Today Elsevier publicly withdrew their support for the misbegotten Research Works Act (RWA), and they threw a few bones to the mathematicians that started the cost of knowledge petition (currently up to 7518 signatures, 1397 mathematicians, 0nly 471 from medicine, 1115 from biology) in the form of opening the archives of 14 core mathematics journals back to 1995, as well as making current and future papers in this select group of journals open.
In the letter to mathematicians, Elsevier has also drawn attention to their open access page and their commitment to open and low-cost access economically challenged countries:
We are a founding partner in External link Research4Life, a public private partnership providing journal content to researchers in the developing world. More than 1600 Elsevier journals, including our mathematics titles, are available in more than 100 developing countries.
This is in fact a redeeming quality that I respect and appreciate. When librarians donate their time to improve health care and research by providing literacy and skill training to physicians and colleagues in many of the 100 developing countries currently served by Research4Life , there is indeed a wealth of scholarly literature provided by publishers, professional societies, and foundations. No doubt the financial equation for commercial publishing partners is that the revenue provided by institutions in well-developed countries allow for generosity in countries where choice between a subscription and a case of sterile gauze would have to be made. Maybe you think I am exaggerating, but my library colleagues who been to Africa and South America and trained clinicians and librarians there on how to search the current biomedical literature with HINARI could tell you about the cost of delivering basic medical supplies which always reduces the ability to afford the cost of current research.
Here is the list of WHO qualifying countries where you can expect to find either free HINARI biomedical literature institutional access (Group A) or low cost access at the rate of $1000 per year per institutions for institutions in those developing countries (Group B).
Publishers are committed to working with HINARI in its current format at least until 2015. At that time publishers will certainly influence whether the system continues, adapts, or expires. In some ways it would be hard to imagine Elsevier withdrawing from this opportunity to counteract the current perception that they only care about the bottom line.