RE: [OPENCAFE-L] Scholarly Publishing in Low- and Middle-income Countries (LMIC)

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Glenn Hampson

Feb 5, 2024, 9:27:31 PMFeb 5
to Mark Huskisson,,
Hi Mark,

Khanna's work is cool for sure but I think we're maybe talking apples and oranges here. Khanna identified a whole bunch of journals that weren't indexed by Scopus (there's only a four percent-ish overlap between Khanna's list and Scopus), and he analyzed the characteristics of these "invisible" publications. So yes, absolutely---there's a lot of cool work being done in the "invisible" world of scholarly publishing with regard to diamond funding, non-English languages, etc. And we really don't know that much about this whole regime---least of all how big it is (the world of white papers produced by government researchers and think tanks, for example, absolutely dwarfs the journal world but none of this is indexed). We need better indexing (a common complaint among scholars from even research powerhouses like Brazil).

I'm referring more to the situation in the Scopus-dominated, WoS-dominated, pay to play world of modern scholarship. As far back as 2016-ish, it was clear that most of the world's open access articles (as opposed to OA journals) were being published via APCs (about 70% by volume), and that most scholars from the Global South (a bad term, sorry, but it's what's used) pay for these APC costs out of their own pockets (as opposed to scholars from the "Global North," who mostly get this bill paid by their funders or institutions). So the giant irony in all this is that we wanted open access to democratize knowledge, but it turns out that by "everyone," we just meant the rich researchers of the world. In any number of reports on the APC crisis that have been published over the last five years, low-cost journals are often the only way many researchers can get published (Khanna's work may cast new light on this, but there have been many published accounts of the limited choices available, despite great work being done by AJOL, Research4Life, et al). Not all of these low-cost journals are predatory, of course---we actually preferred the "deceptive" label in OSI because these journals didn't follow best practices in journal publishing or were otherwise noncompliant in any number of ways (lying about their editorial boards, etc.---see, but weren't necessarily bad actors.

But let's look at mirror journals for a clearer picture (maybe?)---the open journals that mirror quality subscription journals so that more quality research is open. As it turns out, very few Global South authors publish in high APC mirror journals---authorship is overwhelmingly concentrated in high-income countries (see Smith 2022, below). APCs may be a barrier to OA publication by researchers from low-income countries of the Global South because waiver requirements can be stringent, there is lack of awareness about the existence of these waivers, and/or even partial waivers of very high APCs are still unaffordable. So in this sense, it may be inaccurate to say that all is reasonably well in the Global South because there are plenty of high-quality, affordable, visible (indexed) journals available for scholars to publish in. I'm not sure the data bear out this conclusion, but I would be absolutely delighted to see more research to the contrary---really.

Here are some articles for further reference on this dynamic:

• Kwon, D. 2022 (Feb 22). Open-access publishing fees deter researchers in the global south. Nature (news article).
• Mwangi, KW, N Mainye, DO Ouso, K Esoh, AW Muraya, CK Mwangi, et al. 2021. Open Science in Ken ya: Where Are We? Front. Res. Metr. Anal. 6:669675. doi: 10.3389/frma.2021.669675
• Scaria, AG, and R Shreyashi. 2018. Open Science India Report. OSF Preprints. doi: 10.31219/
• Smith, AC, L Merz, JB Borden, CK Gulick, AR Kshirsagar, and EM Bruna. 2022. Assessing the effect of article processing charges on the geographic diversity of authors using Elsevier’s “Mirror Journal” system. Quantitative Science Studies 2022; 2 (4): 1123–1143. doi: 10.1162/qss_a_00157
• Zhang, L, Y Wei, Y Huang, et al. 2022. Should open access lead to closed research? The trends towards paying to perform research. Scientometrics 127, 7653–7679. 04407-5

Thanks for the reminder about Khanna's work; I'm going to look around for more data on this and will happily share what I come up with (if anyone else has recent number on publishing output by region/classification/field/index/etc. please do share).



