WHO and Top Publishers Launch "Access To Research" Internet Initiative for Developing Countries
WHO Press Release
The HINARI website is now officially launched - see WHO's latest Press Release.
Many thousands of doctors, researchers, health policy-makers and others in about 70 developing countries will from today gain free access through the Internet to one of the world's largest collections of biomedical literature.For further information click here
They will benefit from an initiative launched by the World Health Organization and the world's six biggest medical journal publishers, which WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland has described as "perhaps the biggest step ever taken towards reducing the health information gap between rich and poor countries."
The "Access to Research" initiative enables accredited universities, medical schools, research centres and other public institutions in the developing countries to gain access to the wealth of scientific information contained in more than 1000 different biomedical journals produced by the six publishers. Until now, subscriptions to these journals, both electronic and print, have been priced uniformly for such institutions, irrespective of geographical location. Many key titles cost more than US$1500 per year, and the average subscription costs several hundred dollars, putting the journals beyond the reach of the large majority of health and research institutions in the poorest countries.
Last year WHO, working with the British Medical Journal, approached the six biggest medical journal publishers: Blackwell, Elsevier Science, the Harcourt Worldwide STM Group, Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science, Springer Verlag and John Wiley. The aim was to bring them together with the countries concerned to seek a more affordable pricing structure for online access to their international biomedical journals.
The first stage of the initiative will make more than 1,000 of their journals available free or at significantly reduced charges to institutions in those countries. That availability begins today with the opening of the Health InterNetwork website:
A second stage will involve similar access at significantly reduced prices for institutions in the other countries. WHO and the publishers will work with the Open Society Institute of the Soros foundation network and other public and private partners to extend the initiative; for example, through training for research staff, and improving Internet connectivity. The "Access to Research" initiative is expected to last for at least three years, while being monitored for progress. Decisions about how to proceed with further developments will grow from the precedent it sets, and will be informed by the working relationships which have evolved among the publishers and participating institutions.
The initiative itself is a major aspect of the work of the Health InterNetwork project which was introduced by United Nations' SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan at the UN Millennium Summit in the year 2000. Led by WHO, the Health InterNetwork aims to strengthen public health services by providing public health workers, researchers and policy makers access to high-quality, relevant and timely health information through an Internet portal. It further aims to improve communication and networking. As key components, the project will provide training as well as information and communication technology applications for public health.
The project is led by Dr Michael Scholtz, Special Representative of the WHO Director-General. He says: "Today sees the beginning of a new way to bridge the digital divide in health, and an important move by the publishers in facilitating the flow of health information, using the Internet."
For further information, journalists can contact
Mr Thomson Prentice
WHO, Geneva, Switzerland
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