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Friday, April 10, 2009

[BOAI] Prof. Leslie Chan and Prof. John Willinsky on a mission to India

The following message was posted to the BOAI formum by Subbiah Arunachalam on April 8, 2009:


Prof. Leslie Chan and Prof. John Willinsky, whom the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, had invited to visit India in March 2009, took part in two one-day conferences on scholarly communication, the first held at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on 24 March, and the second held at the National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore, on 26 March. The Delhi event was hosted by CSIR and we must thank Dr Naresh Kumar, Dr Chandra Gupt and their colleagues for a job well done. CSIR had also supported the travel of Prof. Willinsky. The Bangalore event was hosted by the Indian Academy of Sciences, National Aerospace Laboratories and the Centre for Internet and Society. We must thank Dr Goudar, Dr Poornima Narayan and their colleagues at NAL and Mr G Chandramohan and colleagues at the Indian Academy of Sciences for all their help. Both events were well attended.

Here is a link to all the photos from the Delhi conference:


We have not received the photographs from NAL in Bangalore. I am requesting Dr Goudar to post the pictures as well as send them to Prof. Chan. Soon some of these pictures will appear on the website of the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development. Incidentally, both Prof. Chan and I are trustees of EPT.

At Bangalore, Professor Chan interviewed several people. These included Professors P Balaram and N Balakrishnan of IISc, Mr Sunil Abraham of the Centre for Internet and Society and myself. These interviews are on video and some of them are already available on the Net.

It is unfortunate that Prof. Chan could not meet Prof. Samir Brahmachari at Delhi and interview him. But he interviewed Dr Gangan Prathap, Director of NISCAIR and met with a number of editors of NISCAIR journals and spoke to them about making NISCAIR journals available through the portal of Bioline International, which hosts about 70 developing country journals. Prof. Chan also had a fruitful conversation with Dr Parthasarathi Banerjee, Director of NISTADS, the science studies research centre of CSIR.

My colleagues at CIS, especially Sunil Abraham, feel that we made Prof. Chan work too hard on a short trip. Sorry about it Leslie, but if our mission is to achieve universal open access to science and scholarship, you will agree, we need to work even harder!

Another person who worked equally hard on an even shorter visit was Prof. John Willinsky of Stanford University and the Public Knowledge Project. Apart from enthralling the audience at both venues with his extempore talks, Prof. Willinsky met the top brass at the National Agricultural Innovation Programme (ICAR) and spoke to them about the need to embrace open access without any further delay. He also met Dr Gangan Prathap at NISCAIR and spoke about the advantages of using PKP's Open Journals System for publishing journals, and a few members of the Open Knowledge Society of India. Thank you John for agreeing to come in the midst of writing a book and in the one free week you had between two sessions of teaching. And thank you for emphasising the fact that open access is part of the history of science and now it is a basic human right.

Prof. Sunil Sarangi, Director of National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, spoke at the Delhi event. He started with an unusual angle - reinventing the wheel is not all that bad, and indeed under some circumstances one must reinvent! Then he went on to tell how one of his librarians convinced him to adopt open access and mandate it at NIT-R.

Dr D K Sahu spoke both at Delhi and at Bangalore and provided ample data to show how open access for journals is a win-win all the way. He listed seven myths about open access and brought out the advantages of going open access admirably.

Mr Sunil Abraham of CIS spoke at Bangalore on copyright, the rights of authors, and the tremendous weaknesses of a bill before the Indian Parliament. Prof. Balaram, who was in the audience, was very impressed by his arguments.

What next? will all the CSIR labs set up open access repositories and convert their journals to open access as desired by the Director General of CSIR? Will the other research councils and laboratories under other S&T agencies follow CSIR and resolve to set up OA repositories in each laboratory? Will all the society journals adopt OA and start using OJS?
Will all life science and agriculture journals join Bioline International?
Above all, will all scientists start depositing their papers in institutional (or central) repositories? The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.

Before I close, I must thank CSIR for readily agreeing to host the Delhi event and hosting it so well. I must thank both the 75-year old Academy and the 50-year old NAL for readily agreeing to partner with CIS, less than a year since it came into being, in hosting the Bangalore event.

[Subbiah Arunachalam]


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