Interview with Abel Packer


Picture: Eduardo Cesar – FAPESP

This year the SciELO Program celebrates 15 years of continuous, regular operation and will host the SciELO 15 Years Conference and Meeting of the SciELO Network to be held this October in São Paulo. The conference and meeting will serve as a milestone and forum of the accomplishments achieved by the SciELO program and the challenges it faces in its priority lines of action.

The SciELO in Perspective blog will publish posts about these issues and this 15 year celebration. For this blog’s debut, we interviewed Abel Packer, one of the founders of SciELO and current Coordinator of the SciELO / FAPESP Program and Advisor of Information and Communication in Science at Fap-Unifesp. The main goals of the interview were to find out from Abel the determining factors for the success of SciELO, his expectations for the SciELO 15 Years Conference and the sustainability of the SciELO program.

1. The SciELO program completes 15 years with much to celebrate. What is the main reason for the success of SciELO?

SciELO developed and established itself as an integral part of the research infrastructure of the countries where it operates, focusing on the goal of contributing to the improvement of quality journals that communicate an important part of national research. This is the main reason for its success. SciELO was born as a FAPESP Program and remains as such. SciELO is implemented through national journal collections that operate in a network.  CONICYT in Chile adopted the SciELO model soon after the launch of the Brazilian collection which began with a collection of ten journals in a pilot project. The collections in Brazil and in Chile initiated the formation of the SciELO Network. The SciELO collections are led and maintained by institutions related to national agencies that support research. These institutions perform the publishing and multi-lingual indexing of quality national and regional journals in all disciplines that are in the SciELO collections. SciELO indexing complements international indices and represents a seal of quality, resulting in SciELO journals being recognized as journals of standing in which researchers publish their results and as recognized sources of information for national research evaluation programs and programs that support journals.

2. Are there other reasons for the success of SciELO?

Another reason is the pioneering spirit and scope of SciELO’s proposal to improve the quality and increase the visibility, usage and impact of journals. SciELO integrated the functions of indexing, journal performance evaluation, online open access publication and dissemination following international standards. Interoperability with search engines, bibliographic indexes, and products and services for scholarly information contributed to a notable increase in the number of page views and downloads. This functionally integrated approach solved a number of problems. In recent years, SciELO expanded its functions as a publisher and progressively of its services to cover all editorial processes.

As the third reason for success, I mention the combination of strategy and operating model. The strategy aims to democratize access to scientific knowledge based on open access, and to strengthen and expand scholarly communication infrastructure and skills. The developmental and operational model is based on the rationales of libraries and networks. This combination of strategy and operational model was formulated by BIREME in the Guide of the Virtual Health Library (VHL) and the networks associated with the VHL, such as SciELO Network. The rationale of the library guides the development of the SciELO collections which incorporates quality control to better serve users. The collections maximize the performance of journals and articles. The principles of the network, applied to the cooperation amongst institutions and people, contributes to the rationalization of work, processes and resources, as well as to the exchange of experiences which, when applied to contents, maximize their visibility and availability on the Web.

3. The SciELO 15 Years Conference has a comprehensive program in scholarly communication. What is the expectation in terms of results and of the opportunities to advance SciELO?

The conference program deals with current and global issues in scholarly communication which are crucial to the development of SciELO, for example, the role of public policies, the assessment of the quality of research and journals, the status of the open access movement, trends and innovations in general and in particular in the editorial management of journals, and in the products and services supporting scholarly communication. The expectation is that the analysis, discussion and contextualization of these issues at the conference may contribute to updating our community of publishers, editors, researchers and professionals involved with indexing, editing, publication, dissemination and evaluation of academic journals. We expect that a large number of editors and editorial boards of SciELO journals will actively participate in the conference.

A meeting of the coordinators of the SciELO Network of journal collections will take place on October 22nd. On the agenda are discussions to approve measures to further the quality control of collections and journals, and the adoption of common services in editing and academic publishing with the purpose of broadening a publisher’s as a SciELO publisher.

4. SciELO pioneered the adoption of open access through the so called gold road by publishing open access journals without any embargoes. In developed countries the advancement of open access is addressed by business models that maintain a financial return for commercial publishers and academic societies. How does SciELO foresee the future sustainability of its publishing model and open access?

In Latin America the issue of open access is solved. The vast majority of quality journals are open access, indexed in SciELO and supported by a variety of financial resources. Except for a few journals that returned to a commercial business model, the trend is in consolidating and improving the business models for open access adapted to the conditions of each country. SciELO’s strategy is to minimize fixed editing and publishing costs by providing a set of common services to journals. We are progressing towards having minimum prices for the services that meet international criteria. In general, the budgets of the journals will remain supported by a mixture of funding sources which include the institutions responsible for the journals, grants from funding agencies, article processing charges and so on. However, special projects shall fund the development of journals of international standing.


[Reviewed – 18 July 2013]


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