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Poorest countries to get free medical journals

发布时间:2019-03-06 09:18:01来源:未知点击:

By Emma Young The world’s 65 poorest countries will have free internet access to nearly 1000 top biomedical journals from January 2002, in an initiative brokered by the World Health Organization, the British Medical Journal and the Soros foundation network. The world’s six biggest medical journal publishers, including Elsevier Science, Blackwell and John Wiley, have also pledged to provide access at “deeply-reduced rates” to medical schools and research institutions in other, less-poor but developing countries. “This initiative is tremendously important and exciting,” says Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the WHO. This is “perhaps the biggest step ever taken towards reducing the health information gap between rich and poor countries,” she says. The publishers made it clear that they see tiered pricing, rather than free public access to archived material, as the way forward in improving access to published research. Among the journals covered by the new initiative are Annals of Neurology and the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The WHO and six publishing chiefs say they hope to persuade the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the New England Journal of Medicine to sign up to the initiative. They also hope that non-biomedical journals will join the scheme. Providing free internet subscriptions to developing countries will cost relatively little. Elsevier Science estimates the initiative will cost the company an extra $1 million per year. And it will recoup some of the cost by securing cut-price subscriptions from institutions that previously would have been unable to afford subscriptions at all. Subscriptions can currently cost more than $1500 per year – whether the subscriber is a major western university or a nursing college in Zimbabwe. “In electronic publishing the future is in differential pricing,” says Dirk Haank, CEO of Elsevier Science. “Our mission is that within three years everyone will have access to all the material we publish at a reasonable charge.” Some leading scientists have called for a Public Library of Science, in which all published research is freely accessible from centralised internet-based databases between six months and one year after publishing. Haank, and other publishing chiefs, have rejected this proposal. The new initiative “is better than making the archives available for free,” he insists. “Here we give people access without delay at a reasonable price. This is the way forward.” Almost 25,000 scientists from 166 countries have signed an open letter, pledging to boycott journals that refuse to back the Public Library of Science. This boycott is due to come into force in September. The six publishers rejected suggestions that the timing of the new announcement is designed to defray calls for free access to published papers. “It’s unfair to talk about a coincidence,” says Arnoud de Kemp of Springer Verlag. Haank adds: “This is totally unrelated. It is a different scheme.” The WHO admits that a lack of computers and internet access will restrict access to the free subscriptions in many developing countries,