Overview of Open Access in the Arab States
The Arab institutions began to express their strong commitment on October 2006 during Nidae Al-Ryadh of Free Access to Scientific and Technical Information was the first Arabic declaration in support of OA by the participants in the Second Gulf-Maghreb Scientific Congress (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 25-26, 2006), which calls for free access to all scientific literature on the internet. It supports the idea that scientific literature should be disseminated without any financial, legal, or technological barriers except those concerned with the intellectual property for the author.
Currently there are approximately 2086 repositories internationally listed on the OpenDOAR - an authoritative quality-assured world directory of academic Open Access repositories -- with about 14 repositories in Arab states and 152 Open Access Journals listed in the Directory of OA Journals (DOAJ) - a comprehensive directory that covers all open access scientific and scholarly journals that use a quality control system to guarantee the content.
UNESCO Open Access Portal GOAP for Arab States will cover: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Iraq, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Palestine,Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
This commitment to Open Access brought about the setting up of many initiatives and projects
Major Open Access Projects/ Initiatives
Majaliss - UNESCO’s Digital Library - the Digital Library of classical Arabic literature, offers a modern platform for sharing hundreds of freely classical works of Arabic literature and provides access through Internet and digital format to the cultural heritage of the Arab world.
Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative (YMDI) - is a team of research librarians and leading scholars of Arabic Literature, classical Islam and Middle Eastern history, whose mission is to preserve and present, for the first time, access to the largest and most important set of unexamined Arabic manuscripts in the world today from the private libraries of Yemen.
The Digital Assets Repository (DAR), is a system developed at The Library of Alexandria. DAR acts as a repository that preserves and archives all types of media (including books, slides, negatives, manuscripts, maps, audio and video) and provides public access to over than 200,000 books are now available on DAR's website. All out-of-copyright books are available on the Internet.
The Supercourse is a global partnership anchored in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA). It is a repository of lectures on public health and prevention targeting educators across the world. The Supercourse has a network of over 65,000 scientists in 174 countries who are sharing for free a library of more than 4700 lectures in 31 languages. Science Supercourse project aiming to provide the most updated and accessible online science lectures free of charge to assist educators and scholars from developing countries
e-Omed project- The Open Digital Space for the Mediterranean (Espace Numérique Ouvert pour la Méditerranée, e-Omed), initiated in March 2009 by the Moroccan Virtual Campus (MVC) and Université Numérique Ingénierie et Technologie (UNIT), France and supported by UNESCO. The mission is to build digital library open countries across the Mediterranean sea through a comprehensive framework of educational resources and facilitating co-production, exchanges and localization of educational content and pedagogical practices in the region.
Hindawi Publishing Corporation- A rapidly growing academic publisher that offers Gold Open Access scholarly journal publishing - with more than 300 Open Access journals with a range of academic disciplines through several years now. In the Gold Open Access model, publishers are publishing service providers rather than content providers. These publishers do not depend on the copyright law in the way subscription publishers do and will continue to operate in a (hypothetical) world where copyright law does not exist.
QScience.com launched by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation (BQF), a peer-reviewed online publishing platform developed by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals. It provides free access to the full text of its research articles and offers the Gold road Open Access to all its journal articles. Qscience is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).
Among the examples of international cooperation in the region, agencies and programs that are active in the region for Open Access initiatives include EIFL.net- an international not-for-profit organization based in Europe with a global network of partners (Helping in setting up IR and training support), INASP (AJOL), BioMed Central (free membership scheme for qualifying universities and research institutions in low-income countries), SCOAP3 - Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (partnership) and in many cases with UNESCO sponsorship.
The majority of Arab states have successfully ridden the IT wave, and the cost of internet access in most Arab countries is lower than the average value for all the world’s countries. Only three Arab countries–Sudan, Mauritania, and Djibouti–have a noticeably higher cost than the world average. However, rates of internet use in most of these countries are still less than the prevailing global rates of twenty-one per cent of the population. (UNESCO Science Report, 2010)
According to Thomson Reuters Inc., the total number of scientific research articles originating from Arab countries stood at 13 574 in 2008 and the average expenditure on scientific research has fallen short of world average over the last four decades (UNESCO's 2010 Science Report). Furthermore, in Arab states, research is done mainly through Higher education institutes and their affiliated research centers with minimum share of the private sector.
Opportunities for Open Access
- Availability of scientist and researchers is higher than developing countries but less than OECD countries- There are about 35,000 fulltime researcher, half of this number works in Egypt
- International collaboration is high due to funding availability
- Governments have procured advanced technology
Challenges for Open Access
Low level of awareness of the potentials of Open Access amongst researchers, librarians, publishers/editors of scholarly journals and policy makers; lack of government framework and policy regulations to guide institutions make researchers unwilling to share research information online; lack of Open Access policies; and lack of skilled staff to manage Open Access projects and to maintain the standards of quality assurance and good scientific practice.
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