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Access to Health Research

A world where every person will have access to the health research literature they need to protect their own health and the health of others



Definition: 'Health research information' here refers primarily (but not exclusively) to peer-reviewed research papers, as typically published in journals.

Our focus for 2024: Predatory Journals

Funding opportunity: We invite expressions of interest to (co)sponsor this project. Total budget £5k. Please contact Neil Pakenham-Walsh neil@hifa.org
‘Predatory publishers or journals are those which charge authors a fee for publication with no intention of providing the expected services – such as editorial or peer review – in return. Charging a fee is a legitimate business model, but the publisher should be providing a good publishing service in return.’  Think.Check.Submit 
Predatory journals have serious negative impacts on individuals and society. These include:
1. Predatory journals lack rigorous peer review and editorial standards. What they publish is therefore unreliable and pollutes the global corpus of scientific knowledge. Content of articles in such journals may be inaccurate, misleading or fabricated.
2. The substandard content of predatory journals may influence health-related decision making by health professionals, policymakers and the general public, leading to increased risk of harm to individual and population health.
3. Publication in a predatory journal can lead to financial hardship, loss of reputation, and career difficulties for individual researchers and research teams.
4. Publication in a predatory journal constitutes a waste of the considerable funding and expertise that is invested in research.
5. Publication in a predatory journal diverts valuable resources away from reputable publishers and legitimate research processes.
6. Predatory journals undermine public trust in scientific research and academic journals.
7. Predatory journals disproportionately affect researchers in low- and middle-income countries.
Initiatives such as Think.Check.Submit aim to address the problem of predatory journals through researcher awareness.  In 2022 a BMGF-funded study led by the InterAcademy Partnership published a major report Combatting predatory academic journals and conferences, which 'sought to improve the understanding of predatory journals and conferences, their prevalence and impact, the drivers fuelling them, and effective ways to combat them'. The report concluded: 
 1. Current definitions of so-called predatory academic journals and conferences are inadequate
 2. Awareness and understanding of predatory practices and behaviours are generally poor
 3. Predatory actors and outlets are becoming more sophisticated, making it increasingly difficult for scholars to differentiate bad journals and conferences from good ones
 4. Predatory journals and conferences are on the rise and risk undermining public trust in research and research integrity, and creating significant wastage of research resources.
 5. Predatory journals and conferences risk becoming engrained in research culture.
 6. The monetisation and commercialisation of academic research output help drive predatory practices and behaviours. 
 7. Contemporary research evaluation systems are a major driver of predatory practices.
 8. Predatory practices exploit weaknesses in the peer-review system...
 The study made 50 specific recommendations directed to researchers (5), academic institutions (9), multilateral organisations (2), academies (11), research funders (8), publishers (6), and libraries (9).
Despite the above, there are now more than 15,000 predatory journals and the problem continues to get worse, month by month.
A limitation of the BMGF-funded study (above) is that it relied on a static online survey and a handful of groups of 3-7 people. It failed to include dynamic, inclusive multi-stakeholder interaction. HIFA is uniquely placed to fill this gap.
Meanwhile, there is a clear need for organised solidarity among medical publishers to stand against predatory journals. 
The Asia-Pacific Association of Medical Editors (APAME) has approached HIFA to facilitate in-depth discussion on the HIFA forums as a basis for the Sydney Declaration on Predatory Journals to be launched at the upcoming APAME Conference in Sydney, Australia, August 2024. HIFA has previously collaborated similarly with APAME to inform the Manila Declaration (2015)



We propose to host an intense 6-week discussion on the HIFA forums from 13 May to 21 June 2024 (dates TBC) together with a sustained focus on the topic throughout the year to 31 December 2024.

HIFA will use its tried-and-tested approach to Project delivery. The HIFA coordinator will reconvene the current Access to Health Research (A2HR) working group to steer the project: https://www.hifa.org/working-groups/access-health-research. The working group will be responsible for clarifying the objectives of the project, and planning and implementing discussion on the HIFA forums. This will include articulation of six questions to be introduced on the forums sequentially week by week. HIFA members with an interest in the topic will have the opportunity to join the working group. We shall also seek appropriate expert members as needed.

The discussion will be widely publicized through the HIFA website, HIFA social media channels, and HIFA forum members.

The discussion will promote sharing of ideas and experience around the prepared questions, with the intention of sharing experience and expertise from the full range of stakeholders in different countries worldwide.

In addition, the working group members will be active throughout the project, helping to publicise the project to their networks, engaging in the forum discussions themselves, and forwarding relevant publications that may help inform and further stimulate discussion.

