Brazilian Research “world’s most open.”

When it comes to online publication, Brazilian research is already being described as “the most open in the world,” according to the prestigious journal Nature.

Now, an  integration programme is to make available  the entire output of Brazil’s leading universities in the  state of São Paulo. This portal is the Council of São Paulo University Dean’s Scientific Production Repository, launched during the opening session of the 4th Annual Luso-Brazilian Conference on Open Access (Confoa) on October 6.  You can read about it by clicking here.

The portal will bring together theses, dissertations, articles, books, summaries and complete works presented at meetings and scientific congresses, among other publications, provided by the three institutions to the data repositories that they began to develop in the last few years.

The portal’s objectives are to collect, preserve and permit open, public and integrated access to the scientific production of researchers from the three São Paulo state universities (University of São Paulo, University of Campinas, and UNESP). These universities lead the publication of scientific articles in the country according to the latest edition of SIR World Report, released in July by Scimago Lab.

In 2011, 43% of Brazilian science articles were free to read on publication, compared with 6% of US articles. Likewise, Brazil’s ratio of open access to scholarly journals matches or beats that of many EU nations, according to the European Commission’s Europa service.

This is all thanks to SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online), a subsidized collection of mainly Latin American journals that now puts out more than 40,000 free-to-read articles each year.

SciELO’s backing, says Nature reporter  Richard Van Noorden, has helped “to make Brazilian research the most open in the world.”

SciELO Brazil gets 1.5 million downloads per day, and this year, a SciELO citation database will be added to the Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge.

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SciELO is now celebrating its 15th anniversary – and wondering where to go next because the world around it is changing fast. This article explores the database’s  history development and future challenges.

Recently, the number of English-language articles published by ScieLO overhauled  Portuguese-language texts. You can read more about the organisation’s  15 year history by clicking here.

You can read Van Noorden’s article about SciELO published by Nature in October 2013, by clicking here.

Science for Brazil has written previously about the open access debate , showing how influential players including The Royal Society and MacMillan (publishers of Nature), were observing the SciELO model.

Open Access is becoming a political issue in developed markets, where commercial publishers have long held sway and still have the persuade public university libraries to “buy back” the expensively published results of research originally carried out with public funds.

Open Access is now a topic of debate in the US, while the European Commission plans to impose OA requirements on publications based on research funded under the Horizon 2020 Programme.

In the UK, one estimate in an article by Nature shows that each paper “bought back” from commercial publishers based on research it has itself funded, costs biomedical research funder Wellcome Trust UK£1,400 (US$2,250). Nature itself proposes charging a £6,500 (US$10,500) fee for making each paper it publishes “free.”

São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) started funding SciELO as a one-year pilot project in 1997. Ten other countries, including Mexico, Spain, Chile and South Africa, subsequently joined. And it has inspired other free Ibero-American publishing platforms, such as the 11-year-old Redalyc.org.

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SciELO was conceived in 1993, when its scientific director Rogério Meneghini noticed that Brazil was simply missing out on much of the world’s recorded “scientific conversation” – in part because this takes place in English.

With the help of a US$3-million annual grant from FAPESP and from Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, the system has grown steadily.

Brazil’s ability to “leap-frog” the scientific public industry derives from two simple facts: it never had indigenous publishers of repute, and because public funding of research is largely centralised through federal or state channels, it was easier to introduce a new publishing model and get researchers to swing behind it.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) counts more than 8,200 open access journals worldwide. Advocates of open access on a global scale point to PLoS (Public Library of Science) and Biomed Central as the role models, but the consensus of organisation such as Science Europe seems to be that it will be years, perhaps decades, before the world adopts the approach pioneered in Brazil.

Of course, the Latin American model has its critics – not least among Latin American scientists who for reasons of impact, vanity or pressure from funding sponsors, prefer to publish their work in more traditional commercial reviews. It’s true that overall, citations are low and journal quality can sometimes be described as variable. Whether or not material makes it into SciELO that would not pass peer evaluation elsewhere would require detailed comparison

Open Access is not without its industry critics too, as The Guardian newspaper reported. Case in point is a recent “sting operation” by Science magazine journalist John Bohannon, who concocted a spoof paper about the anti-cancer properties of a lichen that made its way past the peer review committee of Journal of Natural Pharmaceuticals, an open access publication. The case, trumpeted Science,reveals little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals.”

In fact the publisher of Journal of Natural Pharmaceuticals turns out to be Mumbai, India-based, Medknow – which in turn is a subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer, one of the  world’s largest and most traditional commercial medical publishers.

So far, Brazil has kept itself distant from the debate roiling commercial publishing circles, and has seen SciELO go from strength to strength. The addition of the CRUESP portal making  scientific production more freely available, suggests Brazil is investing heavily in this model.

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