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  • Editor's ForewordOpen Access to LARR for Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Philip Oxhorn

On behalf of Latin American Research Review's Editorial Committee and the Executive Committee of the Latin American Studies Association, I am pleased to announce that, beginning with this issue, anyone residing in Latin America or the Caribbean will be able to access all current and past LARR issues free of charge through the LASA and LARR Web site. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first among our peer journals to offer this service.

The impetus behind this initiative, which was developed in close collaboration with LASA Executive Director Milagros Pereyra-Rojas and the open-access consultant Enrique Mu, came from the 2009 LASA Congress in Rio de Janeiro. The LARR-sponsored panel "Publishing Your Research" generated a lively discussion of the value of open-access publications to promoting the free exchange of knowledge. This is particularly true for Latin America and the Caribbean, given the scarcity of resources there. For example, subsequent research showed that only 4 percent of universities in Latin America and the Caribbean had access to all LARR issues through their institutional membership to LASA. This very small percentage is complemented by the access that 2.4 percent of these institutions had to back issues of LARR through Project MUSE and the 17.7 percent that offered their students and faculty the opportunity to purchase individual articles from back issues through their participation in JSTOR. In addition, of course, the slightly more than two thousand LASA members who resided in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2009 also enjoyed access to LARR. Nevertheless, it is clear that the vast majority of scholars in Latin America and the Caribbean simply are excluded from using the important research published in LARR.

The ideal solution to this problem would be open access for all, allowing any interested person, anywhere in the world, the opportunity to download articles of interest free of charge. The problem, however, is cost: who will pay? Although LARR is in a unique situation compared with similar journals—as it is the flagship journal of LASA and individual and institutional LASA memberships pay for most of its subscriptions— [End Page 3] open access would still be cost prohibitive. This is because LASA receives substantial revenues from royalties with Project MUSE, in particular, and JSTOR. These royalties would disappear with open access. There are other nonmonetary elements of risk as well. Open-access initiatives are still very new, and we know little about their potential implications, both positive and negative. Any such initiative by LARR is also risky, because LARR would be the first among its peer journals to do so. Restricting open access to residents of Latin America and the Caribbean should be viewed as a compromise and a strategic experiment; we are trying to address a real need at the same time that we are seeking to minimize risks and understand the larger implications of open access for possible future LARR initiatives. Although we have tested the feasibility of open access and have attempted to ensure that it is consistent with the various copyright and indexing agreements LARR currently has, we will carefully monitor this going forward.

The new open-access policy is also made possible by another new policy of the LASA Executive Committee: this issue will be the last that is automatically mailed to individuals and institutions located in Latin America and the Caribbean. For several years, we have been aware of the economic drain that mailing hard-copy issues of LARR to addresses in Latin America and the Caribbean entails for LASA. The average cost of printing and mailing LARR to that region is $80 per member, although individual membership fees for Latin American and Caribbean residents are between $27 and $53, depending on one's income level. This means that LASA effectively loses between $27 and $53 dollars for each of the more than two thousand members in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is obviously a substantial amount of funds. The resulting savings not only will make open access feasible for all of the region but also will free up more money...


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