the incentive to produce new knowledge as a global society.

Dominique Babini can be reached at the following email address:

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