Archives for Africa and beyond

01 March 2006

Katharine Sanderson/London, UK

The RSC yesterday announced free access to its journals back-catalogue in over 50 developing countries, the first learned society to make such a gesture.

The launch of the programme Archives for Africa in London, UK, was preceded last week by an announcement by RSC president Simon Campbell at the inaugural meeting of the Federations of African Societies of Chemistry in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for international development, who attended the launch, told Chemistry World that the archive would help developing countries build their science capacity. Societies need a spirit of scientific enquiry if they are to develop, Benn said.

The RSC archive contains every paper published in its journals in over 160 years - from 1841 to 2004. The programme for the enhancement of research information, (Peri), is helping host the archive. The archive is also available to a number of developing countries outside Africa. 

For a nominal fee, the latest two years of RSC content can also be accessed. 'In any initiative there has to be an African pull as well as Western push, Campbell told Chemistry World. Campbell says the RSC is building on the UK government's stated intention to build science and technology capacity in Africa, following the publication of the Commission for Africa's report on 11 March 2005.

Hilary Benn agreed that developing countries will need support in order to benefit from the archive . 'It's not the solution but it's a really worthwhile contribution,' he said.

Hareg Tadesse, a PhD student from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, said the archive is cause for celebration in Ethiopia, where she routinely encountered problems accessing research articles. Tadesse is currently at Nottingham University, UK, for one year of her PhD project. The archive will help both students and researchers, she told Chemistry World

Peter Licence at the University of Nottingham, who works with Tadesse, is also a visiting professor at Addis Ababa University. Ethiopia has a strong research programme in natural product chemistry, he said. Ethiopia must now focus on developing continuity in its education, said Licence, by retaining indigenous teachers in universities, and by centralising policies such as the dates of terms in the academic year.