The working group will also be responsible for collating,,synthesizing and editing the discussion as described in Outputs above. 

The discussion will be followed by a public webinar (10 July, date TBC), where the key points will be presented and debated. A summary of the webinar will then be circled back to the HIFA forum afterwards. 

Budget: £5,000 

We invite expressions of interest to (co)sponsor this project. Please contact Neil Pakenham-Walsh neil@hifa.org


By Catriona Grant and members of the HIFA Access to Health Research Working Group
with thanks to John Eyers (HIFA literature search expert)

This paper was prepared as a background paper for the HIFA thematic discussion on Open Access: Perceptions and misconceptions

'Open Access (OA) publishing is arguably one of the most important determinants in ensuring equitable, ethical and sustainable dissemination of health research and thereby reduce suffering and save lives...'



This case study outlines the ongoing work of the HIFA Working Group on Access to Health Research. With thanks to support from Elsevier, The Lancet, Asia Pacific Association of Medical Editors, Council on Health Research for Development, and British Medical Association.

HIFA and its community are able to provide innovative solutions to address global health issues and to help your Organisation realise its goals. To explore how we can help please contact the HIFA Coordinator: neil@hifa.org        www.hifa.org


During 2015 and 2016 the HIFA Project on Access to Health Research implemented a series of thematic discussions on the HIFA forums on a wide range of questions. The project working group has now reviewed the outputs of these discussions with a view to taking forward specific issues through advocacy and action. We welcome your comments and suggestions on ways forward.

HIFA Project on Access to Health Research                      

Seven priorities for action 


From 7 November to 2 December 2016 HIFA hosted a thematic discussion around the question: How can health research be made more accessible in low- and middle-income countries? This is an edited Summary version of the discussion.


From 7 November to 2 December 2016 HIFA hosted a thematic discussion around the question: How can health research be made more accessible in low- and middle-income countries?



From 6 June to 3 July 2016 HIFA hosted a thematic discussion around the question: How can health research from low- and middle-income countries be made more accessible? This summary presents the key issues expressed by HIFA members:

  • Low research capacity
  • Failure to publish research
  • Publishing charges
  • Prejudice against national journals
  • Prejudice against open access journals.



"We, the participants in the Joint Meeting of the Asia Pacific Association of Medical Journal Editors (APAME), the Index Medicus of the South East Asia Region (IMSEAR), and the Western Pacific Region Index Medicus (WPRIM) held in Manila from 24 to 26 August 2015, in conjunction with the COHRED Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health held in Manila from 24-27 August 2015, drawing on the Pre-Forum Discussions on HIFA from 20 July to 24 August 2015..."


This major thematic discussion (20 July to 24 August 2015) included over 100 messages from Brazil, Cambodia, Honduras, India, Italy, Mauritius, Mozambique, Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, UK, USA and Zambia. All messages can be viewed in full by joining HIFA - go to www.hifa.org/joinhifa ‐ membership is free. The discussion contributed directly to the Manila Declaration 2015. We are grateful to the following organisations for their support: The Lancet, Elsevier, APAME, COHRED.



The members of the Access to Health Research working group lead the wider HIFA community to promote the availability and use of health research, with a focus on access to the full text of research papers.
Name Country
Andy Nobes United Kingdom
Anne Powell United Kingdom
Chris Zielinski United Kingdom
Isabelle Wachsmuth-Huguet Switzerland
John Eyers United Kingdom
Jose Florencio F. Lapena Philippines
Joseph Ana Nigeria
Najeeb Al-Shorbaji Jordan
Neil Pakenham-Walsh United Kingdom
Nick Talley Australia
Nilam McGrath United Kingdom
Virginia Barbour Australia
Wilfred C. G. Peh Singapore
Ylann Schemm Netherlands
Further information

In 2015, HIFA hosted a thematic discussion on access to health research, sponsored by The Lancet, COHRED, and APAME, leading to the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health, Manila, 24-27 August 2015, held in conjunction with the Asia Pacific Association of Medical Journal Editors 2015 Annual Convention, Manila, 25-26 August 2015. The discussion (selected highlights here) provided a unique opportunity for HIFA members worldwide to contribute their experience and expertise to the Manila Declaration for the Availability and Use of Health Research Information in and for Low- and Middle-Income Countries in the Asia Pacific Region, ratified in Manila, 26 August 2015. 

We are grateful to Elsevier for sponsorship of the project in 2016. This funding goes solely to pay for the time of the HIFA coordinator and not to any of the working group, all of whom are volunteers.


For further information, please contact the Access to Health Research coordinator, Neil Pakenham-Walsh: neil@hifa.org