The SciELO publication model as an open access public policy

By Abel L Packer1

SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online) was conceived in Brazil in 1997 – 22 years ago now – as an open access, web-based library with a publishing model aiming to index, preserve, improve, and give high visibility to a collection of peer reviewed journals published independently by scientific societies, professional associations, universities and other research institutions.

The model is currently being used by 17 countries that make up the SciELO network of national journal collections with over 1,200 journals publishing 50 thousand new articles per year, only 42% in English, covering all fields, but mainly health sciences, human sciences, applied social sciences and agriculture. The SciELO Network repository has accumulated over 700 thousand open access articles that serve a daily average of 1,2 million downloads according to the COUNTER rules that exclude robots.

SciELO’s key contribution is the recognition of its journals’ relevance to the advancement of research from a global perspective as they communicate basic and, mainly, applied research related to national issues. In one aspect, SciELO serves the academy, and, in another aspect, informs public policies, professional communities, education curricula and general public issues. Together with Professor Rogerio Meneghini, who cofound SciELO with me, we stressed the idea that to do good science also means to make good journals. I am, too, convinced that SciELO and similar journal collections are very much akin to operating within an ideal duality of open science and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SciELO publishing model is driven by the web’s intrinsic characteristics and strengths:

  1. Content disintermediation, which led us to adopt gold open access and CC-BY licenses. During the SciELO 20 Years Conference in 2018, we committed to adopting open science communication practices in the coming three to five years, including the operation of a preprint server, the support to data research management, and the opening of peer review.
  2. Hypertext and interoperability allow for a fully decentralized SciELO Network, which has proven to be highly efficient at promoting national capacity building, sustainability, affordable operation, scale content and visibility, and particularly successful at managing asymmetries. SciELO is a product of hundreds of institutions and thousands of people; research authorities, information professionals, editors, peer reviewers, etc., to serve millions of users.
  3. To be, as much as possible, “independent of the tyrannies”, which allows for networking with voluntary adherence and without any formal agreements, ensuring journal editorial independence and seek out research evaluation and relevance beyond the simplicity of the deus ex-machina journal impact factor ranking.

SciELO has from its very beginning an authoritative research and scientific information status given by the organizations behind the SciELO Network. Let me just make a reference to three of them that pioneered SciELO: São Paulo Research Foundation (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, FAPESP), one of the most important Brazilian research agencies, the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME) of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), and the Chilean National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, CONICYT) that first adopted the model, thus starting the development of the SciELO Network.

In summary, in one dimension, SciELO publishing serves as a framework for the implementation of national public policies for the development of peer-reviewed journals under national conditions while at the same time being part of an international network following the state of art in scientific communication. And, in another, the SciELO Network embodies a program of international cooperation for the progress of research and its open communication with a view towards an inclusive global flow of scientific information that considers the diversity of geographies, thematic areas, cultures, multilingualism and the resulting richness of asymmetries.


1. This post shares the brief description of the SciELO open access publication model presented by Abel L Packer, Director of SciELO, at the 14th Berlin Debate on Science and Science Policy which was themed “Who Owns Science? Reshaping the Scientific Value Chain in the 21st Century”.

External links

14th Berlin Debate on Science and Science Policy <>



FAPESP: São Paulo Research Foundation <>

SciELO 20 Years <> <>

Sustainable Development Goals <>


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

PACKER, A.L. The SciELO publication model as an open access public policy [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2019 [viewed ]. Available from:


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