Accidental open access and the hazards involved First Monday

Accidental open access and the hazards involved: Preliminary experiences on Internet-based publishing in a Peruvian university by Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla

The importance of Open Access for developing academic and scientific research is beyond discussion. On the other hand, it is also certain that most OA initiatives have arisen from the academic communities of the developed world, assuming a whole set of practices and an ethos that is not necessarily shared all around the world. As an example of these differences, the case of a casual and non-intended approach to Open Access distribution of content, as it has happened in the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú from 2000, is presented. A significant amount of information, both administrative and academic, has been published at the institutional Web site. This has happened without formal policy, and by individual initiatives of departments interested in distributing content of potential interest for the Peruvian academic community. There are some misgivings about the end results, the appropriation of the information outside of this University itself; this is consequence of specific cultural and social attitudes toward digital content and the way that the Internet has been socially shaped in Peru. This paper tries to explore both the de facto policies that should had been turned into formal ones, and the consequences of the informal nature of the relationship with content and the cultural prevalence of intellectual piracy, not to be confused with real, for-profit content piracy. The research and policy issues resulting are also discussed.


What is open access? Answering by context
Why accidental? Discovering usage
Real demand and absence of policy
Developing real open access: Less beer, more speech

What is open access? Answering by context

There is a valid debate about the exact nature of open access (OA). Paraphrasing Willinsky's (2005) discussion of open source software, open access is like free beer most of the time for most of its users, since "it's the Web and is free", as stated by Esposito (2004), while for many, it is a matter of free speech, since everybody has a right to both talk and listen, but costs are involved. Figuring out what open access means should be a relevant argument, especially based on the realities of developing nations. This paper attempts to draft some concepts about specific instances of OA and will try to generalize from them, at least for a specific Latin American reality.

Risking an overextension of metaphors, there is something else to be explored regarding the free nature of OA in areas like Latin America. Not only free speech is only recently acknowledged as a human right, repressed through many decades, and still denied by social exclusion and utter poverty to many. It may be said that while everybody loves free beer, not everyone understands exactly the complete ramifications of this particular kind of freedom, nor does everyone appreciate the costs involved for all to have free speech.

First things first: it is impossible to generalize about Latin America without making large simplifications. Even in a region like this, with an enormous cultural, linguistic and economic homogeneity, realities change just as borders are crossed. But the specificity of a country like Peru has to be understood under the light of the access situation in the region of which it is a part, this largely difficult to define area known as Latin America.

Latin America has over 550 million people speaking two largely mutually intelligible languages, Spanish (Castillian) and Portuguese [1]; spoken variations are a hindrance to day-to-day communication but the written form of both languages is accessible with ease for educated people. Big territories with relative small population densities, a common past and similar economies, and the biggest inequality [2] in the world. The expansion of higher education in the mid-twentieth century, together with the urbanization process, brought a significant enlargement to the academic sector; however, this change has not necessarily brought a transformation of the whole fabric of academic and research in the region.

Now, at least in this specific realm of human activity, differences are more important than similarities. It is not right to equate countries like Brazil, with its large, state-driven research sectors, or Argentina, where sizable bookstores are a constant in the downtown area of major cities, with countries like Peru, where there is little local book production and the research sector is minimal. It is possible to assert that while the regional leaders like Brazil, Mexico and less so Argentina, Colombia and maybe Chile, are able to supply their local demand of textbooks and basic research publication - both from the point of view of the producers of such information and of those that buy it - the rest of the region is dependant on imports from the aforementioned countries, and Spain, to supply its less sizable demand.

This situation creates a significant hurdle to the development of local publishing markets, at all levels. Dependant on the provision of content by the regional powerhouses, with complementary supply from Spain and in some areas demanding English publications, there is little left for local production, geared towards publishing local authors for local needs. That is the case of Peru, where most of the books and journals being published are in the law and jurisprudence areas, demanding local content for obvious reasons, and with a relatively high demand due to the number of legal practitioners [3].

There are also the realities of supply: imported publications are not enough to satisfy the demand of students requiring learning materials, or of academics and scientists looking for publishing outlets. At least in Peru's case, this is quite true. Imported books are caught in a paradox: since they are relatively expensive, not many are imported; as the amounts are small, prices increase. The end result is books (not to mention journals) tend to be very expensive from a purchasing parity point of view.

