Open Access in Latin America/Abdo
- Please, tell us who you are and where you work at.
- Ni! I am Ale Abdo, I have a PhD in Physics and a BSc in Molecular Sciences, but today my research concerns mathematical models and social experiments applied to public health. I work as postdoctoral FAPESP fellow at the School of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (Faculdade de Medicina da USP).
- When and why did your interest in Open Access begin?
- I think it began before I entered the university, around 1995. When I was accessing the Internet for the first times, I quickly learned how to find many interesting articles online and the idea that from that point on knowledge would be accessible to everyone was very naturally. After I entered the university, I was actually a bit surprised to discover that academic journals were still mostly not available for free on the Internet.
- How would you describe your current role within the OA movement?
- I actively advocate for OA in Brazil in public forums, and provide guidance to journal editors and librarians about the relevance of OA and how, in practice, to best make their content Open Access.
- How do you define OA? (free of cost v. open licensed or both?
- My major concern is that it be Open Licensed with a standard license that will let works be recombined, currently that means CC-BY or CC-BY-SA, the first being preferable for academic work. About cost, if OA content is placed behind some sort of pay-wall, society can automously mobilize to make it available for free.
- What route to OA do you prefer or support and why? (Gold road v. green road)
- Gold road. It is the one that gives researchers in disadvantage of opportunity access to research they truly need to do their best work. It also creates a more efficient market for publishers, meaning the publishers that add more value per cost will stand out.
- Are you involved in any specific OA project? If so, can you tell us some about it.
- I am co-organizing an Open Science group in Brazil with assistance from the Open Knowledge Foundation. We hold debates, provide information and this semester we'll organize our first conference.
- How do you see scholarly publishing in Brazil? What is the cycle and incentives? (if you know, please compare to the USA scenario)
- First, there are two Brazils: that served by the Federal Government alone, and that served by the Federal Government plus strong state funding agencies, like FAPESP does for the state of São Paulo. In fact, FAPESP is quite unique so outside São Paulo you don't have the same level of support for all areas of research, although in some places you do have good state support for specific areas. That is also part of the reason São Paulo is responsible for half of the research produced in Brazil - and you could say significantly more than half if you were to judge by the quality of it. FAPESP currently is implementing an institutional repository mandate, by which every paper published with its support must be made available in an institutional repository as soon as the journal rules allow. This does not mean open access, and it remains to be seen whether it will mean prohibiting from publishing in journals that never allow institutional archiving. In general, Brazilians are increasingly pressed to publish in international journals, and that is already the rule in São Paulo, except for the humanities and some of the health sciences. There is not incentive to publish in an open access journal, but if you have a scholarship it might include technical resources to publish it in a gold open access journal in case it charges the authors. Again, in São Paulo all scholarships provide for that. Finally, there is the comfortable situation that most research universities in Brazil enjoy the access deals paid by the federal government in the huge bundles it negotiates with all the most relevant publishers. The facts that the cost is not paid locally by the research institutions and that the experience of blocked access is made much less present in Brazilian academia also makes researchers worry less about access when choosing where to publish.
- Why do you think open access policies have faced so many barriers in Brazil? (Here I refer to bills proposed and archived)
- Brazilian politicians and the scientists managing institutions still see the country as trying to climb the international academic tree, and that's is all they care for. For a long time they have seen Open Access as a distraction from that. Also, as I mentioned in a previous answer, the country-wide access deals hide the institutional costs and make researchers less aware of access issues, so there is a lot less pressure rising from direct individual experiences. Only recently, and only in response to big transitions abroad, institutions have made greater efforts to understand the changing dynamics of academic publishing. Without this pressure and without commitment from neither politicians nor the scientists managing institutions, and without a larger discussion and a clear community claim, there is no political force to change the status quo.
- What do you see in terms of institutional open access policies in Brazil? Are there institutional policies mandating OA in Brazil or in
Brazilian institutions? (Here I refer to university or other policies, proposed and/or implemented)
- As far as I have heard, Institutional Open Access policies do not exist in Brazil. There is the case of the institutional repository mandate by FAPESP, and there are other repository mandates, but nothing deserving the name Open Access - even though the name is sometimes used to describe those in propaganda.
- What is the role of Universities in OA in Brazil, and what should that role be in order to foster OA?
- Many universities have been promoting debates and trying to instill a conscience in order to effect the changes we need. Librarians of some universities, in different states such as São Paulo, Bahia and others, are very concerned and engaged. But even those universities have provided no direct incentives nor mandates that I know of. Their role should be to make researchers more conscious of their publishing decisions, to provide resources, create infrastructure and incentives for Open Access. They should also provide infrastructure, resources, incentives and mandates for researchers providing and using Open Data and Open-source Software, which are natural companions of Open Access, as they serve the same purposes and mutually benefit from each other. Additionally, as many universities have their own publishers, they could mandate their publishers to adopt Open Access only policy, or at least have incentives such as a distinctive label and special prizes for Open
- What is the role of Libraries in OA in Brazil, and what should that role be in order to foster OA?
