Thursday, July 9, 2015

News from Greece: open access to pharmaceuticals, not so much for journals

I haven't heard much from Greek chemists, but here's a couple of relevant tidbits. The Greek national academic portal for e-journals has closed access, according to Nature's news outlet (ht @jfreebo, via Bloomberg): 
The Internet portal that provides scientists in many Greek universities and research institutes with access to electronic journals from 27 publishers suspended many of its services on 1 July because the government has not provided the funds to keep it going. Greece’s stormy economic climate has meant that the Hellenic Academic Libraries Link (HEAL-Link) has come close to shutting down multiple times over the past decade. But now faced with the threat of state bankruptcy, scientists are not expecting rescue funds to become available this time around. 
Greece defaulted on a critical debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund on 1 July, and the country's banks had closed to forestall financial panic. A referendum on 5 July on the terms of a proposed bail-out could determine whether Greece will stay in the eurozone. 
“HEAL-Link is particularly vital to universities, which rarely have funds for institutional journal subscriptions,” says molecular biologist Nektarios Tavernarakis, director of the FORTH Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB) in Heraklion, Crete. Like other leading non-university research institutes in Greece, the IMBB has its own subscriptions to relevant journals, so is not as dependent on HEAL-Link, Tavernarakis says.
HEAL-Link will still be able to provide archival issues of journals. Some of the publishers have agreed to a three-month grace period to continue providing new issues of their journals. But for others, no new issues will be made available from now on. 
HEAL-Link has agreements with many large publishers, such as Elsevier and Springer. The portal is paid for by the Greek government, partly through money from the European Union's regional-development funds....
That would stink. Interesting that FiercePharma notes a Reuters story that some pharmaceuticals are still being imported:
(Reuters) - Pharmaceutical companies said on Monday they would continue to supply medicines to Greece for now, despite increased financial uncertainty after Greeks rejected the terms of a rescue package from creditors in a referendum. 
Drugmakers are owed more than 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) by Greek hospitals and the state-run health insurer, after not being paid since December, but have promised to keep supplying the country on humanitarian grounds. 
The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (Efpia), representing 40 drug companies, said it stood by a commitment made last week to ensure supplies continued for the coming month. 
Imports of life-saving medicines - along with fuel - top the list of products at risk as Greece struggles with bank closures and the threat of an exit from the euro zone. Nearly all Greek medicine is imported...
Interesting that the academic publishing companies don't feel the same potential public pressure as pharma companies to provide their goods without payment. 


  1. "Interesting that the academic publishing companies don't feel the same potential public pressure as pharma companies to provide their goods without payment. "

    I assume that was said tongue in cheek?

    1. Not really? I don't think of those companies as being particularly Evil or Rapacious, but they do seem to be immune to criticism?

    2. I think the pharmaceutical companies are owed enough money that they form a significant force and have a chance at getting their money back. Publishers are probably owed less money and so are not high on the list of being paid.

  2. Oh, I see now. The way I looked at it was, pharma companies are going to get hit a lot harder in the media and in the public opinion if they cut off necessary supplies of lifesaving medications, payment or not. It's a much broader impact to a much larger percentage of the general population than the restriction or temporary loss of access to academic journals is in the immediate, relatable sense. I would also wonder if there's an issue with losing market share - I have been told, for instance, Microsoft would rather people in Asia steal their software or have it provided at much lower cost than switch to other programs or operating systems (citation needed).