Making Indian science more open and accessible

Making Indian science more open and accessible


Sridhar Gutam is a senior scientist at ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bengaluru. He is also the convenor of Open access India, an organisation advocating open access, open data and open education in India.

Sridhar Gutam
Sridhar Gutam   (Photo: Vamsee Krishna )


Ever felt frustrated about a paywall stopping you from downloading a paper or disadvantaged because you were expected to pay a hefty amount to publish your work in a journal of repute. To curb this unnecessary expenditure and to make research more accessible, the DBT and DST launched an open access policy that mandates researchers, to submit their research papers in government repositories a maximum of six months after publication. The ICAR and CSIR too have similar expectations from their researchers. However, despite the clear directive, Indian researchers have deposited an abysmally low number of papers in these repositories.

Why has the acceptance been so low? Why are Indian researchers letting this opportunity of making Indian research open and accessible pass by? IndiaBioscience spoke to Sridhar Gutam, convener of Open Access India to find answers to these questions:

Let us begin with the benefits of adopting open access publishing.

Two clear benefits are– it cuts down the overall costs of publishing a paper and more importantly it makes research fully accessible for anyone interested in it.

I would like to emphasise here that there is a difference between available and accessible. Even if someone is able to download a research paper, it is possible that the data is available in a form that may not be truly accessible. Take for example a spreadsheet in a PDF– if you want to work further with it, you have to first type the entire thing on your computer and then begin the work or if you know computer programming, you have to write a script to scrape the data. In open access repositories, data is often available in .csv or other open formats and is much easier to work with.

I can give you another example from a study we did. We found that during 2008–2010, 1833 papers were published from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). All of these papers were available to subscribers of the Consortium for e-Resources in Agriculture (CeRA). However, public access to this e-resource is meagre. As a result the research was available but not accessible.

Why have Indian scientists been slow in embracing the open access repositories, despite a clear directive from government funding agencies?

The first reason I would say is ignorance about the usefulness of such repositories. I have often been asked, “how would I benefit from uploading my work in such a repository”? Once people start using these repositories actively they are bound to generate viewership for papers listed on them. Since access is completely free of cost, with time, more and more people will start gravitating towards it, increasing viewerships further. The number of citations and the possibility of people collaborating increases too as nobody is stopped from accessing a paper.

The other problem is with the way research is assessed in our country. Even today, the application forms that research assessment committees will have you fill have questions like– what is the impact factor of the journal you have published your work in or what is the rating of the journal? They should instead be asking how much of your work is available in open access repositories? How well has it been cited and accessed by people across the globe? It is the impact of research and not the impact factor, that should be assessed. The 2014 Dora Declaration provides guidelines on good practices in research assessment. Though DBT and Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance  are signatories on the DORA declaration, in India, we are yet to fully embrace its guidelines.

Scholarly societies too fall into the trap of impact factors and viewerships generated by big publishing houses. For example, few of the societies hosted in ICAR (I don’t want to name them) signed up to be hosted by Springer. Most likely, this tie-up was fuelled by a desire for higher viewership. The question is why didn’t they choose to be available on ICAR e-publication platform instead? That would have assured high viewership too. Publishing in a high Impact factor journal or with a well known publisher is not the only way of ensuring viewership for your work.

It is in such cases that we are trying to make a difference through our advocacy work. Our attempt is to make researchers and scholarly societies aware about open access policies that can lead to wider dissemination and greater impact of the published work.

There’s also the issue of copyrights. After publication, a research paper’s copyright is transferred from the authors to the publishers. Would it be legal to put such papers in open access repositories?

The simple and legally viable solution to this problem is the ‘author’s addendum’. While submitting their research papers authors can choose to include this addendum which allows them to retain rights to submit their work in open access repositories. Most journals now recognise and accept this addendum.

The other option is to archive the pre-prints– the first draft of the manuscript which a researcher submits to a journal. Again, most journals are open to accepting work that has been archived in a pre-print server. Pre-prints can be submitted to open access repositories. To this end, we (Open Access India) have started AgriXiv– a pre-print archive for agriculture research. It is hosted by Centre for Open Science using the Open Science Framework. However, even for AgriXiv the acceptance has been very low.

