Case study

DFID Research: Uncovering Hidden Research

The INASP Journals Online project supports online publishing of peer-reviewed journals from developing and emerging countries

Makerere University.
Makerere University. Picture: Flickr, Aluka Digital Library

DFID Research understands the problem many individuals face in accessing articles in peer-reviewed journals. The majority of research journals are not open access and charge for viewing research documents. The vast majority of academics and researchers are expected by their institutions to submit research papers to peer-reviewed journals. Academics gain merit by submitting papers to these journals and doing so is crucial for their career progression. This is reflected in the UK under the Research Assessment Exercise, and equivalent bodies around the world. A good rating here is crucial for Universities seeking to raise their profile and climb the league tables.

DFID Research is working hard to make peer-reviewed research more widely available, and ensure that policy makers from developing countries have access to the latest research. This work is challenging given the entrenched nature of the current system, and the determination of some groups to keep peer-reviewed journals closed. Nevertheless, DFID has funded a number of initiatives that seek to encourage open access. One example is the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications which has developed a project that supports peer-reviewed journals from developing and emerging countries seeking to publish their journals online.

The Initial project began in 1998 through the African Journals Online Project (AJOL). Initially the project struggled to encourage journals to make their content available for free. As a means of compromise, a document delivery service was created to disseminate the full text freely to developing countries. To improve usability, a partnership was formed in 2004 with the Public Knowledge Project in Canada. This enabled AJOL to be transferred to the Open Journal System, providing a much more sophisticated website, while also allowing for low bandwidth. As of November 2009, the website had 370 journals from 27 different countries. The project has clearly gone from strength to strength.

It is no surprise that the experience gained in setting up AJOL was used to develop an Asian JOL between 2006-2008. It was deemed more appropriate in the context of Asia to have individual country sites which are then combined through a search portal called AsiaJOL. The JOL concept has been supplemented by a series of in-country workshops that have focused on the training of editors in JOL production and strategy. JOLs are now in operation in the following Asian countries: Vietnam (VJOL), Nepal (NepJOL), Bangladesh (BanglaJOL), Philippines (PhilJOL) and Sri Lanka (SLJOL). Asian JOLs so far include 160 journals with 8,328 articles; 77% of these are available as open access full text. The resource has proved incredibly popular with 2.25 million views of full text articles to date.

The JOLs are a part of the second phase of the DFID-funded Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERii).

Published 3 March 2010