Before returning to publishing demands, it is important to outline the consequences of the relative high prices of academic publications. The end result is piracy. Not necessarily in the commercial form, as unauthorized, mass-printed copies of books, though this occurs; piracy as the abundance of photocopies, to the point where students and even professors have little else but photocopies as class and research materials. Ultimately, is a question of pricing strategies and expected returns, that is also valid for digital piracy, which is not considered here but that may be working under similar economical assumptions [4]. The widespread presence of photocopies creates particular challenges, but the most relevant for the question of open access is the kind of open access created by them.

There is a certain effect in using "open access" to refer to widespread photocopying; there are reasons for this. First of all, the usual economic logic beneath the publishing industry requires that photocopying is the exception, instead of the rule. The opposite is happening in countries like Peru, with universities, lecturers and libraries looking the other way, and the local copyright agency providing an understanding eye over the situation, having its plate full with for-profit piracy, also widespread in the streets and shops of Peru. Also, the recourse to photocopies weakens the "authority" factor in bibliographic collections available at libraries, since there is less recourse to libraries and more to mandatory reading as defined by lecturers, making visits to libraries less necessary.

Openness is here seen as availability of materials, taken from a small subset of all the information actually in libraries. For some universities, the need for collection development and participation in some international learning networks still demand that collections are to be strengthened, even if usage is less than expected or desired. For many other institutions, libraries and information are just what is available for photocopying, or downloading.

...libraries and information are just what is available for photocopying, or downloading.

Downloading information from the Internet appears as an extension of photocopying. No matter how much is said about the realities of the ever increasing amount of information being created in the world, for most students information equates information available from easily accessible sources. No research is needed. This happens almost everywhere, even in universities working under the pretense of following international standards. In this situation, it is possible to say that open access, as in the need for openness in publishing the results of research and sharing it with the world, is non-existent. Open access, as in free beer (or really cheap beer), albeit from few, not necessarily up to date brews, rules.

This situation has a couple of significant problems: first of all, the absence of enough publishing outlets for academics to further their status. Mertonian structures of academic measurement of achievement (Merton, 1996) are not quite common at college level, since many tenured positions are reached on the basis of teaching abilities alone, with little consideration into research abilities and merits. Also, there is little support for research as such nor teaching responsibilities waived or diminished for the upper echelon of academics. This means that just a small percentage of lecturers and researchers need to publish. Most of those needing publication are involved in internationally financed research, or are interested in positioning themselves as regionally or internationally authorities in their fields of expertise, or for consideration to attend international conferences. But for this small group, the absence of local outlets is an issue, not easily solved through Latin American publications, of which there aren't necessarily enough. Core international journals demand a set of abilities outside of the reach of many Peruvian academics, command of English notwithstanding.

Compounding the problem, a dependency on photocopies and Internet downloads brings to the forefront the issue of content relevant to the Peruvian situation itself. At some level, many of social sciences and humanities studies require some locally produced content, at least to discuss Peruvian conditions in history, language, culture, society and economics. Even if a great deal of in-depth research about Peru appeared in journals and books produced abroad (this is not the case), the particular development of access to documentation and information would somehow make it difficult for those requesting it to get a hold of actual publications. This is particularly acute outside of Lima, Peru's capital, since income differences and difficulties of distribution make it hard to supply local bookstores and libraries with Peruvian publications.

Hence, there is a large problem with the economics of academic publishing in Peru. While there is some demand for locally produced content, there are few if any incentives to supply this demand. But there is also another dimension, the origins of funding. As already mentioned, a significant source of financing is international NGOs and foundations, supporting basic and applied research. These sources tend to provide for publication as an end product of research, creating a steady supply of books (and sometimes, journals), that do not have to be actually sold to recoup investment. Many universities with publishing divisions also produce books and journals for "prestige" reasons, and to establish themselves as leaders in their respective fields, with publications seen as loss leaders towards other ends. Without a significant commercial reason, but for publications in law and jurisprudence, most of these publications are expected to sell slowly and without financial gain for the publishing house or the author.

Free access to information, through photocopying or using facsimile prints made by publishing "pirates", is a certain kind of free beer ...

