9º Congresso Mundial de Informação em Saúde e Bibliotecas

Salvador, Bahia - Brasil, 20 a 23 de setembro de 2005


4ª Reunião de Coordenação Regional da BVS

19 e 20 de setembro de 2005

Changing face of scientific communication: an overview


Changing face of scientific communication: an overview

‘The practice of scientific research and use of knowledge from that research should always aim at the welfare of humankind.’ (UNESCO). With the steady growth of knowledge ‘Invisible College’ was replaced by journal for Scientific Communication (SC). However, publishing scientific journals now is a seven billion dollar a year financial investment monopolized by a few commercial publishers. In a peculiar market environment, cost of journals especially in the sciences have increased by 227% from 1986 to 2002 and the projection for 2006 is that 2729 journals in the sciences will cost over 4 million US dollars. The impact of this is worst felt in Less Developed Countries (LDC) where local currencies continue to devalue against hard currencies and this trend will continue. Aggregate journals and site licensing offered by major publishers are reinforcing the monopoly forcing smaller/ professional associations’ out of business. Use of  Impact Factor for research assessment and ethical issues are complicating the process of SC. There is evidence that ‘Institutional Racism’ exists and researchers and health problems of LDC are severely under-represented in major health science journals. A survey of six high impact tropical medicine journals, reveal a significant disparity in international representation among editorial/advisory boards of these journals: only 1.7-7.7% of the articles in 2000-2 were generated exclusively by scientists from LDC.  The World Health Report on Knowledge for Better Health, (2004) says out of US$70 billion spent on global health science research annually, an estimated 10% is used on 90% of the world’s health problems (10/90 gap). In 2005 May, results of a survey reported in Science confirm that scientific publications on health topics for 1992-2001 were disproportionately distributed and highly concentrated among the world’s richest countries.  There is an increased awareness and emphasis on the importance of freedom in generation, distribution and access to information that is considered a ‘Public Good’ which must be utilized freely for nations’ development.
Information Technology has influenced the volume, production, presentation, archival, distribution and retrieval of information but it has not changed the journals business significantly. However, scientists, journal editors and even politicians are now joining librarians in protesting against monopoly and exploitation in the journal industry. In response to this phenomenon, opponents to the industry are exploring electronic publishing of journals on ‘Open Access’ (Timeline of the Open Access Movement) with a different financial infrastructure. Biomed Central is one such successful model. National Institutes of Health is leading the way by canvassing for free access to information resulted from government funded research and many European countries who are signatories for the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities ar e also gradually endorsing “Open Access’ and ensuring a mechanism to achieve this at national level. Other collaborative  initiatives such as institutional repositories, electronic theses and dissertations, electronic publishing of journals  are taking shape and DSpace , NDLTD, SciELO and Virtual Health Library are successful examples.
These initiatives have implementing implications, yet, they provide ample opportunities for LDCs to overcome a number of problems to access generate and disseminate information generated within. Not only technology provides for electronic publishing but also citation tracking by individual journals as well as by Scholar Google.  The journal industry may not disappear altogether, but all elements for successful free flow of information are in place to make an impact on restrictions imposed by publishers. It is hopeful that LDCs will benefits from this changing face of scientific communication to some extent, if not fully.