CLACSO e-books, the importance of metadata and Open Access in Latin America

The difficulties in acquiring and offering access to print material during the current COVID-19 crisis has meant that many librarians have re-directed their efforts towards making more online resources available to their readers. Part of the work done by the Latin American and Iberian collections team has concentrated on publications by CLACSO (Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales), a network of 700 research institutions in 52 countries, mainly from Latin America. CLACSO’s catalogue has 2953 open access ebooks, mainly in Spanish and Portuguese, and some of them can be accessed directly from the library’s catalogue, iDiscover, and through the JSTOR platform that hosts them. However, rather disappointingly, metadata for these books was so poor that it could have caused confusion for readers. The vast majority of the nearly 200 records, which were meant to make these books retrievable, often featured little more than a title (sometimes incomplete) and the publisher’s name.

Work has been undertaken to update these records so that readers consulting Cambridge Libraries’ catalogue can access them through more complex and diverse searches, data now being available on authors, editors, subjects, series, contents, bibliography, etc. Click on the images to see enlarged examples here:

A very poor record, with wrong publication year and language

A more complete record where readers can see what the book actually is about.

On the topic of open access, it is worth noting that unlike much of the Global North, Latin America has long had a well-developed, non-commercial open access infrastructure. These platforms have given visibility and discoverability for Latin America’s research output and operate a scholar-led no-APC (Article Processing Charge) publicly funded alternative. They represent an attempt to avoid perpetuating a situation where research results concentrate in ‘mainstream’ journals which lack diverse contributions from developing regions.

The main platforms, which can also be found on Cambridge’s A-Z Database List, are:

  • Redalyc: Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal, with 1310 journals on the social sciences, humanities and sciences. From their website: “Este esfuerzo nacido en el Sur y para el Sur, […], se abre a todas las revistas del mundo que trabajan por un ecosistema de comunicación de la ciencia inclusivoequitativo y sustentable.
  • LA Referencia: “The public science and technology agencies of 9 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru) agreed in 2012 to develop national systems of repositories in each country to coordinate funding, training, and to strengthen regional cooperation. It offers 1,431,703 full-text peer-review articles, theses and research reports”.
  • Librería Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Ciencias Sociales: where CLACSO’s 2953 open access books are hosted and which includes, amongst others, the collections Biblioteca AyacuchoBiblioteca Calas and the very recent Biblioteca Pensar la Pandemia.

    AmeliCA platform: map showing the countries where their published research outputs come from.

  • AmeliCA: “Launched in November 2018, it has been developed as a response to the specific challenges of delivering open access that are faced by countries in Latin America and the Global South”. It offers 79 journals online, 2848 aggregated books, 1136 journals in AURA and 84489 full-text articles in books and journal portals.
  • Latindex: Includes science and technology research journals published in Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal. It also offers information on journals featuring Latin American-focused topics in other parts of the world.
  • SCielo**: Scientific Electronic Library Online. It was created to meet the scientific communication needs of developing countries and provides an efficient way to increase visibility and access to scientific literature. Originally established in Brazil in 1997, today there are 16 countries in the SciELO network and its journal collections, including most Latin American countries plus South Africa and the West Indies.

And a couple of platforms from outside Latin America:

  • DOAJ “is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. It was launched in 2003 at Lund University, Sweden. Today, the independent database contains ca. 12000 open access journals covering all areas of science, technology, medicine, social science and humanities.”
  • OpenEdition (Freemium) is based in France but it offers a range of open access e-books from some institutions in Latin America, such as the Editorial de la Universidad de Río Negro (Argentina) and the Centro de estudios mexicanos y centroamericanos (Mexico), in Spanish (395) and Portuguese (110).

Some further reading on the topic of Latin American open access and the European Plan S, which requires state-funded research to be published in open repositories or journals by 2021:

Plan S and Open Access in Latin America: Interview with Dominique Babini, CLACSO’s open access advisor, posted on the International Science Council website .

** Latin America’s longstanding open access ecosystem could be undermined by proposals from the Global North, by Eduardo Aguado López and Arianna Becerril García, posted on the LSE Impact Blog. Here we learn that “Scielo has made an agreement with Clarivate Analytics to build the Scielo Citation Index, essentially inserting its journals into the system of impact factors and rankings by letting a for-profit company take advantage of information processed with public resources from Latin America”.

The commercial model of academic publishing underscoring Plan S weakens the existing open access ecosystem in Latin America, by Eduardo Aguado López and Arianna Becerril García, posted on the LSE Impact Blog.

Clara Panozzo

3 thoughts on “CLACSO e-books, the importance of metadata and Open Access in Latin America

  1. Dear Dóminique,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Many publishers are providing good quality metadata, which is available for both librarians to retrieve and download into their own library catalogues (if they have the capacity) and for library management system suppliers to harvest. One of the issues is that when certain LMS suppliers take that data, to put it very simply, they appear to disassemble the records and use only part of the data to create new and often much briefer, basic records. These newly created records are then fed into library customers discovery layers, or library catalogues, where they have activated the associated collections. The bibliographic records are often very basic, perhaps containing only a title (and no subtitle), a publisher (but no place or date of publication), and incomplete author or editor information. They are very likely to be completely lacking in subject headings. In this way there is a disconnect between the publisher-supplied metadata and the data that libraries end up including in their catalogues. So although libraries could chose to use the publisher-supplied records direct, this is inevitably a more time consuming process (staff would have to keep an eye out for publisher updates for example). The LMS route is theoretically the most efficient and for most large academic libraries, the only feasible way to manage open access monograph MARC records. The quality of those records though does inevitably cause more work for library staff down the line.

    We are working on another blog post on the issues around OA metadata and library catalogues. We will provide a link to it here once it goes live.

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