Free access to information, through photocopying or using facsimile prints made by publishing "pirates", is a certain kind of free beer; there is a price to pay in terms of free speech. Information seems too easy to get a hold of; it is not the result of hard work, intellectual or otherwise, but just a response to very specific needs. No return seems to be necessary, especially social return, since obtaining freebies does not require to commit to participation in a dialog of peers, as education, research and learning is usually understood.

The widespread availability of the Internet in Peru makes the issues just discussed into something larger and more unwieldy. Seen as an essentially free resource by many Peruvians, even in the academic and research communities, the Internet could be a wonderful leverage to the shortcomings of conventional publication, and a boon to all the authors looking after outlets to promote its academic achievements. But the situation is not that clear-cut, as the example of the almost casual, accidental open access in the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú points out.



Why accidental? Discovering usage

Since late 1999/early 2000 (dates are not recalled with precision), the Economics department of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) started to provide full access to research papers and reports, produced regularly as part of research contracts (see From 2001, the Philosophy section of the Humanities department, together with the Philosophy seminar at the Riva-Agüero Institute, has also done so, with some non-periodical journals being uploaded and a dissemination site on Peruvian philosophy online (see Most of the online publications of other departments of the University are index pages with links to professional sites or blog-like discussion. There is also an online general-interest journal, Palestra, covering public and policy affairs (

All of these sites have been successful, at least if measured by monthly hits. The economics site is well over 80,000 hits a month (downloads are not tracked) and the philosophy site is well over 20,000 hits; most of the hits come from Peru, not from inside the university or from abroad. For instance: if googled, the Filosofia en el Perú site appears as the main link for "Filosofia AND Peru".

This appears as a testament to demand: there is need of a steady supply of content about Peruvian issues, provided by Peruvians. In this case, the decision of publishing online, without any strings attached but for the use of pdf files, has brought success.

...there is need of a steady supply of content about Peruvian issues, provided by Peruvians.

Or has it not? Success has to be measured by internal success, i.e. the relationship between intended goals and end results, and external success, the share of the marketplace achieved, maybe in this particular case measured as mind share in the marketplace of ideas. The contention of this paper is that the absence of open access policy and the particularities of the economics of publishing in Peru mean that success is, at the most, lukewarm.

First of all, the open access provided is accidental, as in unintended. There is no political decision of providing open access but just to allow for quick access without incurring further costs of printing and distribution, and the uncertainty of actually selling the documents if it comes to that. Real open access is a policy designed both to overcome limitations created by commercial concentration and overreaching intellectual property, as well as a tool for dissemination information beyond the limits of the printed page. On the other hand, this kind of accidental open access is more or less an afterthought and not a policy. Differentiating between them is not just academic sensibility: the logic behind the first demands subordination of economics to policy, as well as a steady commitment to the actual openness created by the initial decision. The second is just something that happens, an isolate dependent on the good will of those involved.

If an institution decides to play by the open access rules, it may be assumed that any retreat from this position will result in a backlash, with all the associated consequences, unless a precise and acceptable rationale is provided. In this case, open access turns into a wonderful straitjacket that demands from suppliers and consumers alike respect for the rules, both of openness and of intellectual property and propriety agreed upon the initial transaction. In the case of accidental open access, suppliers may cut the supply whenever they feel the need to, without incurring any significant social penalty. This is obviously even truer if the initiatives are at the department level, instead of an institutional policy.

Finally, while for many the question of open access does not include what happens with information when it is used by the patrons/readers, at least for the case described here the usage dimension should be part of the discussion. Why is that? Because we are facing usage patterns shaped on situated social practices of access and consumption of information, that include the aforementioned widespread, uncritical usage of photocopied materials and of downloaded Internet files. From this perspective, it may postulated a significant consequence arising from the different logic beneath these two approaches: open access is usually an strategy to increase access to materials steeped in academic traditions. Accidental open access in Peru is just like that, so the materials downloaded from the economics and philosophy departments are treated just like photocopies or the ready-made essays taken from (lazy guy's corner). They end up reinforcing social practices that are prevalent in academic activities of the countries where OA is happening.

