Open Access in Croatia – Storing Hamster Food or Running in a Hamster Wheel?

Home could be where you hang your head, like Groucho Marx said, or it could be from where you turn your head and decide not to watch. However, now and then, a letter from home arrives and convinces you to visit. One newly found paper from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb, Croatia, had a similar effect. The letter from home was written by Ivana Hebrang Grgić and it was titled Open Access to Scientific Information in Croatia: Increasing Research Impact of a Scientifically Peripheral Country. The study introduces some basic OA concepts and then switches the focus to understanding of such concepts in Croatia, and to OA awareness among Croatian scientists, librarians and governing bodies.

Croatian Scientific Journals

The global scientific community does not understand scientific articles written in Croatian, but Croatian scientists can more or less understand English written texts well, and read them, and many write in English to ensure better visibility, usage and impact of their articles, Hebrang-Grgić explains. The figure from the study shows the usage of English language in Croatian scientific journals.

As for the prices of journals, the author claims that “Croatian scientists do not have many problems accessing Croatian scientific journals. A great number of the journals are in OA, mainly through the Hrčak portal, and others do not have costly subscriptions – they are affordable even to individuals, and even the institutional prices are really not high (in 2008 the highest subscription was about €100 per year, and some individual subscriptions were as low as €5 per year).”

Seemingly, nothing should impede the progress, but numbers and figures always acquire new meaning when put in Croatian perspective. A great number of journals is still not great enough and the production of scientific journals in Croatia is still not as massive as in scientifically “non-peripheral” countries. However, Croatia is not in shortage of “goods”, but in someone to collect it.

A Hamster with a Vision

“The importance of OA was early recognised by Croatian scientists, libraries and publishers,” the author continues. “Project Croatian scientific journals textual database was initiated in 2002 (immediately after the OA movement was defined in the BOAI) at the Croatian National and University Library. The project provided OA to 2002 and 2003 issues of 17 Croatian scientific journals, but was soon stopped. Despite its short life, the project is important because it shows Croatian librarians’ early awareness of the importance of OA. The awareness is also proved by the fact that Berlin Declaration was translated into Croatian soon after it was released in 2003.” A notable fact is also that of Peter Suber attending the 4th Annual conference of Croatian academic and scientific libraries in 2003, as a special guest.

Hrčak portal offers (since 2007) Open Journals System (OJS), open source software for creating and maintaining an electronic journal as well as for automated peer-review process. Hrčak also provides technical support, maintenance and data protection. The portal is OAI-PMH compliant and ensures long-term archiving.

One of the most important OA promoters in Croatia remains today the Croatian Information and Documentation Society (HID), “planned to publish basic information about OA, to explain definitions and spread news about OA in local scientific journals as well as on the HID website, to encourage individuals and institutions to sign BOAI and Berlin Declaration and to accept technical standards for achieving OA.” As one especially interesting part of the HID’s OA initiative, Hrčak, portal of Croatian scientific journals was launched. “Hrčak” stands for “Hamster” in English and it implies the careful storage of important scientific papers. “Hrčak became a part of the Croatian Scientific Portal, a project that started in 2006 with a goal of providing all the information about Croatian scientists, their papers and research projects and about Croatian scientific journals.”

Croatian OA Journals and one OA Repository

The total number of Croatian OA journals in the year 2009 that become openly accessible by the end of June 2010 is 133, according to Hebrang-Grgić. “Total number of OA journals on the Hrčak portal is 129 (97%). The number of volumes in June 2010 was 1079; the number of issues 2824 and the number of OA articles was 38265.” The Hrčak portal is not really an OA repository, however, but the platform for access to Croatian OA journals.

57 journals from the study sample are in the DOAJ (or 42.9%). 18 of them have the DOAJ content, i. e. they deposit metadata on an article level (31.6% of all the sample journals in the DOAJ).

According to the DOAR, there were five OA repositories in Croatia in October 2010. However, according to Hebrang-Grgić, the only Croatian repository that meets the full definition of OA repository, and the only one that archive journal articles is the University of Zagreb Medical School Repository. Also, according to the study, 68% of the Croatian authors are not sure what self-archiving is. So, what is really keeping us on the spinning wheel?

InTech's International Journal of Engineering Business Management at the Hrčak Portal

The author comments: “Although Croatian librarians are aware of the importance of OA repositories, the number of the repositories is too small and something has to be done on both institutional and national level. On the national level a working group should release guidelines for setting up a repository. The document should help librarians in deciding how to organise a repository, which software to use, which policies to apply etc.” This is quite contradictory to self-repeating statement by Hebrang-Grgić that “in Croatia, the importance of OA is recognised by the Government, scientists, their institutions, their libraries, associations and publishers.” The movement obviously lacks engagement from both libraries and the government, and other than few organizations such as Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNet), no one is really educating Croatian scientists and students about the values of making their work Open Access. This is a true description of the Croatian situation: great vision and clueless spinning in the wheel until the idea wears off.

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One Response to Open Access in Croatia – Storing Hamster Food or Running in a Hamster Wheel?

  1. Pingback: Heather Morrison » Blog Archive » 2011 March 31 Dramatic Growth of Open Access

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