Publishers withdraw 2500 journals from free access scheme in Bangladesh

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 11 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d196
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

Five publishers have withdrawn free access to more than 2500 health and biomedical online journals from institutions in Bangladesh. One research leader has described the situation as “very discouraging.”

From 4 January Elsevier Journals withdrew access in Bangladesh to 1610 of its publications, including the Lancet stable of journals, which had been available through the World Health Organization’s Health Inter-Network for Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) programme. HINARI was set up in 2002 to enable not for profit institutions in developing countries to gain access online to more than 7000 biomedical and health titles either free or at very low cost.

Springer has withdrawn 588 of its journals from the programme in Bangladesh and Lippincott Williams and Wilkins 299 journals. The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society for Animal Science have withdrawn access to, respectively, two and three of their journals.

Altogether 150 publishers take part in HINARI.

Tracey Koehlmoos, head of the health and family planning systems programme at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, said, “We are a little less than 300 scientists eking out world class research on a shoestring budget without the purchasing power capacity of a big university in the West. HINARI has been our lifeline. My colleagues publish in many of these journals, and now we won’t even have access to our own papers.”

Dr Koehlmoos described the situation as very discouraging and said that it was likely to make working in a challenging environment even more difficult. She added, “I lead a small WHO funded centre for systematic review. Can you imagine the difficulties of trying to conduct or support systematic reviews without access to the major journals in global public health?

“Already my junior scientists who are writing proposals have started to ask how they can access articles. I envision a period where we have to work from abstracts or ask our partners in big universities in developed countries to send us full text articles, which is humiliating. If you look at Wiley & Sons, they have enabled all low income countries to have access to the Cochrane Library for no cost. This move by other publishers is really going against the grain.”

Kimberly Parker, programme manager at HINARI, said that the decision to withdraw free access was not unusual practice once publishers start to secure “active sales” in a country.

“Access is still available through those institutions which purchase the journals,” she said.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d196