Wageningen UR students and employees have access to a wide collection of electronic journals because the university spends a few million Euros on subscriptions. For many developing countries these subscription costs are prohibitive. Consequently, students and scientists from developing countries felt they suffered a great loss when they returned home and no longer had access to Wageningen’s information resources. In the last few years, however, a few international organizations have signed agreements with publishers to provide affordable access for institutions in developing countries.
A number of important programmes offer information access, three of which have been organized by UN agencies and are being coordinated through Research4life:
- AGORA (FAO: Agriculture)
- HINARI: (WHO: Health)
- OARE (UNEP: Environmental sciences)
These programmes are organized in the same way: each has a fixed list of selected journals from different publishers and public institutions from eligible countries can request access. The programmes have their own search engine to look through journals (for example, AGORA offers a subset of CAB Abstracts), and since December 2009 they also have access to the Scopus database. There are two lists of eligible countries, depending on national income: Band I and Band II countries. Band I countries have free access while Band II countries have access at a reduced cost.
TEEAL (The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library), an initiative of Cornell University (USA), is a supplement to AGORA. TEEAL is a full-text digital library containing 149 agricultural journals that are available for a nominal cost to universities, agricultural research organizations and government ministries in eligible low-income countries. Journal coverage starts in the 1990s and is updated annually. TEEAL has a searchable citation database from CAB Abstracts, BIOSIS, Econlit and PubMed. TEEAL is also an offline tool that can be loaded locally, so no Internet connection is required to use it.
The PERII programme from INASP (International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications) negotiates tailor-made packages. The programme is available to the private sector, to Non-Governmental Organisations and to emerging countries that are not eligible for the UN programmes. The programme can also offer assistance on other issues, like publishing.
What more can you wish for?
Like the ‘information literacy’ courses here in Wageningen, users in developing countries will need training to effectively use these resources. ITOCA can provide training for African countries. PERII has a training programme as well.
The cost and the quality of Internet connections are still stumbling blocks in many countries. However, the situation has improved a lot in recent years, and hopefully it will continue to improve.