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Free Scientific Information to Developing Nations
Taran Rampersad, 14 Apr 04

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Via email, I received a press release that merits posting here at WorldChanging.com. I could not find the press release on any sites, but I trusted the source enough (the Digital Divide mailing list of the Benton Foundation) to do some research. A brief visit to the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences (PNAS)
site from here in Trinidad and Tobago. I seem to have full access as described in the following press release, and the embedded document it references.


Date: April 5, 2004
Contacts: Vanee Vines, Media Relations Officer
Heather McDonald, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The National Academies now offer free online access in more than 100 developing countries to the reports of the Academies, as well as to journal articles from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The goal is to help developing countries tackle challenges such as disease, hunger, and economic transition with enhanced scientific knowledge.

"Elevating global science and technology capacity is critical because of a growing gap between industrialized nations and the developing world in the formation and use of new technologies," said Bruce Alberts, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. "As industrialized nations with financial resources and a trained scientific work force exploit new knowledge and technologies more intensively, developing countries that lag in S&T capacity fall further and further behind."

This National Academies initiative stems from heightened interest among scientists around the world in the institution's work and in scientific and technical information in general. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences is a member of the InterAcademy Panel (IAP), a worldwide network of 90 science academies that counsel governments and everyday citizens on major global issues such as sustainable development and infectious disease. The IAP has identified equitable access to scientific information and bridging the "digital divide" as major
priorities. And it designated April as the time to begin setting and implementing national science agendas that were recommended in a major report issued by the IAP's InterAcademy Council in February at the United Nations. The report, Inventing a Better Future: A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and Technology, is available online at <http://www.interacademycouncil.net/streport>.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a multidisciplinary journal that covers the biological, physical, and social sciences. It is printed weekly and publishes new content online each business day. Ranked by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the world's most-cited scientific serials, PNAS Online receives more than 1 million hits each week. Since January 2002, PNAS has offered developing countries free online access to the research articles, commentaries, and reviews published in the journal, which are now available free of charge in more than 130 countries, listed at <http://www.pnas.org/misc/faq.shtml#developing>. This access allows international scholars and others to benefit from this scientific
information immediately.

The National Academies Press (NAP) now allows readers in most developing
countries to obtain Academies reports free from the NAP Web site in portable document format (PDF). Eligible nations are listed at <http://www.nap.edu/info/faq_dc_pdf.html>. In the first two months of this year, NAP gave away 15,600 books and 6,500 individual chapters to people in these nations. In addition, NAP's site will soon feature special "subject portals" on topics such as drought and water sciences, which are of particular interest in the developing world.

Goverdhan Mehta -- co-chair of the InterAcademy Council, president-elect
of the International Council for Science, and former president of the Indian National Science Academy -- considers the National Academies' outreach efforts to be invaluable. "Developing nations in particular cannot afford to be without access to credible, independent scientific and technological information," he said.

The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.

This is really interesting - not just of the fact that the information is made available to developing countries - but how it is done. By sensing the IP address of the machine being used to browse the site, it opens access - instead of what is normally done, which is closing access.

Definitely a move toward a more Free and Educated Society.

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