George Porter: RSC Provides Free Online Access to Developing Countries -- Whither ACS?
The Royal Society of Chemistry issued a press release about this new development. The free access is for developing countries, many of which are in Africa, although former Soviet states Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic are also included. The program applies to the RSC archives (1841-1996). However, as Hareg Tadesse notes, "... the RSC is only one publisher of Chemistry Journals. And some of my key papers were not from the RSC. Therefore, I would like to call on all publishers of Chemistry Journals to follow the lead of the RSC to support young Chemists like me with their archives so that we can bring the benefits of Chemistry to our great continent."
BBC News carried an item on this development. Two entries appeared in Open Access News, RSC gives free online access to African researchers and More on RSC Archives for Africa initiative.
Kudos to RSC for taking this commendable step. RSC will not lose much, if any, potential revenue, but will surely generate goodwill and good science, the latter of which is a core mission of the society. In fact, the core mission of scientific societies (RSC, ACS, AIP, APS, IoP, AGU, etc) is to promote the advancement of their science and its understanding by society at large. Society publishers can easily be understood arising from this core mission.
The advancement and promotion of science is in many cases being relegated to a secondary role to the revenue producing publishing operations. RSC has taken an important step, albeit a small one, in acknowledging a truth which has thus far been ignored by most of the large society publishers. The archives are the accumulated scientific heritage entrusted to the society by generations of chemists with the expectation that RSC would promote the advancement of chemistry and its understanding by society. From the RSC charter:
The RSC's original Charter was granted in 1848. The RSC's Royal Charter, granted in 1980, states that:I cannot fathom how anyone can justify this heritage and trust being held hostage by a profit motive, by a desire to extract continuing revenue at the cost of advancing the science which is supposed to be the fundamental purpose of the organization. The societies need to recoup their digitization costs, most properly from the research intensive labs, institutions, and corporations which generate and consume the bulk of the articles each year, or through grants.
"The object for which the Society is constituted is the general advancement of chemical science and its application and for that purpose:
1. to foster and encourage the growth and application of such science by the dissemination of chemical knowledge;...
The challenge to ACS to live up their charter and begin to provide access to a portion of the world's chemical heritage which they control is apparent. Will ACS step up and provide archival online access to researchers in developing countries? Surely they will, if they but reflect upon their charter.
SEC. 2. That the objects of the incorporation shall be to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner the advancement of chemistry in all its branches; the promotion of research in chemical science and industry; the improvement of the qualifications and usefulness of chemists through high standards of professional ethics, education, and attainments; the increase and diffusion of chemical knowledge; and by its meetings, professional contacts, reports, papers, discussions, and publications, to promote scientific interests and inquiry, thereby fostering public welfare and education, aiding the development of our country’s industries, and adding to the material prosperity and happiness of our people.