Key Indian research organisation goes open access

[NEW DELHI] India’s main publicly-funded scientific research agency, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has announced a set of measures to make its research publications open access.

Last month (6 February) Naresh Kumar, head of CSIR’s Research and Development Planning Division wrote to the directors of CSIR’s more than 40 laboratories with a list of directions for making CSIR-generated knowledge open access.

Each laboratory is asked to set up its own institutional open access repository compatible with the more than 1,000 repositories across the world. They are also asked to make their research findings available either by depositing them in such a repository or by publishing them in open access journals. CSIR journals are also requested to become open access.

The next step is to create awareness among CSIR scientists by holding in-house training and hosting a conference on open access later this month (24 March).

Samir K. Brahmachari, director-general of CSIR, says that the open access scheme won’t be easy to implement as there are many technicalities involved, including the sheer number of articles. He says that CSIR publishes about 4,000 articles in over 21 journals annually.

The official decision to opt for open access publication was taken on Open Access Day last year (24 November). Two CSIR journals have already become open access.

Subbaiah Arunachalam, a Chennai-based information consultant who was involved in formulating the recommendations, says CSIR is the only scientific council in India to have taken such a policy decision.

“I have been talking to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), CSIR and the Department of Biotechnology. While CSIR has decided to act, ICAR is talking about it but so far nothing is happening. Efforts have to continue.”

Barbara Kirsop, secretary of the UK-based Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, describes the move as “a great step forward”.

“The author community in India are probably not particularly sensitised to open access … I think [awareness raising is] crucial, particularly in developing countries where people might not be so familiar with open access.”

Kirsop says the move is unlikely to experience much criticism from international publishers.

“Indian authors have great difficulty publishing in mainstream journals and often publish in their own local journals and therefore get rather poor recognition for it … so there’s unlikely to be much flak from the mainstream publishers.”

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