Tuesday, October 05, 2010


A disaster of monumental proportions is brewing in Indian academia. For some years now, Indian universities and research centres have had access to a resource called JSTOR, a site that publishes online editions of a wide range of journal articles in a variety of subjects. The initial phase of this access was paid for very generously by the Ford Foundation, with the understanding that after a stipulated period the UGC would take over responsibility for the funding. JSTOR is hugely important for researchers in India because, as a third world country, we can’t afford to regularly visit hard currency countries and stay there for long periods for research. This is still unavoidable for primary and archival material, but the huge cost of consulting secondary material, subscribing to individual journals whether hard copy or online, and waiting while they show up in the post is greatly reduced with a resource like JSTOR. There are some downsides: JSTOR doesn’t carry current stuff, and all the articles are a few years old, but this is more of a problem for the social and physical sciences than the humanities.Even for the sciences, they now need only subscribe to a few key journals, and look up the minor ones on JSTOR.
However, this happy state of affairs has come to an end. Some two weeks ago, JSTOR abruptly became inaccessible. When you log on from JU, it still says “Your access is provided by Jadavpur University”, but when you actually try to read anything, you get an “access denied” message. The service is provided to subscribed IP addresses. The reason for this disruption, we are told, is that the entire country has failed to pay its dues.



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