access to scholarly communication in Virtual China
Have been continuing to think about the educational website issue since I posted a few days ago on my recent experiences with a few educational/academic searches. Several readers remarked that after all, they are able to access the sociology BBS from their
computers. My point, however, was not to say that any particular site
is never open to any particular group of people who would like to
access it–rather that, faced with the knowledge that one might not be
able to get through or will have to wait for long periods of time
without knowing the payoff, some scholars just won’t try. That goes for
both scholars outside of China searching Chinese language materials AND
scholars inside China searching for non-Chinese language materials. Chinese universities may simply not have the resources to provide open internet access for scholarly work, but it seems absolutely critical if Chinese academics are to effectively prepare themselves for the future.
Several people also pointed out that MIT OpenCourseWare is available here on a Chinese server with bits and pieces translated into Chinese. (Those more broadly interested in open source scientific scholarly communication and the politics of academic publishing will want not want to miss the plethora of papers in Session 157, “Promoting Open Access” in Asia and Oceania (scroll down the program and you’ll find the links), recently presented at the 2006 World Library and Information Congress in Seoul. These include “The Open Access Movement in the Korean R&D Environment,” “Comparing Three Chinese Reprint Systems,” and “Open Access–Philosophy, Policy, and Practice: A Comparative Study”.)
Finally, Li Kaifu reminded me of another common situation at Chinese universities — some schools charge individuals extra to
access foreign websites. I do not know whether this practice inhibits scholarly searching for those faculty and students.
Update: This email just in from a professor at one of China’s top schools: when I was at school, I have to pay a lot for access to “foreign” website according to byte volume, while I can get free domestic access. When I was at home, since I have purchased commercial service package from a private company by paying a monthly fee, so I can get free access to both foreign and domestic website without volume limits, as far as Chinese web police did not block these websites…So there did exist a cost problrm for my graduate students, unless they could find a proxy server to get foreign access free.
According to a recent survey of Chinese university students done by Sinomonitor, a Sino-Japanese independent market monitoring company, and China Youth Zeitgeist Cultural Co Ltd, a domestic media firm specializing in university students, the average student spends 66 RMB per month (about USD $8.00) on “Internet connection, mail box and online games.” Based on the survey data, students have an average of 4,919 RMB (about USD $614) disposable income per semester, so this works out to a mere 4% of their disposable income per month. Not much.
Another survey on Chinese university students (I cannot find when it was conducted!) done by the China Youth and Children Studies Center 中国青少年研究中心reports that students spend on average 50-60 RMB per month on Internet connection fees, but that these fees could go as high as 200 RMB.
If anyone knows of a good study looking at the cost of accessing foreign websites for university scholars, and how it shapes their scholarly search practices, please do let us know!
2 comments on “access to scholarly communication in Virtual China”
When I first came to Shanghai I used dial-up internet by buying pre-paid cards at the kiosk below my apartment. Cards came in two kinds: (cheap) domestic internet, and (less cheap) international internet. So the inner-outer “internets” is not a paradigm without precedent. But maybe I’m not understanding correctly…
I don’t think you made clear the difference between Chinese students paying for access to foreign sites and American scholars paying for access to academic journals. Do you mean that Chinese students need to pay for access to online databases because their institutions can’t pay for them? Do you really mean “foreign sites”, or sites that requires subscriptions in general?
Micah, good question. I don’t know the answer.
As for making a comparison between Chinese scholars paying for foreign databases and US scholars paying for academic journals, I imagine the former is financially out of the question for most Chinese scholars, while the latter is not all that common for US scholars, though certainly not unheard of, but not a major financial burden.