If there is any country which illustrates the need for open access solutions, it’s Indonesia.
A sprawling archipelago of over 17,000 islands, 922 of which are inhabited by over 132 million internet users. 64 million Indonesians are active on Facebook and its capital, Jakarta, was named the world’s most active city on Twitter. More than any other technology, the web has revolutionized access to information. The role of the internet in democratizing access to knowledge has changed the way we live and work. It’s time for it to start changing the way we research too.
The way we access information has been rapidly reinvented as each industry has turned to the internet to reach broader audiences and expand its influence. The only industry which seems to have remained in the 20th Century, is research. The majority of academic publications still maintain the traditional, subscription format, restricting access to publicly funded research to those with enough money to pay for journal subscription fees.
Indonesia is home to over 4,000 universities, alongside 500 research institutes and 600 governmental research departments. Together, these institutions publish millions of research papers each year, albeit published in local rather than international journals. If Indonesia continues to produce academic publications at its current rate, there is a real possibility that their research output will exceed that of some key G20 partners.
A significant reason for the massive growth Indonesia has seen in its research sector is a 2012 regulation issued by the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education, which requires all theses and research produced in the region be published in academic journals. To overcome the difficulty of publishing Indonesian-language papers in international journals, universities and government bodies began issuing their own local journals to comply with the new legislation.
The result today, five years later, is an extensive network of published research in a whopping 10,000 local and national journals. Much of this research is fundamental for students, government officials and researchers alike, providing them much needed information and resources in every field from medicinal science and environmental biology, to urban planning and traffic control.
However, accessing this trove of data remains something of a problem. Only approximately 3,000 of the 10,000 journals published by Indonesia are available electronically, meaning research undertaken by the other 7,000 is undiscoverable to researchers within the wider regional and international communities. In some instances, researchers have no choice but to personally visit the offices of research institutes or government bodies to access the information they need. This is a nightmare for researchers operating in rural areas of the archipelago.
This access issue is what inspired Neliti, a platform open access research platform that launched its beta version in April 2015. Fast forward two year, and the portal now receives over two million monthly visitors, making it one of Asia’s premiere sources of academic content.
With the ambitious aim to digitize Indonesia’s entire research industry – including research and data from 122,000 libraries and 7,000 academic journals, Neliti has already begun to achieve its vision of an open access Indonesia. They actively cooperate with universities and government bodies to upload their data and research collections whilst encouraging individual academics to submit their findings to their institutional repositories, which are subsequently indexed by Neliti.
Their repository management software is used by over 400 Indonesian institutions, providing free online access to around 200,000 academic publications and datasets. These institutions include think tanks, NGOs and government departments along with universities operating in the region.
While the benefits of open source access have been well documented, a central repository for research and data in Indonesia also benefits the nation’s development goals. It means innovative and critical research produced by Indonesian institutions is more likely to reach an international audience, strengthening Indonesia’s research standing globally. Even remote researchers and students can profit from the ability to search the collected body of Indonesian research from one convenient website.
As the adoption of open access continues to grow, the debate over the accessibility of academic research will continue. It’s time for academia to stop resisting chance and embrace its own creation by joining the rest of the 21st Century in the digital world. With its expansive research and publishing industry and a geographically dispersed population, Indonesia could lead the way in revolutionizing the academic publishing industry.
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