Open Access in Serbia: Achievements and Highlights from Selected Projects

WESS Newsletter

Fall 2015, Vol. 39, No. 1

Since the introduction of Open-Access (OA) standards in Serbia in 2005, Serbia along with Croatia has evolved into a major Open-Access player in the provision of no-cost access to scientific publications in the Post-Yugoslav space. In this paper, rather than focus on all of the factors that led to the implementation of OA as an innovative approach from the Serbian side, I will highlight a few of Serbia’s OA achievements. Also for this paper, I am not reviewing well known Serbian initiatives like COBISS (an online system of bibliographic systems and services). Instead, I will briefly describe some key projects that could potentially serve as useful reference tools for North American European Studies librarians.

The fall of Yugoslavia and the ensuing civil war meant a naturally delayed evolution of OA in the Serbian context. Despite the economic downturn in the aftermath of the protracted war, by 2005 there was an impetus for OA due to the fact that many Serbian scientific journals were already publishing their articles online. In order to track and catalog these articles in a consistent manner, the National Library of Serbia began assigning them Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).”Open Access in Serbia-EIFL.”1Open Access in Serbia-EIFL. Web. 26 Aug. 2015. The National Library of Serbia eventually became a member of Crossref and thus took upon itself, within its legal statute, responsibility for issuing DOIs in Serbia.2 “CrossRef’s website provides us with a general purpose as follows, “it is to promote the development and cooperative use of new and innovative technologies to speed and facilitate scholarly research. CrossRef’s specific mandate is to be the citation linking backbone for all scholarly information in electronic form. CrossRef is a collaborative reference linking service that functions as a sort of digital switchboard. It holds no full text content, but rather effects linkages through CrossRef Digital Object Identifiers (CrossRef DOI), which are tagged to article metadata supplied by the participating publishers. The end result is an efficient, scalable linking system through which a researcher can click on a reference citation in a journal and access the cited article.” While the DOIs meant availability of linked data, they also reflected a social responsibility for information producers to make scholarship available to user communities. This in turn led to the rise of OA in the Serbian context. The rising costs of subscriptions for Serbian academic scholarly journals in the era of post-Yugoslav economic hardships, along with the initial disarray in publishing, mandated/facilitated discussion of new ways for providing access to the STEM and Humanities/ Social Sciences related information. OA thus became an alternative way to ensuring the continuity of access to the larger intellectual scientific community in Serbia. The Serbian policy makers thus took advantage of the existing information infrastructure and the internet and OA began to flourish. This is one of the contexts in which we can understand the Serbian drive that led to the rise of OA. When I was writing this article in August 2015, there were 463 new articles added to Serbia’s OA repository. The total number of journals with full text access in this repository was 66, and 30,398 articles were available online in their full text format.3“DoiSerbia.” DoiSerbia. National Library of Serbia, 1 Feb. 2005. Web. 29 Aug. 2015. I analyzed the subject contents of the journals that provide full text access and are included in the DOI repository as of August 2015. I got the final broad subject distribution as depicted in the table below.

Besides indexing the full text from OA journals, the depository also indexes more than 100 journal titles from the Serbian Citation Index or Srpski Citatni Indeks (SCI)

The screenshot of the landing page of DOI Serbia (image 1) shows that the site is available both in English and Serbian. The journals on the landing page are presented alphabetically. I believe that there is also an option to sort them by subject while on the page, which can provide users greater flexibility to search for journals in their specific areas of interest. An aspect of this portal that could perhaps have been improved is to add a simple search box or even a site map.

screenshot of the landing page of DOI Serbia

From the distribution of subject matter among the full-text journals, one can see that the Biological- and Physical Sciences-related journals make up 59% of the current content, when analyzed by title.

The Serbian Citations Index (SCI) is not by itself an OA repository but is an abstracting service that also indexes OA journals. The site’s self-description is as follows,

SCIndeks is covering locally published journals classified as publications of scientific character. All of the journals listed are indexed on cover-to-cover basis. In addition to articles’ titles and abstracts, SCIndeks metadata incorporate all cited references. The vast majority of articles are available at the level of full texts. The metadata are given in OAI PMH, Dublin Core format to increase their interoperability and accordingly articles’ Web visibility.”O SCIndeks-u.” O SCIndeks-u. Center for Evaluation in Education and Science. Web. 29 Aug. 2015. .

This index is hosted by the CEON/CEES. The site’s self-description states,

Centre for Evaluation in Education and Science (CEON/CEES) is an independent, Belgrade-based ST&I observatory. Formally, it is non-governmental, non-for-profit organization with the status of a legal person. It is gathering scientists and practitioners from different RTD institutions to work together on issues of evaluation in science and higher education. An important part of CEON/CEES’s activities is reserved for the development of information systems used for evaluation purposes.Centar Za Evaluaciju U Obrazovanju I Nauci. Belgrade: Centar Za Evaluaciju U Obrazovanju I Nauci, 2002. Web.4 Sep 2015.

Thus we can see that the goal of Serbian Open-Access, despite the fact that it was initiated as a combination of governmental and non-governmental entities, has always remained the same- to make scientific information available to its user community at no cost.

The other important aspect of Serbian OA that I would like to highlight is that of the Serbian DOI depository’s ability to provide full-text OA to doctoral dissertations.

