China – Stop Making Paper and Start Open Access

A book tightly shut is but a block of paper.
(Chinese Proverb)

papermakingNot long ago Chinese librarians have signed a joint open letter and addressed it to international publishers. They explained that “the prices of journals went up annually at the rate of more than 10%, and a few have their prices raised even at an annual rate above 20%. This has dramatically pushed Chinese library acquisition expenses for international journals to double or even triple within no more than 10 years, causing some libraries to reduce the subscriptions.” Furthermore, they stressed the mistake of international publishers not recognizing China as a developing country with GDP per capita and investment in research and education per capita still far below the average level of developed countries. In their letter, they invite publishers to develop a reasonable, realistic price policy. This is the first step, but yet such a pleading can try at a small rate what another initiative would succeed in, and on a global level.

Lighting the Green Lamp

John Ben DeVette, one of the experts on scholarly information in Asia, expressed his concern: “China must proactively promote the open access green model to Chinese authors, and China must build top quality academic publishing houses inside China.  China should be an early adopter of the new publishing paradigms that are being experimented with globally today.  China has the potential to build a new academic publishing business model that will be an example for the rest of the world to follow.” That the world has gone beyond experimental level in Open Access publishing, was presented during the late Open Access Week event, where the uptake in the infrastructure is recorded with more than 5,000 OA journals, 1,700 OA repositories and 200 funder and academic institutions adopting OA policies, existing to this date. So, where do we set China?

At DOAJ, 14 journals from China can be found (total number from 2009). On the other hand, 5,000-plus Chinese science and technology journals go unread and uncited in their homeland, calling into question the value of the research, as reported at At the same time, “there is a strong demand for more information on the best science in China. This is especially true in fields in which the country excels, such as optics and materials, but also in areas such as public health, where data from China have been overlooked.” GAPP, the country’s General Administration of Press and Publication, which regulates all publishing, has mentioned the creation of five to ten strong publishing houses that would concentrate on science and technology. However, this would probably not signify a reform in publishing and not all of the power should be transferred to government, which would, again, focus on a commercial rather than academic success.

The only initiative which would accelerate the production of papers from Chinese scientists and satisfy the user demand, would be an Open Access initiative. Stevan Harnad commented few years back that he would like to see China light “the green lamp” of self-archiving for the rest of the world to follow. This would probably prove as the fastest way of adding to the scientific content, although choosing OA journal publisher over the subscription based one is certainly another, although slower, step forward for Chinese authors.

Ping Zhou and Loet Leydesdorff argue that “while China is the fifth leading nation in terms of its share of the world’s scientific publications, its total citation rate is still low compared to other nations. This suggests that if — as is frequently maintained — open access increases citation levels, then in embracing OA China could not only increase the visibility of its research, but the impact of that research too.”

Berlin8 at Beijing

This year’s Berlin8 Conference held place at Beijing. A three day event which ended yesterday (October, 27) was to discuss the strategies, policies, implementation mechanisms, sustainable infrastructures, and international collaboration for open access to information, especially those by governmental and funding agencies, research and education institutions, scholarly communications and knowledge organizations. Its first time outside Europe,it was co-hosted by Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Society, co-organized by National Science Library, CAS and Max Planck Digital Library.
The summary of the conference is eagerly expected and the discussion taking place in China is warmly welcomed. That Chinese authors are not only “talking” open access can be observed from our own recorded publications where the number of authors from China is comparable only to number of authors from USA or Japan, and where users from China are placed second on the list of visitors on our reading platform InTechOpen.

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1 Response to China – Stop Making Paper and Start Open Access

  1. Pingback: Scholarly Communications @ Duke » Berlin in Beijing – first impressions

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