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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