This should not be a surprise, since the reasons for promoting OA in the first place were precisely those of the grand tradition of academic life: enhanced access would bring opportunities for developing better science, creating more knowledge, and finally bringing a better life for us all. This has been stated, for instance, in the consultation process of the Adelphi Charter (2005), "the social benefits that flow from education and the free flow of knowledge are undoubted". OA is a tool, not an end product, towards the social good; the consequences of its development in the publishing industries and the international scientific community and institutions, while potentially disrupting, are welcome, since in the end, OA provides for us all.

To connect these two issues, it is necessary to return to the second measure of success: in terms of mind share and leadership, it is more or less evident that a high level of demand means a high level of usage, and success of the providers into putting their ideas and concepts in the minds of the users. At the same time, there has not been any increase of publication at the institutions that housed those reading the materials downloaded from the departmental sites. So there seems to be a successful spreading of ideas while no further elaboration or discussion of these ideas is forthcoming. A quick survey of Peruvian university Web sites shows that there hasn't been an increase or even a start of publication, electronic or conventional, at these institutions.

It would be quite risky to propose any kind of explanation for this based just on a few disconnected facts. But there is at least the set of patterns of consumption of information discussed earlier, that may serve as a clue towards drafting an explanatory hypothesis. If these materials are being downloaded for the same purposes that photocopied books or freely available documents from the Internet are being used today, there should not be any reason to expect anything different than the same set of social practices currently happening; so, a very uncritical usage of information about Peru, coming from this specific example of OA publishing by accident, is the consequence.



Real demand and absence of policy

There are two main issues springing from this discussion. First, it is valid and necessary to discuss the pertinence of OA, by design instead by accident, as a resource for education, science and research, in countries where there is little science and research and where education is not exactly up to international standards. Secondly, it is necessary to speculate on the tweaks needed for OA to work, since the inexistence of locally produced OA works would just draw users towards different sources.

At least from the perspective of this author, analysis of demand is a requisite to understand and propose alternatives. The nature of information demand in countries like Peru has two facets: bibliographic demand, as in reading and research materials for academic purposes, and Internet demand. These two combine to create an aggregated demand that has to be understood to draft policies. The first kind of demand, bibliographic demand, has been roughly explained in this paper, although there is a strong need for figures and data to support the mostly empirical findings so far presented. Internet demand, on the other hand, needs further review.

As it has been explained in previous papers (Villanueva, 2004 and 2005), the Internet in Peru is socially shaped (Williams and Edge, 1996) by the widespread availability of a specific access mechanism, the cabina pública, or commercial telecenter [5].

The Internet in Peru is socially shaped by the widespread availability of a specific access mechanism, the cabina pública, or commercial telecenter.

While there are some Internet access points at public libraries, community centres and city halls in many towns and cities of Peru, they are the exception rather than the rule. Most of access takes place at the cabinas. Small businesses, run by their owners, they are typically a group of computers, between six and twelve, with a printer and scanning facilities, set on an storefront, on a house garage or similar small enclosed space. Only the very top and very end of neighbourhoods do not have a cabina, and they are available all along Peru, even in small towns in the Andes and the Amazon region.

The cabinas are an end in themselves, whereby accessing the Internet is valued without any considerations of opportunity, relevance or even usefulness by the provider, leaving these considerations solely on the hands of the consumer. As a medium for communication, entertainment and some services, the cabina is consumer, not citizen oriented; this affects the characteristics of the Internet in Peru, the so called real divide (Gandy, 2002).

The owner or manager of a cabina has as a main source of income (but not the only source of income) screen time usage fees. Therefore, it is critical to get as many users as computers are available, since competition has made the fees extremely low, while the cost of telecom services has leveled. But this abundance of screens make necessarily for many cabinas to offer complementary services, among which are online gaming, commercial printing, and scanning or digitalizing materials. Based on public demands, specific services define each cabina's profile.

The experience at the cabina is thus defined by their two main sets of users: youngsters, with time on their hands and less pressing uses of the Internet, whose main intent is personal entertainment and leisure; students and young adults, with specific needs and pressed for time, and not necessarily using leisure money for the service, where intent is result-oriented. Also to be included is the demand to communicate with relatives living abroad as economic migrants, that have found that the Internet is the cheapest way for both parties to keep in touch. Many older adults use cabinas because it is the easiest way to contact relatives online in countries where they now live (Colona, 2003).