I also would like to add that nowadays several questionable publishers are marketing themselves as open access publishers. They usually charge a good amount of processing fee and are willing to publish whatever you submit without peer review. In such a scenario, two resources that can aid researchers in making an informed decision about whether a journal is authentic or not are– Think Check Submit and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

What other activities is Open Access India involved in?

Open Access India started as an online advocacy group on Facebook in 2011. We have grown quite a bit since then in scale and reach. Our members include scientists, students and even librarians. Apart from online advocacy we now conduct webinars, workshops and meetings to make researchers aware of the usefulness of open access. We also run a student ambassador programme, wherein we select students, young researchers and librarians from across India, train them about open access and then help them disseminate the knowledge further.

We work in close collaboration with Open Access Nepal, Open Access Bangladesh and Open Access Pakistan. In fact, we are now hoping to start an open access forum for all SAARC countries to help scientists (especially, early career researchers) in the sub-continent share their work openly and legally.

Apart from the sub-continent, how is the acceptance for open access in the rest of the world?

There’s a definite shift happening towards open access publishing. The OA2020 Initiative, which has been accepted by more than 560 institutions worldwide, is working towards a global transition from current publishing models to an open access system. The Open Access India has also signed up for the initiative. Publishers too have begun tweaking their system to fit in the changing environment. Sherpa Romeo – an online resource that analyses publisher copyright policies– says  80% publishers on its list now allow archiving work in some or the other format. Many communities are coming forward to discuss, practice, and share success stories of the Open Access movements happening around the world.

Thesis Commons launched

The Center for Open Science (COS)  launched ‘Thesis Commons‘, a free, cloud-based platform for the submission, dissemination, and discovery of graduate and undergraduate theses and dissertations. It is built on an open-source infrastructure called the Open Science Framework (OSF) by which the authors can share their electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) easily and quickly.

The COS also launched various co-branded preprints repositories of them is ‘AgriXiv‘, a preprints repository for agriculture and allied sciences which is administered by the Open Access India community.

Thesis Commons has a steering committee of experts and advocates for open scholarship representing institution, library, and researcher stakeholder communities and is backed by COS’s preservation fund, which ensures that all data stored on its services would be preserved and accessible for 50+ years in the event of COS curtailing or closing its services.

For more information on Thesis Commons, please contact Matt Spitzer at

India Celebrates Open Access Week

oaw-commit-indiaThe Open Access India community while committing itself for putting Open in Action is celebrating this year’s Open Access Week by organizing series of Webinars on various topics related to Open Access during 24-30, October 2016 daily in the afternoon at 1:00 – 1:30 PM (IST) using Google Hangouts and YouTube Live. For the updates at Google+.

The detailed schedule is as follows:





24 Oct Mon Open Access (Basics) Devika Madalii
25 Oct Tue Open Access and DOAJ Vrushali Dandawate
26 Oct Wed Open Access@CSIR-NISCAIR G. Mahesh
27 Oct Thu Want to make your research OA so where do you publish? – Make DOAJ your starting point for finding quality peer-reviewed OA journals Leena Shah
28 Oct Fri  TBA  TBA
29 Oct Sat  TBA  TBA
30 Oct Sun Open Access India Sridhar Gutam

Please sign-up here for the webinars. You may access the slides after the presentation at SlideShare and watch recorded live at YouTube.

Call for Members: Open Access India Working Group

oai-wgThe Open Access India is looking for new members to join its Working Group to plan and work for ‘Open Access the Default by 2020‘ in India. The Open Access India community of practice is formed to advocate Open Access, Open Data and Open Education among the students, researchers, teachers, professors, scientists and policy makers.

Therefore, the working group members are expected to actively participate in the group communications and discussions about Open Access, Open Data and Open Education. The members would engage with the research and academic community by conducting talks or seminars at their respective work/study places. They would also support and guide the Open Access India Ambassadors and write blog posts on the issues related to Open Access, Open Data and Open Education in India and the World. The working group would participate in weekly/monthly calls and share/discuss the work plan.The Open Access India is a voluntary community of practice and the participation in the working group or for that matter any role is voluntary. Any member of a working group may step down at any time. Upon constitution of the new working group, the members may elect/select the working group chair and co-chairs.

