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[e-drug] Lack of access to journals in the HINARI initiative

E-DRUG: Lack of access to journals in the HINARI initiative

[This letter in PLoS Medicine is worrying news and will probably create
some debate on E-drug?]

 [pls repair link]

Villafuerte-Gálvez J, Curioso WH, Gayoso O. Biomedical Journals and
Global Poverty: Is HINARI a Step Backwards? PLoS Med 2007; 4(6): e220.

Funding: Preparation of this article was supported in part by a grant
from the Fogarty International Center, United States National Institutes
of Health (5D43TW007551).

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing
interests exist.

Copyright: © 2007 Villafuerte-Gálvez et al. This is an open-access
article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction
in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Walter H. Curioso (wcurioso@u.washington.edu)
Oscar Gayoso, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru

Much has been written about how open access to biomedical journals is
vital for researchers in developing countries [1], but so much more
needs to be done.

Our experience in Peru with the Health InterNetwork Access to Research
Initiative (HINARI), an initiative managed by the World Health
Organization that helps promote access to scientific information by
providing free (or low cost) online access to major science journals, is
not as accessible as hoped for and, in fact, is getting worse. When
HINARI launched in 2003, it provided access to more than 2,300 major
journals in biomedical and related social sciences [2].

In April 2007, we conducted a review of the first 150 science journals
available through HINARI with the highest impact factors on the Science
Citation Index [3]. We excluded open-access journals and journals that
make online access free to low-income countries (e.g., The New England
Journal of Medicine, British Medical Journal Publishing Group). We could
not access any of the top five journals from major publishers such as
Nature and Elsevier-Science Direct. In other words, from the Nature
Publishing Group we had no access to Nature Reviews Cancer, Nature
Reviews Immunology, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Nature, or
Nature Medicine, and from Elsevier ScienceDirect we had no access to
Cell, Cancer Cell, Current Opinion in Cell Biology, Immunity, or
Molecular Cell. In addition, we could not access any of the first-level
journals from Blackwell, Oxford Press University, Lippincott Williams
and Wilkins, or Wiley and Sons. In 2003, all these journals were

Our findings support comments received from users over the last 8?10
months at the main library at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia
(Oscar Gayoso, personal communication). Students and faculty could not
get access to biomedical journals from Nature, Elsevier-Science Direct,
Blackwell, Oxford Press University, Springer Science, Lippincott
Williams and Wilkins, or Wiley and Sons through HINARI. The collections
of journals from the above-mentioned publishers together represent
approximately 57% (2,118 of
3,741) of journals that were supposed to be accessible through HINARI,
while the remaining 43% accessible were largely composed of open-access
journals or journals that make online access free to low-income

Moreover, we have found a significant decrease in the number of users
accessing HINARI at our institution. For example, the number of HINARI
users has decreased from 12,144 in April 2005 to 5,655 in April 2007,
which may reflect the loss of impact of the HINARI initiative at our
institution. In contrast, the number of users accessing other databases
such as ProQuest and EBSCO has increased over the last few months.

Our findings suggest that we not only have access to a reduced number of
biomedical journals on HINARI, but we also have no access to the
biomedical journals that have the highest impact factors. The HINARI Web
site states that it is still incorporating new journal collections.
However, we are afraid that any addition that will not provide access to
major publishers (such as the Nature Publishing Group, Elsevier
ScienceDirect, or Lippincott Williams and Wilkins) could lack real
impact according to HINARI's goals.

Since 2003, Peruvian medical students and health professionals have
substantially benefited from access to high-quality scientific
information through HINARI. Few medical students and very few
researchers in the developing world can pay the usual fee of US$20?US$45
to download one article. Not even some private universities in Peru can
afford the minimum journal subscription rates, even though these
subscriptions would help the universities to become less isolated from
global medical research. Having to pay US$1,000 per year to HINARI has
left many public universities in the provinces of Peru without access
because they cannot afford it. Even for the Peruvian institutions that
are currently paying US$1,000 per year to HINARI, what is the real
benefit of their HINARI subscription now?

We fear that the loss of access to many key journals that are published
by the major companies could be a major setback to the education of
medical students in Peru and perhaps around the world. Furthermore, it
could make biomedical research in developing countries like Peru, a key
element in fighting poverty, even scarcer.

In conclusion, students and researchers in developing countries such as
Peru, working at the frontlines of global health problems, need to
access more biomedical journals in order to practice evidence-based
health care and conduct high-quality research. The recent loss of access
to many key biomedical journals in Peru could be a step backwards. We
hope the situation described in this letter might help lend support to
the proposal of Godlee et al., who suggested that the World Health
Organization and its partners should take the lead in establishing an
international collaborative group along the lines of the Global Fund to
fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to achieve the goal of ?Universal
access to essential health-care information by 2015? or ?Health
information for all? [4].

1. The PLoS Medicine Editors (2006) How can biomedical journals help to
tackle global poverty? PLoS Med 3: e380
2. Aronson B (2002) WHO's Health InterNetwork Access to Research
Initiative (HINARI). Health Info Libr J 19: 164?165. 
3. Warschawski DR (2005) Journal impact factors Available:
http://www.ibpc.fr/~dror/jif.html. Accessed 23 May 2007. 
4. Godlee F, Pakenham-Walsh N, Ncayiyana D, Cohen B, Packer A (2004) Can
we achieve health information for all by 2015? Lancet 364: 295?300. 

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