Latin America and the Caribbean


In Latin America, two thirds of the investments in research and development are funded by State resources (UNESCO,2010). Funding for open access initiatives comes, directly or indirectly, from public funds and from international cooperation. Key open access players are national science agencies and universities (mainly libraries, journal editors, press units, ICT units, research/academic areas).

The region has a long tradition of regional information networking to provide open access to its research results, in regional subject repositories that started with bibliographic records in the 80's and now added full-texts, and in multidisciplinary regional peer-review journal portals developed since the end of the 90's, and, more recently, digital repositories. These are the most important contributions from the region to the open access implementation, together with a regional declaration on open access (Bahia 2005) and open access national legislation that mandates deposit of State funded research results in open access digital repositories (approved in Agentina and Peru in 2013; in Mexico in 2014; and bill introduced in Congress in Brazil in 2007/reintroduced in 2011) 

In the absence of commercial academic publishers, model prevailing in developed regions, free print distribution of scientific and academic publications has been the norm and the printed version has historically suffered from irregular publication and limited circulation, being in general absent from international indexes, producing low visibility of Latin America and the Caribbean science output. In this context, open access has been an opportunity to increase visibility and access, and State funds with international cooperation support have been the great enablers of open access.

In the region there has been a steady progress of regional open access initiatives that offer at no cost for authors and end users, open access to full text scholarly and scientific publications of Latin America and the Caribbean. Among others, the following stand out:

  • Multidisciplinary peer-review journal portals: These platforms, sponsored mainly by public funds, make it possible for journals to have an online presence, international visibility, bibliometric indicators and improve quality of editorial processes, a requirement for being accepted in those journal portals. Today, from a total of 9.707 open access journals registered in DOAJ, 19% (1.821 journals) are from Latin America and the Caribbean, of which 50% (907 journals) from Brazil. At regional level SciELO (since 1997) and Redalyc (since 2002) have developed open access peer-review journal portals, totaling over 1.300 peer-review journals from the region in open access, free for authors and for users. These portals are developing bibliometric and scientometric indicators that will complement traditional international indicators used for the evaluation of researchers from Latin America and the Caribbean. Both portals can also be searched in the Latindex harvester. There are also several journal portals at national level (e.g.: in Brazil SEER), and at institutional level (e.g. University of Sao Paulo-USP in Brazil, the National Autonomous University of México-UNAM in México, and University of Chile, have each more than a 100 open access journals in their journal portals). These initiatives of regional, national and institutional journal portals, are all contributing to improve quality of editorial processes, visibility of scholarly journals edited in Latin America, and growth of adoption of free (for authors and for users) open access.
  • National and regional theses portals. In digital repositories from Latin America and the Caribbean registered in ROAR and OpenDOAR, the most frequent full-text content are theses deposited in university repositories, in electronic theses and dissertations repository collections (Cyberthesis, NDLTD) and in national theses consortia (ex.: Brazil, Chile and Peru, with initial promotion by UNESCO).
  • Subject digital repositories. In the 80's,mainly promoted by United Nations agencies and other organizations (ex.ECLAC/CLADES and IDRC-LAC), and developed with ISIS open source software distributed by UNESCO and customized by BIREME, subject bibliographic networks were developed which in recent years are incorporating links to full-texts, gradually transforming them into thematic digital repositories. As examples may be mentioned, among others: health (LILACS, BVS), agriculture (AGRIS, SIDALC), education (REDUC), nuclear information (INIS), public management and policies (CLAD-SIARE), social sciences (CLACSO), work (LABORDOC), marine sciences (OceanDocs). Other open access initiatives have sub-regional partners, as is the case of the Digital Library of the Caribbean, MANIOC, Central America Link (Enlace Centroamericano) and the Andean Digital Library. More recent regional open access initiatives include Relpe (education portals) and FLACSO (social sciences). The region is also participating with contents in international subject repositories that accept authors and institutions self-archiving, ex.: (Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics), E-LIS (information science), REPEC (economics, 271 institutions and 1204 authors from South America), BIOLINE (includes bioscience journals from Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela), Social Science Research Netwoek SSRN (Iberoamerican journals in all subjects), among others.

And more recently, institutional repositories, for each institution to manage, give visibility and access to its own output. In OpenDOARare registered 291 digital repositories from Latin America and the Caribbean, a 11% of the total 2.645 repositories registered. Brazil (42% of repositories from the region), followerd at a distance by Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Chile, are the countries with more institutional repositories in the region. More than a million records are included in repositories registred from the region, of which an unknown number are still bibliographic records, not full-texts. The most frequent full-text content is theses, but in numbers journal articles are the main volume in the above-mentioned total, mainly due to full-text journal articles in more than 1.300 journals from the region included in SciELO and Redalyc. Only a few developments are underway for scientific data digital repositories. The great majority of repositories use open source software DSpace, and SciELO.

