Today I resigned from the editorial board of a well respected journal in my field – Genomics. No longer can I work for a system that provides solid profits for the publisher while effectively denying colleagues in developing countries access to research findings.
It has not been an easy decision. Some may feel that I'm grandstanding or making a futile gesture. And it may be a toxic career move. Scientists are expected to contribute to the community by reviewing papers and serving on editorial boards. But I cannot stand by any longer while access to scientific resources is restricted.
My work on biomedical research in developing countries has shown me that lack of access to current publications has a severe impact.
The vast majority of biomedical scientists in Africa attempt to perform globally competitive research without up-to-date access to the wealth of biomedical literature taken for granted at western institutions. In Africa, your university may have subscriptions to only a handful of scientific journals.
In reality, the modus operandi is "please can you send me a pdf". Alternatively some researchers spend part of their research grant to buy a subscription to the journal they need.
I know this well, as this was what I did for 10 years while at Africa's sixth-ranked university in my native South Africa – the University of Western Cape. Unlike colleagues in developed countries with access to well-stocked libraries and online subscriptions, I have requested pdf articles from Elsevier, and other for-profit publishers, many, many times.
The open access movement in science represents a wind of change – or at least the promise of one.
As associate editor at Genomics, I have managed, reviewed and edited many manuscripts. The majority now come from China. I do not know how accessible the Elsevier journal Genomics is in Chinese universities, but I do know that institutions worldwide pay significant and frequently insurmountable fees for bundled access to this, and the publisher's other journals. It seems unfair to edit and review articles from scientists who will likely never see their work in the actual journal in which it is published.
So I'd prefer to devote the limited time I have available to an open access journal that provides its work at no cost to researchers who urgently require its contents to improve their environment.
Winston Hide is associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology in the Department of Biostatistics at Harvard School of Public Health, where he specialises in the bioinformatics of genomic approaches to public health
FN +91-832-2409490 or +91-9822122436 fn@...
Books from Goa,1556 http://scr.bi/Goa1556Books
Audio recordings (mostly from Goa): http://bit.ly/GoaRecordings