By extension, the uses of the cabina and the "imagination" of it as a public space will define how the public judges the Internet and its resources, since it is through the "cabina experience" that the Internet is available for most of Peru's urban population. This is seen in cabinas next to universities and senior high institutions, where it is common for students that have home access to the Internet to go for specific activities, like sending their assignments or term papers, at the same time that they are chatting and e-mailing. The cabina is used as a complement, cheaper, more flexible and freer to use than home access, and sometimes also a point for socializing.

Accessing the Internet through the cabinas has situated the Internet as an specific usage made possible by an specific mechanism, a collection of social practices; a large technological system has been implanted into a country where it has been altered by specific social practices, something not uncommon with this kind of system (Hughes, 1987). These practices permeate the whole Internet experience of the Peruvian public. This situatedness makes it impossible for a significant proportion of Peru's population to think about the Internet differently from that of the transient, expedient and result-oriented, fee-based and free-for-all cabina pública.

This situatedness makes it impossible for a significant proportion of Peru's population to think about the Internet differently from that of the transient, expedient and result-oriented, fee-based and free-for-all cabina pública.

The conditions described above are valid for almost all of potential users of the Internet, in Peru, but are more pertinent for the habits and customs of those weaned on the cabina-based Internet. Practices and customs developed at the cabinas are drawn into the university experience, specially if the relative low density of free and accesible connections at university facilities is taken into account [6]. Considering the characteristics of consumption of bibliographic content explained earlier, and the fact that a large proportion of students use cabinas routinely as their main connection to information on the Intneret, it is possible to postulate that the aggregated demand of academic documentation through the Internet is shaped by the combination of social practices developed in different realms, but informed by a similar set of social understanding of knowledge. This postulate should be pertinent for all academic communities, and all countries or regions of the world where such communities exist.

Developing policies for this set of social practices is quite complicated. First of all, it would require that empirical, statistically relevant knowledge on the nature and characteristics of these practices be obtained, something that demands not only research, but first and foremost research questions. If these questions can be asked, then it is necessarily to recognize that open access, being accidental or intended, is going to solve a different set of problems than those open access is designed to confront in the developed world. It is not that the social benefits of accessing knowledge are to be dismissed or discounted; it is that the set of benefits is different, because we are discussing different societies where knowledge plays a different role. Obtaining a degree and securing tenure by teaching are seen as more relevant to academics and students than increasing the stock of public knowledge, especially in an economy like Peru's, where information society industries are weak and investment in R&D negligible [7].

This may serve as an explanation why PUCP has not drafted an OA policy while offering such kind of access to the rest of Peru's academic community: expectations of usage are quite low and economic considerations still outweigh social ones. Materials already financed may be distributed openly, but with such a low expectation regarding the potential of information to transform academic endeavors in Peru, investment on publications require some return, at least economic return; social return is seen as too far away a possibility to be seriously considered [8].

But also, it is possible to propose the following: if OA continues to be experimented with by both by consumers and providers of information, as it currently is in Peru, the divide - between those participating in the international exchange of ideas and those "embedded" in the traditional academic practices of Peru - will grow and become quite difficult to resolve. This is because the accidental kind of OA experienced right now in Peru acts as a sort of "crutch" for those in need of information, without actually challenging the underlying defects of the model, as described earlier. Access will remain open but the alleged benefits of OA as a tool to democratize knowledge will not happen, since OA is actually a new way of developing the traditional, merit-based and peer-reviewed methodology of scientific work, stemming from different economic and commercial assumptions, and not just an easy way to get free books or articles.

Access will remain open but the alleged benefits of OA as a tool to democratize knowledge will not happen ...

A first conclusion is thus possible: accidental OA, as practiced by PUCP, is actually reinforcing the existing social practices of academic work. There is a need to at least consider options for attempting to promote a different set of attitudes, ones that include both the need of students and lecturers to access freely documentation necessary for their work, as well as promotion of production of knowledge and information, in the form of a steady supply of OA materials. Of course, this is a discussion that has to take place in the Peruvian colleges, and conducted by Peruvian academics, if any success is to be expected. Then again, at least some initial considerations towards such a discussion and potential policy outcomes may be presented here, as an attempt to draft a working agenda.