To submit an expression of interest, please fill-out the form here by mentioning a short motivation paragraph outlining work, experience and interest on Open Access, Open Data and Open Education. The current working group members may also express the interest. The deadline for submissions is 10th October, 2016. A week before the Open Access Week 2016, the new working group would be in place.

Please note that participation in the Open Access India is voluntary. Feel free to get in touch with sridhar[at]openaccessindia[dot]org if you have any questions. For the current working group constitution, please visit About Us on Open Access India website.

Adopted from Call for Members: FOC Working Group “An Internet Free and Secure” (February 2016). Accessed on 20 September 2016.

Next steps for Open Access India: Becoming a Scholarly Society for Open Access

RegisteredTM.svgSince July 2011, the Open Access India as a community of practice is advocating for open access to public funded research through various social media platforms especially via Facebook and Twitter. However to reach the unreached it had launched its public access website and to work more for Open Access, Open Data and Open Education, it had made partnerships with other agencies and organizations working for the openness.

To take forward the movement of open access in India and to increase the momentum, it needs to get registered as scholarly society and it is now working for it.

Anyone having interests and are committed for Open Access in India are invited to be part of it. The draft MoA and the form for submitting the details can be accessed here and here respectively. The young researchers, students who may get involved as Ambassador can submit their details here.

Familiarizing Open Source Seed Concept in India

OpenSourceSeedsThe GNU/Linux, the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movements around the globe and Creative Commons had influenced people to share their creations openly and freely. The BiOS is such kind of initiative which is sharing all its biological innovations openly. Now the same concept of sharing the biological materials openly for public good.

In Agriculture, the seed is the fundamental input and access to quality seed is becoming restricted to people by financially, technically and legally. To overcome this, the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) was formed and it aims to free the seed. The OSSI had pledged to make the seed free and is permitting the buyers/consumers to use in any ways they want but asks them not to restrict the others use with patents or by any other legal means.

In order to familiarize/popularize the philosophy of Open Source Seed/Free the Seed concept, the Open Access India and jointly took an attempt to seeds which are almost free of any legal IPR rights. For this as a test crop, Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) has been selected and the excess seeds which were purchased from a farmer by name Undavalli Trimurthulu in West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh for cultivation are being distributed to people for general cultivation or for research purpose.

These Qunioa seeds are being sent to the recipients under Open Source Seeds MTA (material transfer agreement) incorporating the text adopted from The OSSI Pledge. The MTA says “You have the freedom to use these Open Source Seeds in anyway you choose, In return, you pledge not to restrict other’s use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this Open Source Seeds MTA with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives. If anyone are interested to join the OSSI or share their seeds through The OSSI Pledge in India, they may contact Open Access India, or the OSSI collaborator in India, the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

Announcing Open Access India Kolkata Meetup

oaikolThe first ever face to face meetup of the Open Access India community members are going to take place at Kolkata on December 18, 2015 during which the future programme of the community would be discussed. Therefore, it is requested that all the community members of the Open Access India and other like minded people who have interests in Open Access, Open Data and Open Education to join us in the meetup at Salt Lake area of Kolkata on Dec. 18, 2015 at 5:30 PM (IST).

It is also planned to air the meetup online via Google Hangouts and tweet & post on Twitter (@OpenAccessIndia) and Facebook with #oaindia #meetup

For RSVP and latest updates on the Meetup please see event page on Facebook and register on Eventbrite

For more, please visit OpenAccessIndia.Org

OA India Member gets featured as Friends of Agro-Know

gutamThe Agro-Know publishes Friends of Agro-Know series of interviews with people that it wants to work with or had already worked with them. As part of the Open Access Week, this time in its series, our member, Dr. Sridhar Gutam is featured because of active involvement in the field of open access to research outcomes and data.

You may read the full interview post here.

In this interview, he opined that the researchers can themselves solve the availability and accessibility issues of publicly funded research outputs when they get themselves aware about the need for ‘Openness’ and the joy of ‘Sharing’ the outputs by practicing self-archiving in Open Repositories. He further added that the Open Access India community by pledging its support for the global and local initiates on Open Access, Open Data and Open Education, would like to work for the development of a National Open Access Policy for India and wish to build Community Open Access Repository for India in which everyone irrespective of institutional affiliation can deposit and share their works freely.

