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Scientists prodded to publish all research

New Delhi, July 15: Two government science departments have proposed that Indian scientists make public the findings of all taxpayer-funded research through either open access journals that do not charge subscription fees or a digital repository of scientific papers.

The department of science and technology (DST) and the department of biotechnology (DBT) under the science and technology ministry have said free online access is the most effective way to ensure research findings can be accessed, read and built upon.

“Since all funds disbursed by DBT/DST are public funds, it is important that knowledge generated through the use of these funds are publicly available as soon as possible,” the departments said in a document circulated in scientific circles for wide debate.

Scientists worldwide, under a long-standing convention, typically publish their research findings as papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

While most journals demand subscription fees and thus potentially limit the number of people who can read the papers, journals called “open-access publications” have emerged over the past decade as an alternative.

The proposal is in line with moves by several foreign research funding agencies such as the US National Institutes of Health or the UK-based Wellcome Trust to ask the scientists they have funded to publish on an “open-access basis”.

“We plan to create a digital repository for public-funded research papers,” T. Madhan Mohan, a DBT official and a member of a panel of scientists that pencilled the proposal, told The Telegraph.

“Scientists may publish either in open-access publications or in subscription-based journals, but we’d like subscription-based journals to make available their papers through the digital repository.”

But researchers caution that any move towards open-access publications should also be accompanied by insistence on high-quality journals to ensure that public-funded research findings do not get published in poor-quality, predatory open-access journals.

A directory of open-access journals maintained by a former librarian in Sweden’s Lund University lists over 9,900 such publications. Scientists believe that many of these journals with rigorous peer-review are respected publications.

But there is also growing evidence for a proliferation of poor-quality open-access journals that do not respect the peer-review process but simply publish submitted papers for fees. The absence of peer-review can hurt the quality of published research papers.