Open Access in the Balkans: Old Mountains and a Wishing Well?

Ivan Meštrović: The Well of Life

There is a hum, or maybe a discourse,
that someone will find about tomorrow,
and maybe no one will try to hear it.
You, however, you need to grasp it with your thoughts, today!
(Miro Antić, Serbian poet)

Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Monte-Negro and Albania, I’d dare to call them the Old Mountains countries, or the Balkans, but some will adhere to the naming partially, some wholly, some will say they are left out. Some think there’s more to the Balkans name than the mountains. Me as well, but I see Open Access advocates in all of these countries, reaching as deep down the wishing well as they can, while most researchers and students and librarians are still left merely to gaze at the water surface. However, there is a hum, or maybe a discourse that echoes from the depths of this well, that someone will find about tomorrow, and some will grasp it with their thoughts – today.

The Belgrade Story

The University of Belgrade in Serbia, it has been recently confirmed on their partner eIFL pages, has signed the Berlin Declaration to Open Access. In this way, the university has proved commitment to join European Higher Education Area together with over three hundred universities, such as Harvard or Liege, as well as institutes, library associations and various scientific commons.

The University of Belgrade, ranked 1st in the country, has been an alma mater to nearly all the universities in the region in the past (Yugoslavian) ages. In the postwar period, the number of students at the University has been constantly increasing. Today, the university counts more than 90,000 students and over 4,200 members of teaching staff.

Branko Kovacevic, the university rector, signed the declaration that signifies involvement in the open access movement, basically obligating the faculty to utilize the potential of internet technology to constitute a global and interactive representation of human knowledge and then to make this information widely and readily available to society.

Croatia Steals the Show

We organised the SHOW festival in Rijeka, the first ever Open Access Week event in Croatia. At the event, we have presented the Croatian portal of scientific journals that now counts approximately 130 open access titles, we have seen Ivana Hebrang-Grgic presenting her research paper on Open Access in Croatia, the young individuals from the Publishing Academy in Rijeka, Croatia, Tomislav Medak from Creative Commons Croatia, our own Sara Uhac, head of journal publishing at InTech, all introducing the open access publishing option for Croatian students. We have seen students volunteer for the event and create debates and round tables with respected speakers, be it their professors or widely recognized speakers like Aleksandar Blagojevic from the Pirate Party of Serbia. The dean, together with the vice-dean at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, was very eager to support the movement.

Open Access Slovenia

As a result of an initiative proposed by eIFL and supported by universities and libraries throughout Slovenia, a website about open access written entirely in Slovenian popped up a while ago, spreading the concepts nicely and informing readers about the reasons for choosing – open access. Slovenians have previously organized Open Access Week events, open access workshops and presented their own researchers that publish open access.

OA Lessons in Macedonian

This year, the Open Access Week event was held for the second time in Skopje, Macedonia. As reported by Dimitar Poposki, “Open Access movement in Republic of Macedonia is gaining momentum for the last 2 years and it is up to the small group of information professionals, OA journal editors in chief, FOSS enthusiasts to promote and create possibilities for public awareness campaigns and OA best practices. Without financial support from eIFL OA program or government of Republic of Macedonia supporting the OA pioneer journals and small OA community we risk of losing that momentum and getting into the loop of celebrating OAWeek annual event which is far from enough for a broader public awareness of the benefits that open access offers to the Macedonian scientific community.” [sic] Dimitar Poposki, Information Science PhD candidate, gave a public lecture this year on Open Access Publishing and Creative Commons during the OA Week.

Epilogue

Number of OA Journals listed in DOAJ for Croatia (81), Serbia (78), Slovenia (32) , FYR of Macedonia (8) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (13). Monte-Negro and Albania count no journals in DOAJ. December, 2011.

Monte Negro and Albania seem left out of the conversation, while other countries in the region mostly rely on eIFL OA grants, local publishers such as InTech Open Access publisher in Croatia, and local Open Access advocates. If we look at the number of OA journals listed in the DOAJ, Croatia and Serbia seem to take up most of the Balkan pie chart, 81 titles and 78, respectively, followed by Slovenia (with 32 titles) and Macedonia (with 8 titles) and even Bosnia and Herzegovina (with 13 titles) which still misses active engagement from the community. There seem to be some coins at the bottom of the well, if only we knew that what we need to wish for is an academic community that enjoys the benefits of Open Access to knowledge, now that the Internet has changed our realities.

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2 Responses to Open Access in the Balkans: Old Mountains and a Wishing Well?

  1. Iryna Kuchma says:

    Thank you for this overview Katarina!
    There is a remarkable Serbian project worth mentioning here: a portal of Serbian Open Access journals doiSerbia: http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/ currently hosting 63 journals and growing. This project was one of more than 30 compelling stories from across Europe commissioned by Knowledge Exchange and collected by Michelle Pauli to show Open Access in action: http://www.oastories.org/2011/09/serbia-repository-doiserbia/.
    As to Macedonia, The Metamorphosis Foundation launched “Digital repositories” website http://www.metamorphosis.org.mk/digitalniskladista/ as an adaptation of the “Digital Repositories” toolkit published by JISC infoNet. It is available in Macedonian and Albanian languages. The Metamorphosis Foundation also released a Virtual DSpace Machine in Albanian and Macedonian that allows to install DSpace software to run an Open Access institutional repository in less than an hour: http://metamorphosis.mk/index.php?option=com_content&id=1646.
    And as far as I know, Tirana University: Economic Faculty and Natural Sciences Faculty, Agricultural University and the library of Academy of Arts in Albania were planning their Open Access repository projects.
    I would also like to correct EIFL-OA related information in your Epilogue. EIFL-OA is not really a grant giving programme, so countries shouldn’t be relying on EIFL-OA grants. But we do work in collaboration with library consortia in the region. We advocate for the adoption of Open Access policies and mandates, we build capacities, offer training, support knowledge sharing, and provide expertise, and we empower library professionals, scholars, educators and students to become Open Access advocates. In 2011 we did provide financial support to 11 projects – national and institutional Open Access advocacy campaigns to reach out to research communities in Eastern Europe and Africa (http://www.eifl.net/news/winners-eifl-call-proposals-open-access-advoc) – Slovenian website about Open Access was one of the projects supported. And we have also supported two Open Access publishing projects in Lithuania and Serbia: http://www.eifl.net/news/open-access-publishing-lithuania-and-serbia. Now we are collecting case studies and hope to release them soon. And we do hope that in 2012 we will be able to support some more Open Access advocacy projects.

    • Dear Irina,
      Thank you for expanding on my post. That is some very useful information.
      I should create a revised version soon.🙂
      I understand that EIFL-OA is giving more than just financial support for the OA projects in the region, thank you for clarifying this.

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