Iara Vidal is working on her PhD in Information Science at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. She is an expert in altmetrics (altmetrics are non-traditional metrics proposed as an alternative to more traditional citation impact metrics). This is what she has to say about access to information:
I don’t think anyone would deny that access to information (not only finished articles, but also data, instructions, software and so on) is essential to science, but many don’t realize that not everyone who needs access has it. Even if we believed the general public can’t understand research (which I don’t), there are lots of researchers out there with limited resources that need to make an impossible decision between buying access or investing in research. As a community, we need to address that, and I believe being open is the way to go. Science Open
Since the 1980’s, international journal databases include a very small portion of journals from peripheral regions like Latin America. Scholarly communication practices are influenced by the evaluation criteria enforced by funding agencies. “International” (English-language) journals with high impact factors and/or indexed by an international database are often in the top tier. Therefore, everyone tries to publish there.
Brazil is the home of the SciELO Network, one of the first open access initiatives in the world. Although it started as a survival strategy for journals, because not many people would be willing to pay for subscriptions, its use is still not extended.
We should reward open access not because of “quality” (there’s plenty of great papers behind paywalls), but because we want our publications to reach as many people as possible.