A Global View of Open Access (2) : The perspective from Brazil and the SCIELO open access portal

This second posting in the series of blog articles on global views of Open Access comes from Brazil. I am very pleased to introduce this second article by Professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, the Scientific Director of the Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) – better known to me just as ‘Brito’. The article starts by describing a rather different direction on open access from the focus on repositories. The SCIELO portal works with Brazilian open access journals to give more visibility to Brazilian research. SCIELO was started in 1997 and now has operational collections in most countries in Latin America. Only relatively recently has there been a movement towards creating open access repositories in major research universities in Brazil.

Enjoy! Tony Hey 31 May 2013

 Open access Initiatives in Brazil and Latin America

One of the earliest open access initiatives is the portal SCIELO, created by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in 1997 to increase the visibility of a collection of scientific journals edited in Brazil. The Brazilian collection, which started with 10 journals, grew to 269 in 2013, and its articles receive 1.2 million views each day.

Originally, the proposal for the SCIELO Portal was brought to FAPESP by researchers who were motivated by the article “Lost science in the third world”, by W. Wayt Gibbs (http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v273/n2/pdf/scientificamerican0895-92.pdf).  The argument put forth by the proposers[1] was that by using the (then new) possibilities offered by digital access, the articles published in Brazilian journals would gain international visibility. These objectives were achieved to an extent well beyond the initial expectations of the proposers and of FAPESP when the initial proposal was approved. According to Webometrics[2], a high visibility ranking of international repositories, SCIELO Brazil ranked first among the “Portals” in 2011, among all scientific repositories in the world. In the DOAJ portal, Brazil ranks second in the quantity of open access journals[3] (884 journals following the U.S. with 1,334 journals).

Another indicator of the success of the SCIELO idea is that it gave rise to several spin-off sites: now there are SCIELO portals in eleven countries, shown in Table 1, and collections in development in other five. There are also two “thematic” SCIELO portals: Public Health and Social Sciences.  In each of these, the team from SCIELO Brazil was instrumental in lending technology and organizational support.

From the beginning, SCIELO was much more than an open access repository, having many characteristics of a publisher. This was part of the strategy to raise the standards of the participating journals, with the objective of enhancing their visibility. An Editorial Board selects the journals, which must comply to a set of procedural and quality standards to be included. For example, they must have an international editorial board, demonstrate stable periodicity, and adhere to peer-review procedures to select articles.

Presently SCIELO Brazil offers to the selected/participating journals the following services:

a) Multilingual publication. Language is a well-known barrier for the visibility of scientific articles published in Brazil; so that SCIELO works with the editors of participating journals to facilitate the publication of the full texts in English (all articles in SCIELO have titles, summary,and keywords with English version). In 2012 54% of the full texts were in English, 62% in Portuguese, and 16% in both languages.

Table 1. Summary data on the SIELO collections.

Country Starting year Journals Documents
Collections fully operational Qty %
Argentina 2004 102 18,302 4%
Brazil 1997 269 233,500 57%
Chile 1998 89 37,156 9%
Colombia 2004 152 27,972 7%
Costa Rica 2000 11 4,721 1%
Cuba 2001 42 19,667 5%
Mexico 2003 103 15,696 4%
Portugal 2004 26 7,057 2%
South Africa 2009 23 5,553 1%
Spain 2001 33 23,328 6%
Venezuela 2000 33 14,214 3%
Total titles, fully operational   883 407,166 100%
Collections under development    
Bolivia 2009 14 2,507  
Paraguay 2007 7    
Peru 2004 14 4,932  
Uruguay 2005 10 1,803  
West Indies 2006 1 1,072  
Total titles, under development 46 10,314  
Thematic collections        
Public Health (*) 2000 15 25,502  
Social Sciences 2006 33 665  
Total titles, thematic collections   48 26,167  

b) Ahead of print publication of selected articles. This service is used by 54 journals (out of 269) and it is expected that by the end of 2014 50% of the collection will use it.

c) Online manuscript processing through ScholarOne. This service, in use by 60 journals, is being offered on a progressive basis at a rate of five additional journals per month. The use of this tool facilitates the participation of editors and reviewers from countries other than Brazil, contributing to the internationalization strategies of the journals.

d) Full text formatting with XML and the production of HTML, PDF, and EPUB (for smartphones and tablets). All journals will use this service by the end of 2014.

As of 2013, SCIELO is working with Thomson-Reuters’s Web of Science to provide the operation of the SCIELO Citation Index as a part of the Web of Knowledge (WoK) Platform. This is expected to bring a boost in the visibility of the journals in SCIELO, as all tools for search, navigation, connection to full articles will be integrated with those of the WoK..

Finally, it is worth mentioning two new initiatives that are in their final preparation stages to go into the implementation phase later in 2013.

One is the creation of open access repositories in the main universities in the state of São Paulo, Brazil (which responds for 50% of the total articles published by authors in Brazil) for all articles published with funding from FAPESP.  FAPESP adopted an open access policy, according to which all articles resulting from its funding must be made accessible openly, to an extent that considers the restrictions of the journal in which they were published. FAPESP does not want to interfere with the choice by the researchers of the journals in which they will publish their work, so the agency is willing to comply with whatever is the policy of each particular journal.

The second initiative aims at working with some journals published in Brazil, to be selected through an open call for proposals, to offer them special support to advance their professionalization, visibility, and impact. Proposals will be selected on the basis of plans submitted by editors aiming at to professionalizing their operations in a sustainable way and proposing a strategy for increasing the journal’s articles visibility and impact. Presently FAPESP is working with other funding agencies in Brazil to secure nationwide support, so that the initiative can be national.

It is our view that open access has been playing an important role in increasing the visibility of the science done in Brazil and Latin America. The results obtained with SCIELO, one of the main open access portals in the world, are very concrete and motivate new initiatives in this direction.

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz

Scientific Director, São Paulo Research Foundation

[1] The proposal was presented to FAPESP by Rogério Meneghini and Abel Packer, with the support of BIREME the Health Information Center of the Pan American Health Organization.

[2] http://repositories.webometrics.info/en/top_portals, accesed on May 25th, 2013.

[3] http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=byCountry&uiLanguage=en, accessed on June 2nd, 2013.

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