Developing real open access: Less beer, more speech

As stated above, the nature of OA changes together with the institutional and social characteristics of academic and scientific work in a given country or region. The Peruvian case is one of accidental OA, existing as such just as an afterthought, not only by the relative novelty of OA activism, but also due to the nature of information consumption and production in the country. The case of PUCP may be not uncommon, both in other academic institutions of the country and in other countries with a similar set of characteristics.

OA, being part of the academic dynamics of research and publication, tends naturally to be asymmetric. Research is concentrated as well as researchers, who tend to flock in the best funded institutions and publish in core journals. Even if we accept that there is no apparent reason for the current model of academic publishing to be transferred to OA-based dissemination, the asymmetries of funding, resources and traditions/expectations will continue to exist, and there will be more demand than supply.

This situation is even more obvious in the developing world, as the example of PUCP serves to point out. But the asymmetries are complicated by the fact that many students and lecturers in Peru assume that they do not have to critical read and search for new literature, but just use whatever information happens to be available through inexpensive or free sources. Asymmetries here are entrenched in different conceptions of what an academic institution should do and how it should fund or provide for research and publication.

If OA is to become a benefit not only in the short term, as a substitute for proper access to research materials, but fundamentally as a tool for participation in the global scientific dialog, it is necessary to establish policies that face both current and ideal demand. Also, these policies should deal with the asymmetric relationship between the very few suppliers and the quite many consumers, promoting not only the emergence of more suppliers but also a change of the relationship between study and research and access of information, as it exists right now.

Policies in this context mean that OA has to become a formal section of publishing and dissemination policies, for universities and research centers like PUCP. This would be the only way to face the fact that the information being created at universities like PUCP is being used in a one-way transaction, with the same absence of consideration for intellectual property shown when photocopying or buying a pirated book.

This may have the double benefit of providing information for a significant proportion of Peru's academic community as well as offering a window into the intellectual production currently taking place. Seen from this perspective, real, intended OA is potentially the only way that researchers in developing countries have to reach and be reached by the international communities that conduct most of the research and have access to most of the funds. This benefit has not been yet considered when designing publishing strategies.

Real, intended OA is potentially the only way that researchers in developing countries have to reach and be reached by the international communities that conduct most of the research and have access to most of the funds.

Another potential benefit not yet considered: to enhance the exchange between academic communities in Latin America. Sadly, there is little mobility among researchers and lecturers in Latin America, with high costs and few funding opportunities making it easier to study, attend and possibly even publish in the U.S. or Europe than in a Latin American country different to their own. The Internet has brought some relief, allowing better exchanges and cheaper communications, but it has not solved the underlying issues that weaken such exchange in the first place.

Using OA for publishing thus could serve as a great tool for promoting access inside the region, and consequently better academic and scientific work, among different Latin American countries. Just this reason, coupled with the social demand for information inside the country, may be enough to justify OA in universities like PUCP.

However, to fully accomplish the benefits of distributing information among the members of the Peruvian academic community, OA has to be used not only as by-product of research intended for other uses, nor the current attitude towards learning and research condoned. Although OA would probably be asymmetric for the foreseeable future, it should not be this asymmetric. And the asymmetries just discussed are in the end the result of a badly understood relationship between production and consumption of information. While commercialization and commodification of academic and research output has indeed transformed the way university members see their relationship with information, there is still a feeling, put in the forefront of discussion by OA, that information "wants to be free", and that there are and should be ways out of said commercialization. The problem in Latin America is that OA could be seen as the ultimate free beer.

The problem in Latin America is that OA could be seen as the ultimate free beer.

This argument brings a final couple of issues: OA may be considered as a form of fair trade. To allow researchers to give back to the common wealth of knowledge on which their work has its foundations, OA tries to use both new technologies and new social practices to increase the stock of information easily available, and in end, usable for other researchers. In the specific case of accidental OA, as it happens in Peru right now, there is a need to promote not just fair trade but a new mode of production, one that actually helps to change what is not working. OA thus could be revolutionary not only by affirmation of the best traditions of scientific research, but also by promoting new approaches in the countries that need them.

