Archive for December, 2006

Framework 7 Open for Participation from African Countries, China and India

I am today participating in the Europe-Africa concertation meeting. This meeting is organized by the START IST, project.
The START program is a specific support action within FP6 for promoting to get Subsaharan African Organizations into the FP7 Framework programs. There are 1 European and 2 African Partners in Start. It is a 2 years program and they will publish in October 2007 a strategic Framework.

The meeting was started by a presentation of Thierry Devars the project officer from the International Relations Unit, DG Information Society and Media, European Commission. Devars pointed out that with the 7th framework all research institutions in subsaharian African countries are eligible to participate and to be funded in framework projects. (this is true also for the countries around the Mediterranean, India, China, Russia and some other countries)
He emphasized that China and India are investing huge sums and initiatives into research collaboration with Africa and that Europa risks to loose the train.

Another Key Note Speaker was Daan du Toit, South African Science and Technology Representative to Europe. He wanted to bring an African Prospective into the workshop. He pointed to the planned January 2007 summit on “Science and Technology and Innovation” between African governments that will discuss a consolidated plan of action with regard to Capacity Building, Knowledge Production and Technological Innovation. He pointed out that there is still more a research divide than a digital divide. Research cooperation for Africa is essential to link to the 99% of research produced outside Africa. Europe is the most important partner, but he sees this collaboration as a win-win collaboration.

In both presentations it was emphasized that we are speaking not about development projects but about common research projects.

25 projects are being presented at this meeting, including projects on cultural heritage, e-commerce, Health, Physics and Mathematics, but it seems upto know that my presentation is the only one referring to Agriculture. Here is a huge task for FAO!

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Subbiah Arunachalams Post to the BOIA on the AGRIS OAI Workshop

Close on the heals of the successful two-day international workshop on
electronic publishing and open access: developing country perspectives, held
at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, there was another workshop on
open access in India. This workshop, essentially meant to address the needs
of agricultural researchers in India, was hosted jointly by ICRISAT, a CGIAR
institution, and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.

participants in the AGRIS OAI workshop

About twenty participants – including the vice chancellor of an agricultural
university, editors of agricultural journals, scientists and librarians of
agricultural universities and the laboratories of the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research attended the workshop. Dr P M Bhargava, vice chairman
of India’s National Knowledge Commission gave an inspiring opening address.
Societies where knowledge flowed freely were far more prosperous than
societies where knowledge was withheld, he said. He expressed his full
support to open source software, open standards and open access to scientific
and scholarly literature and told the gathering that the National Knowledge
Commission had recommended open access to scientific and scholarly research
publications, especially those resulting from publicly funded research
projects, to the Prime Minister. As a scientist and a biologist, however, he
said he would like to publish his paper in Nature, Science or Cell and that
indeed it would hinder the progress of science if he were to publish a paper
that would be accepted by Nature in a lesser journal. The challenge for us,
he said, was to find ways by which these journals could be made open access.

The workshop was inaugurated by Dr J D H Keatinge, Deputy Director General of
ICRISAT, whom I and Alma Swan had met in the first week of Januaray 2006 and
had a brief discussion on the advantages of open access. But for his support
this workshop might not have taken place. When Dr Bhargava said that people
would always like to read print-on-paper versions, Dr Keatinge disagreed
saying that his teenage children do virtually everything – reading, listening
to music and so on – on computers!

The workshop was largely conceived by Jai Haravu, a former librarian at
ICRISAT and now an information management consultant, and Johannes Keizer of FAO, Rome. Johannes spoke about the initiatives of the AGRIS network and how AGRIS network can help India develop an open access agricultural information network. Dr D K Sahu of MedKnow spoke on how we could convert Indian agricultural journals into open access ‘feeless-free’ journals. He provided evidence from MedKnow journals to show that going open access indeed helped in increasing the number of subscribers to the print version apart from attracting more papers, especially from outside India, and citations and

Subbiah Arunachalam provoked the participants by asking them if Indian Institute of Science, National Institute of Technology and several CSIR laboratories could set up interoperable institutional archives what prevented ICAR laboratories from setting up their own archives. He drew attention to the more than 730 institutional archives around the world and the more than 2,600 OA journals and urged Indian agricultural researchers, librarians and
policymakers to adopt open access.

Dr A R D Prasad of the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore, spoke about
the need for OA repositories, DSpace software, need for training and capacity
building. He told about the number of workshops conducted both at ISI,
Bangalore, and elsewhere in India. His colleague Dr Devika Maddali explained
in some detail how to plan and set up and sustain an institutional archive.

Dr Mitali Ghosh Roy of ICAR gave an overview of the publication activity at
ICAR. The day ended with a lively audio conversation with three distinguished
OA advocates, viz. Peter Suber, Leslie Chan and Peter Ballantyne. Questions
from the participants included concern about depositing papers when the
copyright resided with the journal publisher, subject-based central
repository vs institutional repository, loss of subscription revenue at a
time when the Ministry supporting the journal is keen to increase income from
subscriptions, etc. The participants found this session, although late in the
day, very interesting and useful.

A working group spent an hour in the evening to draw up an action plan.

Day two started with a session on Indian initiatives.
Sukhdev Singh of the national Informatics Centre, New Delhi, briefed us about
IndMED, MedIND and OpenMED. He made a simple but profound statement: The end
users (those who visit the archive for information) know far more than those
who create the archives, and those who create and maintain the archive should
give them what the users want and not what the archive owners want to give.
Srinivas of ICRISAT described the services provided by the ICRISAT library
and how their internal needs led them to go digital and subsequently open
access. The ICRISAT institutional archive will be officially up in the first
week of January 2007.
Francis Jayakanth of the Indian Institute of Science described the value
additions made to India’s first institutional archive, which currently has
over 5,700 papers.

Ms Gauri Salokhe of FAO spoke about AGRIS standards, and in particular the modifications AGRIS has made in Dublin Core.

Dr P Rama Rao of the National Academy of Agricultural Research management,
Hyderabad, led a panel discussion which looked at how the participants could
influence policy and what they should do next.

It looks to me that at last the agriculture sector in India will make a
beginning and within the next six months a few institutions may set up their
own interoperable OA archives and upload annual reports, newsletters, theses
and conference papers. But archives with refereed research papers and OA
journals may take a little longer.

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