Image showing Serbian DOI depository’s full-text OA doctoral dissertations

eTheses of Serbia provides access to the dissertations of the five Serbian universities. The portal was created in June of 2013 and as of September 2015, had 1,103 dissertations. Out of these 1,103 dissertations, approximately 72% are from the University of Belgrade. These dissertations can be found searching through DART Europe- the European Dissertations Portal, and OpenDoar- the Directory of Open Access Repositories. This facilitates not only access but dissemination of Serbian dissertations to interested users. According to the Electronic Information for the Libraries site in Serbia, the legislature adopted a law in September of 2014 that all Serbian universities irrespective of their public or private nature must make their dissertations available to users in OA format.”Open Access in Serbia-EIFL.” Open Access in Serbia-EIFL. Web. 5 Sept. 2015. .

The other very important OA project to which I want to draw your attention is Projekat Rastko (Проjкеат Растко): Biblioteka Srprske Kulture. Projekat Rastko: Biblioteka: Biblioteka Srpske Kulture can be translated as Project Rastko: The Library of Serbian Culture. The project is named after Rastislav “Rastko” Nemanjić (Растко Немањић) is Saint Sava-the Prince of Nemanjic dynasty and the diplomat who “gave” law to the Serbs. For the purpose of this paper, I will refer to it as the Rastko Project. It is the E-Library of Serbian culture and it was created in 1997 as part of the Pan-Balkan Cultural Network Imitative. Besides the principal center in Belgrade, the project boasts regional centers in the rest of the Balkans, Poland and in Ukraine.”Projekat Rastko – Kijev -Lavov.” Projekat Rastko – Kijev -Lavov. 1997. Web. 6 Sept. 2015. . “Projekat Rastko- Mapa Projekta.” Mapa Projekta. Web. 6 Sept. 2015. . The site is primarily in the Serbian language and at the time of the writing of this paper, the English language section of the site was under construction.

Image of website for Projekat Rastko (Проjкеат Растко): Biblioteka Srprske Kulture

Some of these centers are mirrors of the Project site. There are currently 9 such regional centers including the ones in Bucharest, Romania, Shkoder, Albania, etc.

The project contains full text of scientific and cultural publications including e-books in Serbian, English, German, French, Spanish, Romanian, Slovenian, Russian, Ukrainian and other languages. The site hosts primarily materials in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The history section of the site provides access to full-text books, primary source transcribed text materials in both Serbian and English languages. The other helpful feature of the site is the availability of site-map. The map allows user to quickly browse through the various sections of the site without the need to go through myriad links or pages to the section of interest.

Lastly, I must pay attention to the other “Serbian” OA initiative that is not directly located in the Republic of Serbia but is of Republika Srpska (RS). RS is an entity within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The digital library of the RS is indeed a treasure trove of OA information for historical periodicals of the Balkans as well as books. This library uses Greenstone- the Open Source platform.

Website of Republika Srpska

The periodical section is not searchable using the simple text search. However, the images can be downloaded as PDF.

Image of the periodicals section of Republika Srpska

Although, perhaps not related directly to the topic of OA, an interesting project called Poreklo was started in 2012 under the auspices of another project called Srpski DNK. The title Srpski DNK can be translated as the Serbian DNA, and Poreklo can be translated as Ancestry. The purpose of Poreklo is to document Serbian last names and genealogies, as well as the names and evolution of Serbian communities and its diaspora. The other Serbian word, praporeklo, is used to denote the Y chromosome (male lineage). The self-description of the Serbian DNA project is as follows:

The Serbian DNA project represents a pioneering attempt by genetics enthusiasts to gather in one place all the information they can about people from our area that have a Y-DNA (praporeklo the male line).

The project data includes the results of previous genetic tests of individuals from Serbia, Montenegro, Croatian, BiH, and Macedonia. Data were taken from public databases as part of international projects (Y-search and the like), as well as results of the analyzed DNA of people in the Belgrade Center for Genetics and from the study, “The families who celebrate St. Tom “(Genetic and ethnographic research, Proceedings of Serbian history and ethnography, Book 5, Belgrade 2010), by Aleksandar Backa and Dragisa Maksimovic. This means that within the Serbian DNA project there are individuals who are not “Serbs”, but Serbs share the same space and history, as well as similar genetics. The project is, therefore, open to all people from Serbia and neighboring countries, and therefore the project invites people to send their genetic results and known information about the history of your family (place of origin, the patron saint …). The aim of the project is to utilize genetics to decipher the secrets of the origin of most Serbian families and surnames, as well as to further understand Serbian history.

Website of Poreklo

As one can see from this paper, OA in Serbia continues to evolve in a promising manner. The disintegration of the Yugoslav State and the turmoil that followed in the immediate aftermath didn’t, in the long run, deter the emergence of various interesting Open Access initiatives as well as useful Open Access projects, both in Serbia and in the lands within the Serbian diaspora.

If one can assert that the resilience of Serbian culture today is a function of her history then OA in Serbia is one form where Serbia continues to assert her status within the European framework in a robust and peaceful manner.

Works cited

Liladhar R. Pendse, PhD
Librarian for East European Collections at UC Berkeley