-----Original Message-----
From: OpenCafe-l <OPENC...@LISTSERV.BYU.EDU> On Behalf Of Mark Huskisson
Sent: Monday, February 5, 2024 4:23 PM
Subject: [OPENCAFE-L] Scholarly Publishing in Low- and Middle-income Countries (LMIC)

In a separate thread (Canadian TriAgency OA mandate) a comment stated that "There are actually a multitude of standards, proposals, and norm-setting instruments [for OA] ... and most lower resource countries are clinging to whatever they can get (predatory publishers, crumbs from the APC scholarship table, etc.)." I want to write something akin to 'this needs challenging' (I don't want to be in breach of the house rules so early) but as late as it is here in the UK I can't head off to bed without at least unpacking this depiction for discussion.

The success of research publishing in LMIC (low- and middle-income countries LMIC or the Global South) is significantly greater than "clinging to whatever they can get (predatory publishers, crumbs from the APC scholarship table, etc)." And while we all know it's not just about numbers, let's use the numbers as a starting point and we can dig further into the subject as we discuss things.

Using PKP's numbers alone (other very good open source software is available but I only have PKP's data to hand which you can find at Harvard Dataverse – in 2023 there were:

• 46,270 active journals* on OJS (*active = publish >5 articles in the year); • publishing a total of 1.71m articles in 2023; • With 428 book presses publishing 10,894 books/items; • And 28 servers hosting 3,124 preprints (the biggest being SciELO).

And, if we follow the data research findings on OJS in 2022 (Khanna et al. Recalibrating the scope of scholarly publishing: A modest step in a vast decolonization process, where "... 79.9% in the Global South and 84.2% following the OA diamond model", that would mean 37k journals published 1.35m articles in the Global South in 2023. This is far from the depiction of scraps under the table.

And, if one were to throw around the 'predatory' label for journals in LMICs, let's follow the same research and see that 1% of all those journals are found in Cabell’s Predatory Reports and 1.4% show up in Beall’s (2021). That is far more than any of us would like, but it is a long long way from 'predatory' being the norm or "clinging to whatever they can get" for scholarly publishing in LMICs.

But as Kent will remind me immediately, these are just numbers. This huge journal and article output, in itself, is not indicative of anything other than an increasing quantity of output, so a better understanding of what underpins these numbers is essential. But it simply cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Quoting Khanna et al (2022), "...they are in 136 countries, with 79.9% in the Global South and 84.2% following the OA diamond model ... journals operate in more than one language (48.3%), with research published in 60 languages (led by English, Indonesian, Spanish, and Portuguese)." I summarised the paper this time last year in the Scholarly Kitchen (



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Toby Green (He - Him)

Feb 6, 2024, 6:54:31 AMFeb 6
to, Mark Huskisson, The Open Scholarship Initiative, Glenn Hampson

The first part of "the world of white papers produced by government researchers and think tanks, for example, absolutely dwarfs the journal world but none of this is indexed” is quite correct, but the last part hasn’t been true since 2021 when I launched Policy Commons. Since launch, we’ve indexed just over 11M (yes, ‘million’) non-journal items in Policy Commons. Some of this isn’t research, but a lot is. 

What I find amazing is the number of organizations publishing research on their own terms, using their own brand as a quality mark (as an alternative to outsourcing that to a journal). We’re currently indexing content from 11,721 non-governmental, non-academic organizations, of which well over 1,000 are based in the global south - and we add more pretty much every day. Some are ‘household' names, like my former employer, OECD and the World Bank et al, but many are small, like the Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable.

Like Mark, I am also troubled by the "the Scopus-dominated, WoS-dominated . . . world of modern scholarship”. Not so much because of the $ but because they’ve captured such a large share of eyeballs it makes it very hard for those ‘without' to win a share of audience. It also means those ‘within' miss out on findings from non-journal sources that could be game-changers, if only they knew where to look! In an ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ effort, we’ve just supplied the major discovery platforms with feeds from Policy Commons so they, like Google Scholar, can make items we index discoverable in their services.

But, for me, the bottom line is this: research findings don’t have to be published in a journal, other forms of publishing are available!

And if anyone is thinking ‘but grey literature isn’t peer reviewed’ - have a read of this: Lawrence (2018) Influence seekers: The production of grey literature for policy and practice 


Publisher, Policy Commons

Director and Co-Founder
+33 6 07 76 80 86
Twitter: @tobyabgreen 

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