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George Porter: Society Publishers & The Developing World

.: This week the Royal Society of Chemistry announced their decision to provide free access to 150+ years of primary chemical literature to 53 developing countries. The announcement caused me to ponder the potential conflict between the primary mission of scientific societies (advancement and promotion of science) and the limited access major society publishers have (or are perceived to have) provided without exacting an access toll.

RSC explicitly mentions PERI (Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information) as a facilitator for registering for access. Barbara Hicks, Associate Publisher, American Physical Society informs me APS has had a program of providing free institutional access to the complete set of APS journals (1893+) in sub-Saharan Africa for a decade. APS "... has partnered with INASP/PERI, the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications/Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information. INASP/PERI has a wonderful mechanism for promoting the program on our behalf and we have had a overwhelming response." APS currently provides free access to research institutions in 44 nations.

Note that the number of countries included in the INASP/PERI portion of the APS and RSC programs is less than the actual number of countries to which they offer free access. Still, the number of INASP/PERI countries to which these societies provide free access is a standardized measure which can be used to compare society publisher behavior.

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