The International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), based on the Technopark campus here, is poised to take its first step into open-access publishing. The centre is set to release the Journal of Free Software and Free Knowledge on Monday, representing the next stage in the free software movement.

Talking to The Hindu, Satish Babu, director, ICFOSS, said open-access publication provided an answer to the problems posed by copyright restrictions in the conventional method of publishing.

A recent development in the domain of scholarly publishing, open-access publication aims at providing free, instant, global, and indexed access to published literature, without compromising on its quality. It encourages widespread access, use and reuse, with or without modification, of the original work, while maintaining the integrity of the original material and the rights of its author. Open-access publication is enabled by the Internet and Web technologies.

“The traditional scholarly publishing model restricts access to the published content based on the instrument of copyright, allowing access to the full material only on the payment of a fee. The system continues even after the explosive growth of the Internet with the full-text ‘searchability' of scholarly papers,” Mr. Babu said. “The copyright mechanism creates asymmetries of information access that result in impeding the progress of scholarly work.”

Advantages

Listing the advantages of open-access publishing, he said instant and full access would result in higher usage and citation for the author, bring down the publishing cycle, and provide online mechanisms for fair, transparent, and quick peer review. It would also encourage interdisciplinary research and create a level playing field for all users, removing the barriers of fee, access, and geography. The liberal licensing mechanisms used in open access publishing encouraged reuse of work with or without modification, while crediting the original author.

ICFOSS would take the initiative to offer technical support to companies willing to start open-access journals in different disciplines.

Ramachandran Thekkedath, Vice-Chancellor, Cochin University of Science and Technology, will launch the Journal of Free Software and Free Knowledge at a function at Hotel Mascot here at 11 a.m. on Monday. C. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, Economic and Political Weekly, Mumbai, will deliver the keynote address.

FOSS anniversary

The launch of the open-access journal has been timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary celebrations of FOSS in India, marked by a series of FOSS-centric programmes in the State and outside. A seminar on ‘ICT and Climate Change,' scheduled for November, is one of the major events to be organised by ICFOSS in association with the Centre for Earth Science Studies as part of the anniversary. The celebrations will culminate with a conference on ‘Free Software, Free Society' here in December.

Mr. Babu said the wide acceptability gained by the FOSS movement in the State was the inspiration for new initiatives in open access, open standards, and free knowledge. “With the academic freedom to carry out our mandate, we hope to become an international model in FOSS that can be replicated elsewhere.” He said Thiruvananthapuram had acquired the title of the capital of free software in India because of the conducive atmosphere provided by Kerala polity.

He said virtual microenterprises that obviated the need for big teams under one roof could become self-sustaining communities in the State. ICFOSS, he said, was involved in efforts to create a critical mass of trained manpower that would stimulate, not generate employment, through free software initiatives. “Our attempt is to create a FOSS ecosystem involving various sections of society such as employees, teachers and students.”

He said the proposed notification by the Union Department of Information Technology making it mandatory for all hardware used in e- governance projects to be accompanied by free software drivers would remove a major obstacle to the growth of a FOSS-based regime in the country. Highlighting the need for an open hardware policy for tablet PCs that would help avoid the problem of hardware obsolescence, he said ICFOSS could offer R&D support in developing FOSS-based solutions for ‘immediate computing.'

An IT consultant, designer, developer, and trainer for nearly two decades, Mr. Babu is an active proponent of Open Source Technologies and is the convener, Special Interest Group of the computer Society of India on Free and Open Source Software (SIG-FOSS). He is the Chair of IEEE (Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Kerala Section, and the Asia-Pacific coordinator for the Geographic Unit Operations Committee, IEEE Computer Society (2009, 2010, 2011). He is also the co-founder and executive secretary of the Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE), an inter-disciplinary society with participation of the State government.