Ambassadors for open access in the global South

f06261bb2b8fdc53f423bda504a6cc94Vrushali Dandawate, head librarian at the AISSMS College of Engineering in Pune, India, is a tireless supporter of home-grown open-access (OA) journals. Given the chance, she will impress on anyone she works with — librarians, researchers, teachers — the many benefits of these journals over traditional ones that keep research papers behind a paywall.

She will tell them how they more often publish papers in a local language, making the research accessible to a wider group of people; and how they tend to publish locally useful research, by scientists who may struggle to get their papers accepted by international journals.

In June 2016, Dandawate became one of three India-based ambassadors for the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), a non-profit organisation headquartered in the UK that lists over 12,000 vetted scientific journals. The role gave her a bigger platform to spread her message.

OA refers to publications that are freely available online to everyone, with minimal restrictions regarding reuse. It’s a growing movement, and part of its goal is to democratise access to scientific knowledge. But despite the efforts of advocates around the globe in the past decades, the concept faces many hurdles to adoption in the developing world. Chief among them are finding a sustainable financing model and stiff competition with high-impact traditional publishers that remain attractive to many authors.

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