Access to scientific papers at risk for Serbia’s researchers

Researchers in Serbia are facing reduced access to scientific literature after funding cuts to the national portal KoBSON, run by a consortium of some of its largest libraries, which has become the main access point for research institutions over the past 11 years of its existence.

Instead of New Year’s greetings, KoBSON, which is financed solely though the state budget, announced its problems publicly on 27 December, in response to concern from users over the previous few months.

In the statement, KoBSON said its budget had already seen an 11% reduction in 2012 compared with 2011 – and it had only received around 75% of that reduced budget – adding that it had been kept in the dark over its 2013 allocation.

As a result, it was forced to stop some subscriptions and it lost access to at least one source.

Although the rest of the 2012 budget was paid this month, allowing KoBSON to cover outstanding fees to publishers, funding for 2013 and beyond remains uncertain, according to Biljana Kosanović, coordinator of KoBSON at the National Library of Serbia.

“We are looking for money all over the place – I am not optimistic that we will be successful,” says Kosanović.

Previously, most of KoBSON’s funding came from the ministry of science, but with budget cuts, the plan now is to get more ministries involved in funding, according to Kosanović.

She says the 2013 allocation will be announced in March. “We will definitely survive, but it’s unknown at what level.”

In its statement, KoBSON claims that the joint access it provides (as a consortium of the country’s seven leading scientific libraries, including the National Science Academy’s library) is the most economical, as the costs of licenses and subscriptions would be much higher if institutes and libraries subscribed individually.

For example, the cost to download an individual article via KoBSON is just 0.72 Euros compared to five Euros for an inter-library loan or 30 Euros to purchase an article, it says.

In 2012, almost two million articles were accessed via KoBSON, with increasing use of databases such as Web of Science, SciFinder and Scopus, and it saw around 6,000 visitors a day.

The “substantial reductions in funding” the consortium is seeing will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction in the academic community and reduced access to academic sources, the statement says.

KoBSON appealed to the relevant ministries to “make an extra effort and ensure necessary means for continuation of subscriptions to services offered via KoBSON”.

Mićo Tatalović

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