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Scholarly Initiatives Use Open Access to Primary Data to Stimulate Scientific Collaboration with and between Developing Countries

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Plenary "Manage the Nexus", Global Soil Week 2013, IASS Potsdam, Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2013 | © Courtesy of IASS Potsdam/Flickr.

Global scholarly portals in areas as different as African poetry and disease epidemiology plan to utilize Open Access to original texts and health-related data sets respectively, in order to support data sharing and research collaboration across international borders. These initiatives will also allow researchers from the Global South to participate in scholarly projects around the world in their respective academic fields.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


While non-profit funders, such as Ford Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have been actively promoting Open Access in recent years, e.g., by requiring their grant recipients to publish their research results or reports under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license, Open Data projects are not less vital for the achievement of the goals of international cooperation across various fields of sciences and humanities. For instance, from 2019, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with the support of Ford Foundation, will launch the African Digital Portal, an Open Access digital database of African cultural artifacts, such as poetry manuscripts and relevant newspaper articles, spanning the period from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Via its grant of 150,000 USD, Ford Foundation intends to promote collaboration between writers and scholars internationally, such as for the purposes of poetry publication in Open Access. This global initiative also promises to overcome language and access barriers, as access to proprietary scholarly content is likely to be limited to individuals or institutions that have paid database subscription charges. Database and journal paywalls are likely to exclude scholars and researchers from the Global South, which comprises developing countries and emerging economies, from global scholarly conversations in their academic fields because of funding shortages.

Likewise, not infrequently epidemiological studies demand extensive international collaboration between scientists located in multiple countries performing repeated clinical observations before methodologically valid scientific conclusions can be arrived at. Whereas in the domain of health sciences Open Access enjoys extensive adoption, as exemplified by PubMed Central, a repository of scholarly articles in biomedical and life sciences published in free or Open Access and which is supported by the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health of the United States, Open Data is as critical for addressing urgent health-related concerns around the world, such as the observation or treatment of malaria outbreaks globally.

As a recently launched Open Access portal, Clinical Epidemiology Database seeks to overcome global accessibility barriers that developing-country research team may face, due to the technical and economic challenges of handling, sharing and analyzing large data sets that contemporary epidemiological studies involve. This project supported by the University of Pennsylvania, University of Georgia, University of Liverpool, United States National Institutes of Health and Wellcome Trust, while using the Eukariotic Pathogen Database, shows that Open Access should extend not only to journal publication, but also to data sets, in order to promote their optimal utilization by the global scientific community.

Given that Open Access primary data portals have been found to be intensively used by researchers around the world, transitioning to Open Access across the supply chain of knowledge production is critical for scientific progress and inclusion.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Plenary “Manage the Nexus”, Global Soil Week 2013, IASS Potsdam, Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2013 | © Courtesy of IASS Potsdam/Flickr.

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