One New Year’s Day, the government of India released the bold and ambitious draft Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) to the public for comments. 

The policy aims to bring about changes in the research ecosystem of India by encouraging innovation to make the Indian science and technology ecosystem one that can survive global competition. 

As part of such an endeavour, the government proposed a ‘One Nation, One Subscription’ plan which would make thousands of journals freely available to Indians. 

One Nation, One Subscription 

According to the policy draft, “The Government of India will negotiate with journal publishers for a “one nation, one subscription” policy whereby, in return for one centrally negotiated payment, all individuals in India will have access to journal articles. This will replace individual institutional journal subscriptions.

It is estimated that Indian research institutes spend nearly 15 billion rupees on subscriptions to paywalled journals and articles alone.

Through the policy, the government of India intends to become the largest country to give free access to content behind paywalls to such a large population. 

There are nearly 3000-4000 high-impact journals

There are nearly 3000-4000 high-impact journals, the ones which are influential and prestigious in their respective fields, that the government would need to get subscriptions to. Such a bulk-subscription is estimated to cost the government several hundred crores every year on subscription fees. 

Such a plan might sound a little too bold but it could dramatically increase access to quality research to Indian scientists and researchers who have had to deal with exorbitant fees to get access to research in their fields. 

Barely 5 companies – Reed-Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer and Sage – control nearly 50% of all academic publishing. The costs for subscriptions to these journals is often too much for researchers from developing countries like India where funding for research is scarce. 

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Will The Publishers Agree? 

The policy is a proposal as of yet. Even if it gets approved by the cabinet, that still leaves us with the most treacherous step of them all- negotiating with the publishers. 

If successful, India can be a shining example to the world. “If India could do it, and make it cheaper, many countries will be interested,” said Peter Suber, the director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication. 

Barely 5 companies control nearly 50% of all academic publishing

The overall goal is the democratisation of knowledge,” said Dr. Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, science and technology ministry. 

Existing Resource Pooling Platforms 

To make scholarly content available more freely to Indians, there already exist consortiums, two or more libraries pooling their resources together. 

eShodhSindhu, CSIR E-Journals, MCIT, ISRO Antariksh Gyaan Consortium are some centrally funded shared libraries that are currently available. However, these resources are not freely available to every citizen or individual researcher who might need access to resources. 

Through pursuing ‘One Nation, One Subscription’ the government has nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

In 2019, India was the world’s third-largest producer of scientific articles. 

By going to the negotiating table with a tremendous number of subscriptions and the weight of the large number of articles produced by our researchers, India can help secure open access to countless paywalled content that has been out of reach for not just individual researchers but also researchers and scientists from smaller institutes that cannot possibly afford to pay the exorbitant fees charged by high-impact journals.  

In developing countries like India funding for research is scarce

The policy is part of the government’s attempts for an “Atmanirbhar Bharat”.

In addition to making journals available freely, the policy also aimed to make all public-funded research to be available freely in a national database. By promoting open access, the government hopes to “fosters more equitable participation in science”.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: Nature, Indian Express, Times of India

Find the blogger: @RoshniKahaHain

This post is tagged under: science research, journals, India science ecosystem, one nation one subscription, springer, nature, Wiley Blackwell, science research journal, academic researchers, research in India, atmanirbhar bharat

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