It was during Open Access Week 2018, that Network for Information and Digital Access (NIDA) was pleased to announce a new strategic focus on advancing equitable Open Access (OA) policies for economically disadvantaged and globally marginalized research communities.
With the recognition that the global system of academia and scholarship is a global network of diverse institutions, people, and practices, the production, circulation, and visibility of scholarly information is also a global issue. Historically, the globalized norms of western scholarship and the commodification of academic knowledge, have served to marginalize researchers in disadvantaged communities: limiting their ability to access knowledge, apply it effectively in their own research work, and participate in the global scholarly conversation. Culturally and contextually specific research conducted by researchers in these communities has been considered peripheral, and not of interest to scholars in institutions in high-income countries.
With an organizational vision to advance greater global access, production and dissemination of information for equitable and sustainable development, OA is a natural fit for NIDA. Collectively, our organizational leadership brings many decades of experience relating to global issues of information access and visibility: NIDA’s founder, Carol Priestley also founded and managed the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) for over a decade; and Kamran Naim, NIDA’s new Executive Director, has spent the majority of his career in scholarly communication working to address systemic issues that contribute towards the marginalization of researchers in disadvantaged communities around the world.
Although this paradigm persists, it is certainly obsolete and primed for transformation. Scholarship is a global enterprise, and global problems require the participation of researchers from around the world to work collaboratively towards solutions. Building enabling policy structures that not only dignify and recognize the potential contributions that scholarly communities worldwide can make, but value them as potential equal participants in the scholarly enterprise, has the potential to advance and accelerate global scientific progress.
At NIDA, we believe that OA is the ultimate mechanism for levelling the playing field, and creating a vibrant and participatory global system of scholarship. However, predominant approaches adopted by organizations and institutions in high-income countries (that rely on the payment of author fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to over $5,500 per article, offsetting arrangements and Read and Publish models) although well meaning, have the potential to further marginalize global research communities in lower-income countries and exacerbate global inequities in scholarly communication.
NIDA aims to advocate for the interests of the research communities who have hitherto lacked a seat at the table at many of the discussions around OA. Through engagement with major stakeholders (OA2020, research funders, national governments, etc.), partners such as African Journals Online (AJOL), and the Open Source Infrastructure community, we will work with scholarly organizations around the world to promote policies, programs and initiatives that will enable and empower once-marginalized researchers as equal participants in the global scholarly enterprise.