Scholarly Publishing Initiatives at the International Rice Research Institute: Linking Users to Public Goods via Open Access

*Albert Borrero, Communication and Publications Services, IRRI; *Mila Ramos, Library and Documentation Services, IRRI; *Gene Hettel, Communication and Publications Services, IRRI; Sylvia Katherine Lopez, Communication and Publications Services, IRRI


Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines, generate a huge volume of research results emanating from multi-donor-funded projects on rice and rice-related subject matter. In rice research, as in other fields, there is a strong push to provide free open access to these vital information resources in a variety of modes that are convenient to researchers located in both the developing and developed world. The main objective is to disseminate, as widely possible, the results of IRRI’s research on rice, a crop, which feeds nearly half of the world’s 6.6 billion inhabitants.

Currently, some instruments for open access are already in place at IRRI, such as links to full-text publications posted on the institute’s Web site (, especially via the Library branch site (, the Rice Knowledge Bank (, and publications catalog ( The joint initiatives of the Library and the institute’s main science publishing units, particularly Communication and Publications Services and the Training Center, typify a convergence of practices in information and publishing management to overcome hurdles that both activities face.

This paper demonstrates how the links between these two fields in the middle of the scholarly publishing chain can bridge the gap between public goods (knowledge about rice in this case) and the intended primary users, namely researchers and extensionists in the national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) in the developing countries that IRRI serves.

This paper also discusses the publishing processes and models in a donor-driven international research organization that delivers public goods. To meet their mission, organizations such as IRRI must seek a range of demand and supply models for scholarly publications in its value-added chain. Open access publishing is one model—among others—to adopt. But first, the onus is to overcome obstacles such as intellectual property rights, dwindling funds, and connectivity to name just three major ones.

Donors, IRRI’s NARES partners, governments, and finally rice farmers and consumers expect public institutions such as IRRI to create and share information for the common good. Public institutions are currently caught up in an information delivery transition from traditional paper to electronic files over the Internet. Even though we are in the digital age, not everyone is connected. Information that will provide impact to IRRI’s constituent clients must be delivered to them through whatever open access form that is appropriate and useful, being it “cutting edge” digital versions or traditional “books-on-the-shelf” hard copies. This paper addresses this dilemma and will hopefully encourage thinking to optimize the enabling power that can be provided by open access publishing.

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