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Re: Bioline International Call for Support

Thank you, David, for raising your questions and concerns about 
the call for support from Bioline International (BI). I gathered 
from your questions that we perhaps did not word our message as 
clearly as we might have. We are not starting up new "niche 
journals", nor are we bundling the journals on our system for 
subscription purpose, as all the journals on our site are freely 
available.  So I would like to invite you to visit our web site 
and to find out more about the 70 journals hosted on our system:


All the journals are peer-reviewed with each journal having its 
own editorial practices.  It is true that many draw their 
editorial board members and reviewers primarily from their 
regions, and garnering more international exposure is one of the 
objectives of Bioline.  BI is not a publisher, but an open access 
and dissemination platform for bioscience journals from 
developing countries that do not have their own infrastructure 
due to cost and technical barriers. The goal is to assist them 
with online presence in order to improve their visibility and 
their uptake, and to ensure that their content are indexed in 
mainstream as well as regional databases (such as African Index 
Medicus).  We have been very successful in this regard and now we 
have a waiting list of 70 journals from various part of the 
developing world wanting to be part of the collection. As we do 
not charge the publishers any fee, we have been sustaining the 
project through in-kind support, subsidies from my university and 
small grants. We have one paid staff and all of us support the 
project on a volunteer basis. We are appealing to the broader 
community for support as we would like to increase the staff time 
and technology support for the project and to expand the content. 
Please visit the web site for details on how you could act as a 
member or sponsor:


So why do we think it is important to support regional journals, 
particularly those from the global South? Until recently, 
knowledge production has been dominated by hegemonic practices 
favoured by the powerful industrialized countries, resulting in 
"mainstream" methods, theories and discourse styles considered by 
western societies to be the international standards and hence the 
hallmark of "quality". This system has been perpetuating itself 
without much need for reflection.  The result is that the voices 
and wisdom from other parts of the world that do not fit the 
"international standards" are excluded and so they remain largely 
invisible, and researchers the world over are all the poorer.  We 
now live in an increasingly connected world, where events in one 
part of the world can have immediate and direct consequences on 
other part of the world, however remote they may seem. This is 
true not only for the current global economic crisis, but for 
emerging diseases, climate change, and a host of other 
environmental and social issues that now bind all of us, 
regardless of national or geographical boundaries. So it is not 
at all for  "philanthropic" reason that BI operates, but for the 
simple reason that "scientific findings do not belong to a 
country but to the whole world", as my colleague Hernan Riquelme, 
Editor of  the Chilean Journal of Agricultural Research noted.


Equally important is the fact that journals that publish results 
of special relevance to their regions are of particular 
importance for informing local policy making, health care 
practices, food production methods, and other development related 
issues that supposedly international journals do not always 
adequately address.  Consider an article like this one:  "Post 
traumatic stress disorder among former child soldiers attending a 
rehabilitative service and primary school education in northern 
Uganda."   African Health Sciences, Vol. 8, No. 3, 2008, pp. 
136-141 (http://www.bioline.org.br/abstract?id=hs08030&lang=en) 
Would the article above by a group of researchers from the Gulu 
region of Uganda likely be published in a western medical 
journal? Not likely I would surmise, given the "regional" nature 
of the article and the fact that issues of relevance to the 
developing world are rarely reported in subscription based 
western medical journals. 
If by a remote chance the above should be published in a paid 
access journal, who in Uganda or other war torn regions would be 
able to afford to access the article? Would the prestige of 
publishing in an international journal outweigh the benefits of 
having the article widely accessible to heath workers, 
researchers, policy makers and the public at large?   I would not 
indulge in a long-winded discussion about the importance of 
supporting local journals and the importance of open access. 
Instead please refer to the following pieces:





I truly appreciate the time you have taken to write about Bioline 
and I hope I have been able not only to clarify the nature of the 
project and its goals, but also convince you of the merits of 
joining Bioline International.

Best wishes
Leslie Chan

  From: "Stern, David" <David_Stern@brown.edu>
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 7:51:07 PM
Subject: RE: Bioline International Call for Support

While I admire any attempt to open the literature to all readers, 
this proposal raises two questions:

1. Should we be supporting regional publications as opposed to 
encouraging all manuscripts to pass through the existing 
"international" peer review boards?

2. Is this the right time to to start new niche journals, which 
compete with our present journals?

Librarians constantly attempt to prioritize journal content based 
upon relative quality.  We simply cannot afford to buy all the 
quality material that is published.  One way is to have all 
authors compete for the top peer review boards (reflected by the 
top journals). Adding additional layers of peer review boards 
with special interests may make this evaluation much more 
difficult, and in some ways may disenfranchise authors who 
publish in regional publications.  If we are to create niche 
journals, shouldn't they be based upon  disciplines -- where we 
can more easily create less expensive and  targeted titles for 
those unable to afford the larger and often  more expensive 
prestige cross-subject journals?  Regional focus  seems more 
difficult to justify, as the interdisciplinary nature  makes it 
more difficult to support based upon specific subject 
priorities.  (Unless of course you are supporting specific 
geographical research, which we do, but which is already covered 
in quality international journals.)  We have seen the 
proliferration of regional journals in the past  few years: 
Central European Journal of ..., Russian Journal of  ..., now 
this package.  In the long run, using evidence-based  practices, 
how are we to justify reducing support for our highest  use 
subject journals in order to support these titles (unless  they 
have earned high use ratings)?  Like it or not, we are being 
forced to raid our subscriptions and  move toward on-demand 
document delivery for more of our user  needs. Perhaps these 
regional titles will also need to reconsider  the subscription 
approach and move toward the unbundled approach  for survival. 
Just some thoughts as budgets get tighter and we need to 
reconsider any subscription support ideas.

David Stern
Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources
Brown University
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
Providence, RI 02912