India: One Nation and One Subscription policy

A mix of opinion and factual write up appeared here. The problem statement is clear:

India’s ‘One Nation One Subscription’ Policy For Scientific Literature Paves Path For Global South

Scientific publications are a multi-billion dollar industry dominated by a few big players. Academics are often government funded, do research often funded by taxpayers and then use taxpayer dollars to read about the research in privately owned journals.

It’s a massive transfer of wealth from the taypayer to private industry and there have been recent calls to overhaul the system.

But to expect publishers to make the literature free for all is a utopian dream.

Some action taken:

India began the first phase of implementation of ONOS in November 2022, with 70 publishers’ resources considered for access from April 2023. Negotiations for a central subscription for these publishers should commence soon.

The hope:

The ONOS policy serves as a formidable alternative to transformative agreements for the Global South. This model will enable countries to stand on stronger negotiating positions through purchase of greater bulk of content and provide people with full access to a large number of journal titles.

I have argued several times before: There is no need to consider the “western model” of access “superior”. Pushing through the scientific discourse is NOT a political agenda, even if the science itself has become politicised and the institutions have been undermined to achieve the partisan interests. These were brought to the fore during the pandemic, where “institutions” were pushing out through hair brained ideas of lockdowns (for example), while disregarding the earlier published evidence on poor efficacy of lockdowns. These have only fuelled several speculations on their motives. Besides, there were several instances of the failure of peer review for “rapidly published literature”, while the investigations around the origins of the Corona pandemic have been scuttled without much “debate” in the otherwise raucous mainstream media.

The fault lines of academia are ugly. Peer review requires a significant overhaul; I find it difficult to find an acceptable alternative. Unless there are specific audits of the experimental processes in pure sciences, how can the results be verified? The audit systems themselves may be corrupted or add more layers of bureaucracy pushing the path to publication, more ardous.

These systematic issues require deliberation. However, negotiation of prices for the entire country is a monumental step for India, and I congratulate the people behind the process. I plan to write something about it. This will definitely free up the funding for more novel experimentation processes.

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