Bangladesh: an overview of Open Access (OA) initiatives.

Author:Uddin, Nazim
Position:Report
 
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Introduction

Universal access to information and knowledge is the UNESCO's overall mandate to promote the free flow of information and making information available at the fingertips of research communities. Open Access (OA) is an innovative form of scholarly communication within the digital environment aimed at achievement of universal access to information and knowledge. OA emerged as an alternative model of scholarly publishing. This is very much related to serials crisis, the term serials crisis is used to describe the rising costs of journal subscriptions during the last several years. As the budget of the libraries hardly ever rose, hence, a good number of libraries were obliged to cancel a significant amount of their subscriptions. OA to knowledge is a model adopted by many International and Inter-Governmental organizations, such as World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), for disseminating full-text contents to online communities. (1)

OA during last decades, with growth of world population, literacy and movement, the demand for information and knowledge also increased exponentially. Similarly, there were simultaneous growth in the production and supply of information and knowledge. The quantitative increase in scientific information, had a number of implications, these included; rapid growth of research articles, rapid growth of specific journals, increase of prices of these journals, and tight library budget for purchase of these journals. The impact of increase in prices of journals has been felt in all countries across the world. (2)

Academic community in general and librarians, particularly, are concerned about constant increase in the cost of journals year after year especially in Science, Technology and Medical (STM) titles. The monopoly of commercial publishers first led to the skyrocketing prices of print journal subscriptions, then the licensing system for accessing to electronic resources and collection of electronic publications in disguise of "big deal", makes it more and more challenging for libraries to purchase the reading materials are required by libraries to meet their users' need. At the same time it is also felt that most of the research are carried out with public money, so public should have free access to the products, publications of any institutions/organizations. (3)

Aims of the Paper

The aim of this paper is to examine how the concept of OA movement and OA initiatives happened, in line context of global access to information and knowledge in Bangladesh. Also to describe the current status and progress of OA journals and institutional repositories in Bangladesh. This will provide an understanding of OA movement in Bangladesh at the same time will encourage establishment of institutional repositories and making journals published from Bangladesh freely available in OA for global research community.

Methodology

In order to get better understanding and clear ideas on OA initiatives in Bangladesh a comprehensive literature search has been conducted by the authors of this paper. An exhaustive literature search has been conducted through Google and Google scholar platform. General phrase and Boolean search techniques have been applied. The following search terms were used: "Open Access AND Bangladesh", "Open Access initiatives AND Bangladesh", "OA AND Bangladesh", "OA journals", "Role of OA in library", "OA initiatives AND Bangladesh", "Institutional repositories AND Bangladesh" etc. In addition, a variety of grey literature was consulted including different project proposals, reports, book chapters and conference proceedings and others. Finally, personal contacts and discussions with scientists, researchers, and librarians have also been carried out in order to explore significant information for this study.

Basic Concept of OA

Definition of OA

Peter Suber a dedicated promoter of the OA movement defines OA as "Open access to scientific articles means online access without charge to readers or libraries. Committing to open access means dispensing with the financial, technical and legal barriers that are designed to limit access to scientific research articles to paying customers". (4)

Benefits of OA

The OA model promotes free exchange of scholarly publications. It cut down the costs for libraries, which is very important for developing countries. Articles published in OA model are free of copyright and licensing restrictions. In OA model, author retains copyright to his/her article and gives consents for its availability in OA, thereby removing all legal barriers that exist in commercial publications. Researchers in developing countries will benefit the most from OA to the scholarly literature. OA model offers an opportunity for searching, cross-searching, citation analysis, and other value-added services such as monitoring and measuring impact, productivity and quality. (5)

OA (OA) journals

Open-access journals are treated as "golden route' for providing access to peer-reviewed journal literature in electronic format free of charge without any restrictions. Publishers of OA use all the traditional processes of commercially-produced journals except for charging subscription for their journals. (6)

Self-Archiving, Institutional Repositories (IR)

The term "self-archiving" is important for OA as it refers to the process where individual authors submit their own papers into an institutional repository. Institutional repositories often referred to as "green route" to OA publishing, which is popular to provide OA to scholarly literature. (7)

Major OA Publishers

Some of the important OA publishers are given in the below table.

ICT Scenario of Bangladesh

The advancement of science and technology has made a remarkable enhancement and changed almost all spheres of life. Especially, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been revolutionized in all corners of the global arena and incorporated in the sectors of education, organizations, communication, and government & corporate offices and others. The services render with the help of ICT are faster and more effective. The term "ICT" describes the use of computer-based technology and the Internet to make information and communication services available to a wide range of users. ICT makes it possible to capture, store, manipulate, and distribute information in a number of formats including text, images, sound, and video and introduce new services, revitalize the existing services by providing faster access to the resources. ICT infrastructure is very important for open access initiatives for any country. OA is fully dependent on the effective use and application of ICT. ICT is the backbone of OA activities which not only harbor the OA movement but also propagates its growth and future development. With advanced ICT infrastructure the development of OA increases many folds.

Overall situation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Bangladesh is poor. Public access to global network and information is extremely limited due to economic condition of Bangladesh, where as the per capita income of Bangladesh is Taka 57652 (U$ 742) in 2011 and real GDP growth is 6.66%. (8)

Infrastructure of ICT in Bangladesh is weak. Overall, Bangladesh ranks 118 among 133 countries, which is worse than most of its South Asian counterparts in the ICT sector. India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan rank higher than Bangladesh. Bangladesh's low ranking on infrastructure is due to factors such as low level of secure internet servers, lack of widespread and consistent electricity supply and low Internet bandwidth. Bangladesh is ranked as one of the lowest in the world (130), in human resource capacity, i.e. in terms of investment by companies in staff training and employee development. (9)

ICT initiatives taken by the present Government:

The 2008 elections in Bangladesh brought in a new government with a broad platform to reduce poverty as well as improve governance, rule of law and citizen's access to government services. "Digital Bangladesh" has been proclaimed a high priority of the Government in the pre-election manifesto. ICT is the backbone of any digital initiative. ICT covers the vast area of information technology, communication technology and of course the telecommunication technology; categorically processing of information and ensuring connectivity. Again it is mentionable that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dreamed for a Digital Bangladesh. Without ICT sector development the dream of a Digital Bangladesh would be only a dream for the total nation.

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