Large publishers are starting to pull out of the Health InterNetwork for Access to Research Initiative (HINARI), a system for providing free journals to low income countries established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001. Elsevier, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, and Springer recently sent notice to researchers in Bangladesh that they would no longer have access to over 2000 medical journals, including The Lancet, Science, and others. WHO has since revealed that 28 other Least Developed Countries will lose access to free journals through the program.
In an op-ed published in the Lancet, former British Medical Journal Editor Richard Smith called the move “a major step backwards for science, health, and development in low-income countries.” He further says this episode shows that “universal open access—to all journals in all countries—is the only long-term sustainable solution for access to scientific information in low-income and middle-income countries.”
After receiving criticism for withdrawing its journals, Elsevier has decided to continue providing access to its journals to Bangladesh for the remained of the year, though it notes that the situation could change to a “discounted commercial agreement.”
For more information:
- World Health Organization Page on HINARI
- Lancet Commentary on the Controversy, January 18, 2011. Includes:
- Richard Smith and Tracey Pérez Koehlmoos. “Big publishers cut access to journals in poor countries.”
- Response from Elsivier (Publishers of the Lancet).
- Comment by the Editorial Board of the Lancet.
- Sarah Bosely. “Publishers cut off doctors’ free access to medical journals in poor countries.” Guardian Global Health Blog. January 18, 2011.
- Mike Masnick. “Publishers Remove 2500 Journals From Free Access In Bangladesh; Put Them Back When People Notice.” Tech Dirt. January 20, 2011.