“The idea of paying for the publication makes me feel that the decision to publish a particular research depends on the profit and not on the quality of the research,” said Tamer Al-Sayed, associate professor of Computer Science at the University of Qatar.
Some Arab countries, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are working to promote open access through initiatives that make open publication accessible or even free for researchers and, according to the UNESCO report, the two countries have the highest rates of citation of research papers among the Arab countries.
Qatar has three main open access initiatives, including the National Authors’ Fund of the National Library of Qatar, through which the library pays an article processing fee on behalf of the authors for the costs of articles published in open access journals.
Another initiative is QSpace at Qatar University, which hosts an online collection of scientific articles and academic activities for university professors, students and guests.
In addition, Hamad Bin Khalifa University Publishing House in Doha hosts an open access, peer-reviewed online publishing platform called QScience.
New challenges caused by Covid –19
Despite institutional support for open access in Qatar, initiatives like QScience face new challenges and uncertainties due to the coronavirus situation.
“The main challenge was to work remotely as a team and develop our communication skills virtually,” said Rima Usaifan, Head of Publications and Academic Magazines at HBKU Press during the panel discussion.
“We also have concerns about financing. We do not know what the financial consequences of this epidemic will be, how the publishing sector will be affected and for how long. “
The situation seems more difficult for open access journals in less wealthy Arab countries, such as Egypt.
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According to Aziza Ali Mohammadi Abu El-Enein, sub-editor of Cybrarians, open access journals in Egypt suffer from the lack of funding, the lack of academic recognition and the distrust of some readers of the articles published in them.
Cybrarians, an open access digital publication, is published in Arabic and specializes in bibliography, librarianship and information sources. It counts on the voluntary effort of the editorial team to present their numbers for free. Aboul-Enein says that free open publications are especially beneficial for young researchers who cannot afford to publish or access academic research in commercial scientific journals.
Kronfleh, of the World Summit on Health Innovation (WISH), recommends looking at open access in a broad context, not only in terms of publication, but also by sharing information with stakeholders, partners and society in general.
“There is a tendency to work in isolation, saving information and not sharing,” he said. But collective information shared in a collaborative spirit can identify gaps, challenges and opportunities and act as a catalyst for evidence-based decision making.