Opinion: Open-Access For The 3rd World

Cherry Mae Ignacio | The Scientist | March 21, 2013

Scientists should submit their work to open-access repositories to support research in parts of the world that don’t have access to the vast libraries of pay-wall-constrained literature.

Imagine trying to do scientific research without access to the majority of work previously published in the primary literature. As an undergraduate at the University of the Philippines 5 years ago, this was exactly the situation I faced as I began my thesis project researching neuroactive peptides in sea snails. My school did not have subscriptions to the online academic journal databases that are ubiquitous at universities in the developed world, so I got creative. I reached out to the authors of papers relevant to my research, asking for copies of their articles and more information about their research. Often, I was successful. Other times, however, the researchers simply sent me paywalled links I could not access, or did not respond at all, perhaps because they never received my queries. Many academic servers automatically filter emails which do not come from addresses that end with .edu, and many 3rd world schools do not have dedicated email addresses for their students. I was sending my correspondence using a Yahoo account, so my emails may have not been getting through in the first place. In the end, I was forced to depend on the open-access journals in my field, the list of which I had practically memorized by the end of my senior year.