There is growing recognition that the capacity to conduct research and to share the resulting knowledge is fundamental to all aspects of human development, from improving health care delivery to increasing food security, and from enhancing education to stronger evidence-based policymaking. Today, the primary vehicle for disseminating research is still the peer-reviewed journal, which has retained much of its traditional form and function, although now it is largely digital. But despite improved access to the Internet, researchers in the developing world continue to face two problems—gaining access to academic publications due to the high cost of subscriptions, and getting their research published in “international” journals, because their work is either considered to be only of local or regional interest or does not meet the quality standards required by the major commercial indexes. Summary Points:
- Unequal access to and distribution of public knowledge is governed by Northern standards and is increasingly inappropriate in the age of the networked “Invisible College”.
- Academic journals remain the primary distribution mechanism for research findings, but commercial journals are largely unaffordable for developing countries; local journals—more relevant to resolving problems in the South—are near-invisible and under-valued.
- Donor solutions are unsustainable, are governed by markets rather than user needs, and instil dependency.
- Open access is sustainable and research driven and builds independence and the capacity to establish a strong research base; it is already converting local journals to international journals.
- However, as open access becomes the norm, standards for the assessment of journal quality and relevance remain based on Northern values that ignore development needs and marginalise local scholarship.