- Most libraries relevant for research in Brazil are embedded in universities, and so the previous reply satisfies this one. Essentially, they should provide infrastructure and foster debate, while the
university in general should also focus on funding and incentives.
- Who do you consider the main allies of OA in Brazil?
- The many librarians who already get it. Young scientists, who find non-OA published research at the very least questionable. Communities such as those of Free Software and Wikimedia projects, which form strong arguments as examples of what OA can achieve when people outside academia have open access to research. Last but not least, external support and example from reputable foreign institutions. The recent Open Science report from the Royal Society seems to have been influential among the scientist who run our funding agencies.
- Who do you consider the main opponents of OA in Brazil?
- Some old scientists and scientists turned managers, others not so old, who did steer the system to produce substantial growth in Brazilian science over the last decades, but because of that narrow focus have lost perspective of changes in the larger worldwide information environment which are fundamental to sustain that growth with quality over the next decades. Another symptom of this narrow focus is that Brazilian science has grown much, but our basic educational system remains very poor, even in the state of São Paulo whose science they like to call "world class". This fact, that academia completely forgot about education to focus on its own growth, is already taking its toll in the development of science in Brazil, as can be seen by the decreasing quality of students entering universities as they expanded their admittances.
- Do you know how much the government invests every year in public research? If so, what is the number you have?
- Again, there are two governments in play, the federal and the local state governments. The total budget for the federal government ministry of science research supporting programs is around four billion reais. The State of São Paulo invests one billion reais solely from FAPESP, and another large amount within its universities, as a variable part of their budget is destined to research as well. In that sense, it is said that São Paulo has its own "ministry of science" on top of the federal one. The second largest state FAP (Research Support Foundation) is FAPERJ, from Rio de Janeiro, and has currently a budget of 300 thousand reais, but only as a consequence of recent changes by Rio's government, as in 2007 it was no more than one hundred thousand.
- What is the role of government agencies in Brazil and what should be their role in regard to fostering OA?
- The role is quite small. They have supported debate but none, federal or state level, has applied an Open Access policy yet.
- What are the main barriers to OA in Brazil?
- Well, I think this is answered in my reply to question 7.
- Is there a supporting community for OA in Brazil?
- There is a growing group of scientists and librarians who have been pushing for it. Some large events have been held in different universities. But we only meet sporadically. I feel we might gather some strength this year, with funding agencies starting to recognize the tune and with this group I'm helping organize.
- What were/are the main community driven activities or manifestos prol OA n Brazil?
- The librarians from USP have done a great deal of work organizing activities. This year they're organizing a joint event with Portugal that has a good chance of bringing some consequences. I don't think there has been any truly influential manifesto so far. I've been given one or two to sign, but they come mostly from people with no influence among science decision makers, they have confusing language, and they have been more of an inward affirmation.
- Is there technical structure supporting OA flourishing in Brazil? Is there attention to open standards and interoperability standards for a repository infrastructure?
- I think here the institutional repositories FAPESP is building with all state universities of São Paulo will give a good basis. Even if the mandate is not Open Access, some infrastructure will be there that eases the argument for Open Access movement. I'm not sure about open standards or interoperability since this is not a project they've been talking much about. I certainly hope so as they
have the knowledge to do that.
- Are publishers open to OA in Brazil?
Other than the humanities and some health sciences, scientific publishing is very narrow in Brazil. Publishers that belong to public universities could be expected to promote Open Access, but that has proven false. Save for the publisher of UFBA, which I heard is way ahead of the rest on this issue, though I don't know what they've done concretely.
- What is the role of institutions such as IBICT and SciELO in Brazil?
- They either need to understand Open Access way better than they do now, or they need to start acting with more coherence regarding it. Last time I checked they were talking about Open Access but providing something else, reinforcing fallacies they should instead be helping clarify. It was clear to me they could be doing better, even if they depended on others, at least by technically providing more choice and highlighting those who would commit to Open Access. Unfortunately, no institution in Brazil is clearly holding the flag above the threshold to guide others. I think this, and perhaps even their inability to be convincing, is due to their lack of understanding of the larger cognitive environment that Open Access promotes together with other Open Science actions. Despite what they've been thinking, they act with a narrow focus in their technical missions, without considering everyone that such actions are supposed to serve. They solve the problem of the smaller group they are conditioned to think about by direct involvement, and forget their larger mission towards society, when they should be the ones conveying it more broadly.
- Please, let me know if you suggest other folks I could also interview.
- Rafael Pezzi <email@example.com>, Physicist, teaches at UFRGS
- Fabio Azevedo <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Physicist, teaches at UFRGS
- Henrique Parra <email@example.com>, Sociologist, teaches at UNIFESP
- Juliana Bastos <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Historian, teaches at UNIRIO
- Fabio Kon <email@example.com>, Computer Scientist, teaches at IME-USP and coordinates the CCSL (Centro de Competência em Software Livre da USP)