You may read the full interview post here.

Open Definition in Hindi मुक्त की परिभाषा

Open Definition in Hindi ( मुक्त की परिभाषा) is published at This translation work is done by Dr. K. Srivally, MANAGE, Hyderabad

वर्शन 2.0

मुक्त की परिभाषा ‘ओपेन’ के अर्थ को ज्ञान, संपुष्ट आम जनता जिनमें से कोई भी इसमें भाग ले सकता है और अंतर परिचालन किया को उच्चतम सीमा तक बढ़ाए।

सारांश:  ज्ञान सबके लिए खुला है कोई भी उसे प्राप्त कर सकता है, उपयोग एवं बदल सकता है और साथ ही उसका आदान प्रदान भी उद्गम और खुलेपन की उपायों के अनुसार ही देख सकते है।*

ओपेन सोर्स Open Source Definition की परिभाषा में जैसे बताया गया है सॉफ्टवेयर के संबंध में ‘ओपेन’ के अर्थ के साथ इसका अर्थ साम्यता रखता है और अंग्रेजी ‘फ्री’ और ‘लिबर’ ‘शब्दों के समानार्थी ‘शब्द है जो कि फ्री कलचरल वक्र्स Definition of Free Cultural Works की परिभाषा में है। प्रारंभ में ओपेन की परिभाषा ओपेन सोर्स की परिभाषा से उत्पन्न हुआ है, जिसकी कुप्पत्ति डेबियन फ्री सॉफ्टवेयर निर्देश सूत्रों Debian Free Software Guidelines से हुआ है।

‘वर्क’ शब्द का उपयोग अंतरित की जाने वाली ज्ञान या विषय का भाग होगा।

लाइसेन्स शब्द का अर्थ उन न्यायिक स्थितियों जिसके तहत कार्य को उपलब्ध कराया जाता है। जहा¡ कोई लाइसेन्स नहीं दिया जाता जिसे कार्य को नियंत्रित करने वाली न्यायिक स्थितियों के रूप में समझा जा सकता (उदाहरण की कॉपी रईट या पब्लिक डोमेईन)

1. मुक्त कार्य

किसी भी मुक्त कार्य को अपने वितरण में निम्नलिखित आव’यकताओं की पूर्ती करनी चाहिए।

1.1 मुक्त लाइसेन्स

किसी भी कार्य मुक्त लाइसेन्स के तहत उपलब्ध होना चाहिए (जैसे धारा-2 में परिभाषित किया गया है) यदि कार्य के साथ कोई अतिरिक्त शब्द जुड़ा हुआ है (जैसे उपयोग की शर्ते, या लाइसेन्स प्रदायक द्वारा आयोजित पेटेंट), तो उसे लाइसेन्स के प्रतिकूल नहीं होना चाहिए।

1.2 अभिगम

कार्य सकल के रूप में उपलब्ध होना चाहिए और जहा¡ तक हो सके एक बार से अधिक पुन: सृजन दर से अधिक न हो और इंटरनेट के माध्यम से नि:शुल्क डाउनलोड करने योग्य हो तो अच्छा होगा। लाइसेन्स अनुपालन के लिए आव’यक कोई अतिरिक्त सूचना (जैसे आरोपण आव’यकताओं के साथ अनुपालन हेतु आव’यक योगदानकर्ताओं के नाम) भी कार्य के साथ संलग्न होने चाहिए।

1.3 मुक्त रूप रेखा

कोई भी कार्य सुविधा जनक एवं परिवर्तनशील रूप में दिया जाए ताकि लाइसेन्स दिए गए अधिकारों के नि”पादन में कोई अनाव’यक तकनीकी अड़चन न हो। विशेष्ता:, सूचना मशीन पर पठन योग्य, अधिक मात्रा में उपलब्ध तथा मुक्त रूपरेखा मे प्रदान किया जाए (अर्थात मुक्त रूप में उपलब्ध प्रकाशिता विनिर्देशों की रूप रेखा में हो जो उपयोग करने पर किसी आर्थिक या अन्य प्रतिबंध न लगते हो) या न्यूनत: किसी एक मुक्त/खुला स्रोत सॉफ्टवेयर टूल से उपयोग किया जा सकता है।

