The conference ended as it had begun -- a long row of notables up on the big stage, making speeches about how grand it all was. This time, however, Bruce was among them, which made the thing more amusing. (As chair of the health libraries sector of IFLA, he was instrumental in getting the conference to Brazil in the first place. But they hadn't told him he needed to be up on the platform for the closing until the day before, and he didn't know he was expected to speak until they moved the microphone in his direction. He did a very nice job). The Australian reps (assisted by Bruce) did the drawing for the big stuffed koala that everyone had been lusting after during the conference and that gave it a more festive air as well.
The main business of the closing was the "Salvador Declaration on Open Access: The Developing World Perspective", a copy of which we were all handed as we came into the hall. Open access was one of the dominant themes of the conference, and this declaration was the result of the "parallel conference" on open access that was going on at the same time (it remains unclear to me what the relationship between the two is/was). It was presented to the rest of the congress to resounding applause, and I suppose will be quoted hereafter as one more building block (or paving stone?) along the Gold Road.
There was a greater sense of urgency to the open access discussions here than I typically find in the US. It was a stark reminder of just how great the gulf in access to information between the developed and developing worlds still is, operations like HINARI notwithstanding. The delegates from Africa and Asia and throughout Latin America perceive themselves to be so far behind the US and Europe, and they see better access to information as a key element in economic and social development. A system of open access seems even more self-evidently the right thing to do for many of them than it does to the PLoS folks. And when you look at it from their perspective, the need is pretty compelling.
What I did not see discussed, however, was much in the way of practical approaches to getting there, and of course that's the hang up. The Salvador declaration calls upon "governments to make Open Access a high priority in science policies" and on "all stakeholders in the international community to work together to ensure that scientific information is openly accessible and freely available to all, forever." The devil is in the details, and there is a far greater sense here that government ought to just "solve" the problem than one sees back home.
At the plenary on Friday morning, Jan Velterop spoke about the Springer Open Choice option (he's now employed in promoting that.) It is still very difficult for me to take that program seriously and even Velterop didn't sound all that enthusiastic about it. His attitude seemed to be, "It might work! Let's give it a try!" Sure.
Margaret Reich, from APS, was supposed to be on that panel as well, and I was looking forward to what she had to say, since she would have been one of the few voices at the conference presenting a different view. But she apparently was unable to make it at the last minute.
My own paper that afternoon went over fairly well, and I had some good comments and discussion with people afterwards. Carla has suggested that I take some of the charts and tables and do a poster for MLA, and I might go ahead and do that. The evidence for the increased reach of the JMLA is pretty compelling, and helps to make the potential costs seem very worthwhile.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with the conference. It's good to spend time with people from outside of the US, who share many of the same issues, but approach them from very different perspectives, and in very different social and governmental settings. One hopes to come away from a meeting like this with one's perspective slightly altered, expanded, enriched. From that standpoint, the conference was a definite success. Whether it has any demonstrable impact on the changing face of scholarly communication remains to be seen.