In ROARMAP, Latin America has é- mandates registered, a 5% of the 572 mandates registered in the world. At institutional level, only a few universities (e.g. University of Sao Paulo) mandate deposit, the other registered policies are not mandatory, only general open access information policies.

As legislation and mandates that require open access to publicly funded research move forward, national and regional repositories will have significant content to build national and regional indicators of value when assessing scientific output from researchers and institutions. These new indicators will complement traditional indicators currently used, which poorly reflect scientific output from the region.

As is the case in Europe, Latin America has recently started initiatives to integrate institutional repositories from the region. With support from the Latin American Cooperation of Advanced Research and Education Networks, RedCLARA and the Inter-American Development Bank-IDB, the project "Regional Strategy and Interoperability and Management Framework for a Latin American Federated Network of Institutional Scientific Documentation Repositories" started in 2010. As a result of the project, in 2012 was officialy launched La Referencia, a network of national systems of digital repositories, with 9 countires as initial members: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Standardization, regional and international interoperability, a regional harvester and training, are among the objectives of this initiative, which works together with COAR. RedCLARA also supports CoLaBoRa, a Latin America Community of professionals working in Digital Libraries and Repositories.

Other agencies and programs beyond Latin America that are active in the region for open access initiatives include UNESCO, PKP (OJS software used by 2.100 journals in the region), INASP (training support and LAMJOL), NECOBELAC (training), FRIDA (award, research), ALFA (guidelines for repository development), IAP (creation and cooperation among science academy repositories and advanced research networks in the Caribbean), among other examples of international cooperation in the region, in many cases with UNESCO sponsorship.

In Latin America there is an active community of open access advocates among librarians and scholarly communication specialists. Their opinions and experiences can be followed in lists, wikis and blogs related to open access in the region. As well as in regional open access events (ex. BIREDIAL, UNAM OA Coloquium, and the open access week events). Several regional declarations supporting open access have been issued in the region, ex.: 2005 and 2009.


Although Latin America is one of the most advanced regions in the world as per percentage of scientific output in local and regional publications available in open access, and with clear indications in  the region of the existence of a favorable climate for the development of open access institutional and national repositories, advances may face multiple problems and challenges. Open access implies policies, funding, infrastructure and ICT availability (for authors and institutions to publish online, and for users to access contents online), methodologies, metadata, contents (including text but also multimedia, data and open education resources), the need to identify peer-reviewed contents, interoperability, training and advocacy for cultural change among stakeholders of the region who know little about open access benefits and lack knowledge about their rights when publishing with "green" editors registered in Sherpa-RoMEO.

Open access initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean show minimal presence in their collections of articles published by researchers from the region in international. Advances in mandates that require self-archiving in institutional repositories, anticipate that a growing number of these articles could also be available in open access repositories, but it requires institutional open access policies to mandate, more than recommend, self-archiving.  And it requires governments to negotiate with commercial publishers.

Another challenge in the region is to develop and promote the use of regional open access indicators as a complement of traditional impact factor when evaluating researchers, and value quality of journals and articles, more than their belonging to the so-called “mainstream” or “peripheral” science (Guédon, 2008; Vessuri, Guédon,Cetto 2014)

Several programs are working towards solving the problems associated with the ‘digital divide’, among them are initiatives sponsored by RedCLARA, UNESCO, IAP, IDRC and for civil society access APC and FUNREDES. As connectivity increases, greater interactivity between open access initiatives will be possible.

The region also needs improved internet access. Latin America and the Caribbean has in average 43% of population using Internet, and 8-10% of population subscribed to broadband, but access is mainly concentrated in populated urban areas. Levels of connectivity in the Caribbean are relatively low (from 6% in many countries, to 60% in a few exceptions). Several programs are working towards solving the problems associated with the ‘digital divide’, among them are initiatives sponsored by RedCLARA , UNESCO, IAP,IDRC and for civil society access APC and FUNREDES. As connectivity increases, greater interactivity between open access initiatives will be possible

There is confusion about copyright issues and open access, it needs clarification and support for decision-making and policies. Creative Commons CC, working together with partners in 11 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, promotes the use of open access licenses. CC mentions that 75% of open access academic publications in Latin America do not establish open access editorial policies that regulate the use of the open access content and provide a legal framework for use of the publications, leaving interpretations to the default legislation in each country.

Main concerns and challenges ahead for open access scholarly communications in the region were mentioned by representatives of 23 countries in the Final Report of UNESCO´s Regional Latin American and Caribbean Consultation on Open Access to Scientific Information and Research.
And an extensive bibliography of contributions from open access initiatives also contribute to a better understanding of where the region is today and challenges ahead.

Active participation in open access initiatives is needed from key institutions of the region in terms of scientific output, coupled with coordination from government research policy and funding agencies, with support from regional and international programs and cooperation, to advance open access institutional, national and regional strategies and actions that will benefit education, research and society at large in Latin America and the Caribbean.


(June 2014)


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