Nairobi — Research and academic communities in the developing world are set to benefit from free access to online books.
Global academic publishing company John Wiley & Sons has made 12,200 online books available via the Research4Life initiatives - Access to Research in Health (HINARI), Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture and Online Access to Research in the Environment - to 80 low and middle-income countries.
Emily Gillingham, chair of Research4Life's Executive Council, tells SciDev.Net that access to these books could help researchers develop better and more informed scientific writing skills; produce focused research that can be discussed with top researchers worldwide; compete more effectively for research funding; and deliver better teaching programmes.
"The books are empowering universities, colleges, research institutes and government ministries as well as non-governmental agencies and hospitals, with access to scientific knowledge," Gillingham says.
"They span a broad range and ... the list is growing each month - for example 600 books from the American Geophysical Union will be added in March," says Gillingham.
She adds that, for example, almost 6,000 of the titles are in the fields of chemistry, physical sciences and engineering; 1,200 are medical, nursing and related health titles; and 2,000 are related to life sciences, agriculture and food science.
Examples of the books included are Basic Guide to Dental Sedation Nursing; Textbook of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology; and Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics.
The Wiley Online Books Collection includes handbooks, dictionaries, companions, encyclopedias and landmark book series from authors and researchers in the life, health and physical sciences, social sciences and the humanities.
Mohamed Atani, officer-in-charge of the publishing unit in the Division of Communication and Public information at UNEP (the UN Environment Program) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, says: "Our goal with Research4Life is to provide and support quality research in developing countries in order to advance higher education, inform public policy decisions and ultimately improve quality of life".
Atani says that the initiative will enable accessibility to electronic books at no cost to developing countries and equip researchers in places like Africa with information on agriculture and the environment. "The books are very important to universities and policymakers, providing them with information crucial in research and decision-making".
The Wiley and Sons announcement was made last month (6 February).
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.