The HINARI initiative (launched in 2002) enables access to current medical research for researchers in developing countries. HINARI's Maurice Long (view slides – .pps) highlighted the strong support for this initiative from scientific publishers, with 3,300 journals now offered for free or subsidised access. This can be attributed to two key facts:

  • the majority of HINARI-eligible institutions could not afford to pay for the material were it not offered to them without charge
  • publishers are able to opt out of enabling access in countries where they already have, or expect to have, good business
Uptake by eligible institutions is good, with 3 million article downloads in 2005, but connectivity can still be difficult/expensive in developing countries. Elsevier's Tony McSeán spoke (view slides – .pps) of hardware and power supply limitations, as well as cultural issues making it hard for local librarians to persuade researchers to use the service. Participating publishers are implementing workarounds where possible, for example, using to strip content down to text-only for thin-pipe delivery. (Tony also made the interesting suggestion that HINARI may be encouraging politicians in developing countries to support better bandwidth for HE institutions).

Elsevier are considering offering Scopus for inclusion in HINARI later this year, which would significantly extend the project's coverage. They dismiss oft-raised concerns about abuse of their content, and indicate that there is no evidence to date of systematic content harvesting, or other forms of abuse.

HINARI is currently looking to further devolve technical support to localised centres, and to fund better training/promotion of its services. In this respect, Maurice Long mentioned evaluation of the HINARI programme in relation to its predecessor INASP, which is successfully facilitating journal purchasing in developing countries. One of INASP's publisher partner representatives, Alan Harris from Springer, was next on the podium, and proposed (view slides – .pps) some potential pricing models by which institutions in developing countries could purchase journal content in the future, for example:
  • a low, flat fee based on GDP
  • a calculated fee e.g. (cost + overheads + small margin) divided by (need + available funding)
Both Alan and Tony suggested that current initiatives are a stepping stone; linking researchers from developing countries into the wider academic publishing network will encourage more publishing within developing countries. Agents, then, would take on the role of mediators and administrators between developing world libraries and publishers – but may need to accept lower service charges.