This of course demands a new economic framework for not just access to knowledge but for its production. Widespread piracy of contents, not only commercially oriented but just piracy of usage, denies a solid base for developing scientific activities, since it is quite easy for those that copy liberally bibliographic materials to actually attribute themselves the ideas expressed. This is not the intent of OA, which breaks the economic shackles but respects intellectual attribution, and ultimately helps researchers to obtain further financing and intellectual prestige among their peers. Remedies proposed for solving the concentration and commodification (Ciffolilli, 2004) may work when the agents involved in producing content do want to obtain social returns. Without both the financial coverage provide by publishing, however slight it may be, nor the monetary support of a well-funded public or private supporting mechanism, OA has very little incentives to exist.

This is the case with accidental OA existing at PUCP, and could be the case with many other instances. We have a conundrum: how to make OA work in the absence of any kind of return. How to make free speech, and its exercise, the known reason why we are getting free beer.

Further research is needed, certainly, but at least the first step towards solving any problem is acknowledging it. Establishing real open access, as a policy in universities from the developing world, requires strengthening, not weakening, financial support for research, both for those that are currently doing research, and for creating conditions for its appearance where it does not exist right now. It also demands that current asymmetries of information production are addressed, and compensated at many levels. Finally, research conditions should be enhanced under the obligation of disseminating content through OA.

OA is then just part of the necessary work towards creating a stronger, more creative scientific community in countries like Peru, and it should not be just a sort of left-over charity, an accident of budgets, but a real commitment towards equality and development in nations in sore need of these two values. While open access is a good in itself, it should not be considered an end in itself. Policies, at institutional and national level, should begin from here. End of article


About the author

Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla is Associate Professor in the Department of Communications, at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (
E-mail: evillan [at] pucp [dot] edu [dot] pe.



1. Haiti is the only country of Latin America where the language is different (French). Due to this, Haiti is normally attached to the Caribbean region, with other French-speaking regions.

2. As measured by the Gini coefficient, UNDP, 2005, pp. 270-273.

3. There is little data on book production in South America. According to the International Publishers Association (from

Annual book production in selected countries (number of titles)
  1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Argentina 4,915 6,092 7,365 10,452 12,140 9,511 9,913 11,919 13,156 13,149  
Brazil 13,684 13,893 28,450 33,508 38,253 40,503 41,455 51,460 49,746 43,697 45,111
Chile 2,843 2,656     4,971 1,906 4,975 2,093      
Colombia   2,139 2,420 5,812 6,940 4,686 4,514 6,447 6,351    
Peru           2,646 2,056 3,478      
Spain 42,207 43,896 50,644 49,328 51,048 51,934 50,159 54,943 60,426    
Uruguay 2,026 1,607                  
Venezuela           2,504          

4. As Sundararajan (2004) defines.

5. Parts of the following paragraphs are taken, with some modifications, from my papers just referred.

6. There are no reliable sources on the connectivity density at tertiary education level in Peru. "Computer labs", ostensibly set up for students, are not necessarily accessible to all students under all circumstances. Empirical evidence suggests that most of the students at state-financed universities are regular users of cabinas, mostly due to lack of alternatives at home or campus; residential colleges are very uncommon and mostly reserved for those without any other housing resources, and are not equipped with connectivity facilities nor expected to be places for Internet access.

7. As detailed at CTI (2006).

8. I have not introduced the "prestige" variable in the equation. As it is the case in many countries, Internet publishing is not seen as a mature medium nor as an adequate output for publishing "real" information, as books or journals. This is an inevitable consequence of the "newness" of the Internet. Intentionally, to further my argument, I've decided to discuss mostly other potential explanations, under the assumption that the widespread dissemination of Internet publications will, eventually, transform this attitude; on the other hand, the problems discussed in this paper may not disappear.



Adelphi Charter, 2005. "Mapping the issues, current problems facing creativity, innovation and intellectual property," at

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Editorial history

Paper received 1 May 2006; accepted 17 May 2006.

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Accidental open access and the hazards involved: Preliminary experiences on Internet-based publishing in a Peruvian university by Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla
First Monday, Volume 11, Number 6 — 5 June 2006 (Proceedings of the 2nd First Monday Conference, May 2006, Chicago)

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