2. मुक्त लाइसेन्स

निम्न शर्तो को पूरा करने वाला लाइसेन्स ‘मुक्त’ माना जाएगा।

2.1 आव’यक अनुमति

लाइसेन्स को अपरिवर्तनीय रूप से निम्नलिखित को अनुमति देनी चाहिए।

2.1.1 उपयोग

किसी भी लाइसेन्स को लाइसेन्स धारक कार्य को मुक्त रूप से उपयोग करने की अनुमति देनी चाहिए।

2.1.2 पुन: विवरण

विभिन्न स्रोतों के कार्यो से तैयार किए गए संकलन का भाग या स्वत: तैयार संकलन, बिक्री सहित, लाइसेन्स कार्य को पुन: वितरित करने हेतु लाइसेन्स अनुमति देनी चाहिए।

2.1.3 परिवर्तन

लाइसेन्स को लाइसेन्स धारी कार्यों के व्युत्पादों को तैयार करने की अनुमति देनी चाहिए और ऐसे व्युत्पादों का विवरण मूल लाइसेन्स धारी कार्यो के नियमों के तहत करने की अनुमति देनी चाहिए।

2.1.4 अलगाव

लाइसेन्स को किसी भी कार्य के भाग का मुक्त उपयोग, वितरण करने की सहमति देनी चाहिए या कार्य के किसी और भाग से अलग परिवर्तन या कार्यों के संकलन जिनमें कार्य मुलत: वितरित किए जा चुके हैं को अनुमति देनी चाहिए। मूल लाइसेन्स के नियमों के भीतर किसी वितरण का किसी कार्य के भाग को प्राप्त करने वाले सभी पार्टियों को वही अधिकार होने चाहिए जो कि संयोग से मूल कार्य में दिए गए है।

2.1.5 संकलन

लाइसेन्स को अन्य विशेष कार्यो सहित वितरित हाने के लिए इन अन्य कार्यों पर प्रतिबंध लगाए बिना लाइसेन्स कार्य को अनुमति देन चाहिए।

2.1.6 गैर-भेदभाव

लाइसेन्स को किसी भी व्यक्ति या समूह के विपरीत भेद भाव व्यक्त नहीं करना चाहिए।

2.1.7 प्रचार

किसी कार्य के साथ संलग्न अधिकार बिना किसी अतिरिक्त कानूनी नियमों की स्वीकृति के उन सभी के लिए लागू होने चाहिए जिन्हे वे पुन: वितरित किए गए हैं।

2.1.8 किसी भी उद्दे’य के लिए लागू करना

किसी भी विशेष प्रयास के क्षेत्र में कार्य का उपयोग करने के लिए लाइसेन्स किसी पर प्रतिबंध नहीं लगाना चाहिए।

2.1.9 बिना किसी शुल्क:

लाइसेन्स को अपने शर्तो के भाग के रूप में कोई शुल्क, रॉयल्टी या अन्य कोई मुआवजा या मैट्रिक परिश्रमिक नहीं लगाना चाहिए।

2.2 स्वीकार्य शर्तो

लाइसेन्स को निम्न स्वीकार्य योग्य शर्तो के अलावा दिए गए धारा 2.1 में सीमाओं, अनिश्चितता या आव’यक अनुमतियों को घटाना नहीं चाहिए।

2.2.1 संबंध

लाइसेन्स को कार्य के वितरण में योगदान कर्ता के संबंध, धारको, प्रायोजकों तथा सृजकों के अधिकारों को साम्मिलित करने की आवा’यकता होगी जब तक कि ऐसे निर्देश कष्टदायक नहीं हैं।

2.2.2 प्रामाणिकता

लाइसेन्स के लिए लाइसेन्स धारी कार्य में किए गए परिवर्तनों को मूल कार्य से अलग नामित करने या संस्करण संख्या डालने या किए गए परिवर्तनों को इंगित करने की आवश्यकता है।

