In July, APA began allowing students, professors and government officials in countries with a gross national product (GNP) of less than $1,000 per capita free access to all APA journals. APA also partnered with the Canadian Psychological Association and Hogrefe & Huber to allow access to their journals as well. By doing so, APA joined forces with more than 55 other medical and scientific journal publishers-including Blackwell, Elsevier Science and the Nature Publishing Group-that participate in a World Health Organization (WHO) program that provides online access to articles.
"We wanted to make science available to developing countries that couldn't afford to pay for it," says PsycINFO Senior Director Linda Beebe, who notes that the cost to APA in terms of staff time and lost revenues is very low.
Before such access was free, many of these countries had no source for current medical and scientific findings, says Barbara Aronson, who manages the WHO online-access program.
"One-third of the institutions had no subscriptions at all; another third had between two and five active titles," she says. "Can you imagine that for a university, for a medical school?"
Adding psychology journals to the list of available titles could provide developing countries with crucial information on mental and public health issues, says Aronson. For example, government programs to improve the diets of people in West Africa could benefit from the literature on behavior change, she noted. What's more, any attempts to set up treatment programs for people with mental illness will need to refer to the literature on culturally appropriate professional training and treatment for such disorders, she says.
Since the WHO program was launched in 2002, institutions in countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan have used the free journal access. An additional group of countries with GNPs of between $2,000 and $3,000 per capita can gain access to the journal articles for $1,000 a year. And despite the high cost of electricity, paper and Internet access, people in participating universities and government agencies now download about 350,000 articles each month.
"While we are providing access for free, it is not free for them," notes Beebe. "It shows what lengths people will go to get quality scientific information."
APA also provides free journal access to countries most affected by the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia and eastern parts of Africa last December, Beebe notes.