2.2.3 समान अधिकार

लाइसेन्स के लिए लाइसेन्स धारी कार्य की प्रतिया¡ या उससे उत्पन्न कार्यों की आवश्यकता है ताकि मूल के समान्तर लाइसेन्स के अधीन रख सके।

2.2.4 सूचना

लाइसेन्स को कॉपीराईट सूचनाओं तथा लाइसेन्स की पहचान को धारण करने की आव’यकता है।

2.2.5 श्रोत

लाइसेन्स के लिए परिवर्तित कार्यों के अगले परिवर्तनों हेतु आवश्यक रूप रेखा में उपलब्ध कराने की आव’यकता है।

2.2.6 तकनीकी प्रतिबंध निषेध:

लाइसेन्स यदि तकनीकी सीमाएं प्रतिबंध लगाते हैं तो कार्य के वितरण को निषेध करता है या अधिकार प्रदान करता है।

2.2.7 गैर आक्रमकता:

लाइसेन्स को परिवर्तन करने वालों के लिए लाइसेन्स द्वारा अनुमति प्राप्त अधिकारों के उपयोग करने के लिए आव’यक सार्वजनिक अतिरिक्त अनुमति (उदाहरणार्थ पेटेन्ट लाइसेन्स) देने की आवश्यकता है। लाइसेन्स स्वीकृति अधिकार के उपयोग के संबंध में लाइसेन्स प्रदान करने वालों का अतिक्रमण नहीं करने पर भी अनुमति निषेध कर सकता है।

अनुवादक: डॉ कस्तूरी श्रीवल्ली, राष्ट्रीय कृषि विस्तार प्रबंध संस्थान (मैनेज), हैदराबाद, भारत।

OpenCon 2015 Applications are Open!

Applications to attend OpenCon 2015 on November 14-16 in Brussels, Belgium are now open! The application is available on the OpenCon website at and includes the opportunity to apply for a travel scholarship to cover the cost of travel and accommodations. Applications will close on June 22nd at 11:59pm PDT.

OpenCon seeks to bring together the most capable, motivated students and early career academic professionals from around the world to advance Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data—regardless of their ability to cover travel costs.  In 2014, more than 80% of attendees received support.  Due to this, attendance at OpenCon is by application only.

Students and early career academic professionals of all experience levels are encouraged to apply.  We want to support those who have ideas for new projects and initiatives in addition to those who are already leading them.  The most important thing is an interest in advancing Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data and a commitment to taking action. We also hope to use applications to connect applicants with opportunities for collaboration, local events in your area, and scholarship opportunities to attend other relevant conferences.

OpenCon is equal parts conference and community.  The meeting in Brussels serves as the centerpiece of a much larger network to foster initiatives and collaboration among the next generation across OpenCon’s issue areas.  Become an active part of the community by joining our discussion list, tuning in for our monthly community calls and webcasts, or hosting an OpenCon satellite event in your community.

Apply now, and join the OpenCon community today!

About OpenCon:

Hosted by the Right to Research Coalition and SPARC, OpenCon 2015 will bring together students and early career academic professionals from across the world to learn about the issues, develop critical skills, and return home ready to catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data.  OpenCon 2015 will be held on November 14-16 in Brussels, Belgium.

OpenCon 2015’s three day program will begin with two days of conference-style keynotes, panels, and interactive workshops, drawing both on the expertise of leaders in the Open Access, Open Education and Open Data movements and the experience of participants who have already led successful projects.

The third day will take advantage of the location in Brussels by providing a half-day of advocacy training followed by the opportunity for in-person meetings with relevant policy makers, ranging from the European Parliament, European Commission, embassies, and key NGOs. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of the conference’s three issue areas, stronger skills in organizing local and national projects, and connections with policymakers and prominent leaders across the three issue areas.

OpenCon 2015 builds on the success of the first-ever OpenCon meeting last year which convened 115 students and early career academic professionals from 39 countries in Washington, DC.

Speakers at OpenCon 2014 included the Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States for Legislative Affairs, the Chief Commons Officer of Sage Bionetworks, the Associate Director for Data Science for the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and more than 15 students and early career academic professionals leading successful initiatives. OpenCon 2015 will again feature leading experts, and the program will be announced in the coming months.