Interview with #SLAAGC President Mohamad Mubarak

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نص المقابلة مع محمد مبارك  باللغة العربية


Mohamed Mubarak is Senior Research Librarian at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies Library (QFIS). He is also president of the Special Libraries Association – (Arabian Gulf Chapter) SLA-AGC. I sit down with him at the lovely QFIS library and talk to him about his history with the SLA-AGC, the upcoming SLA-AGC conference, and his thoughts on open access publishing.

Alwaleed Alkhaja (AA): First of all, thank you Mohamed for meeting me today. My first question is how did you get involved with the SLA-AGC?

Mohamed Mubarak (MM): Back in 2006, I was sponsoring myself to attend one of the SLA conferences in Muscat, Oman. At the time, I was working in the Arabian Gulf University library in Bahrain and my director happened to be a past president of the SLA-AGC. I was enjoying my time at the conference and attending different sessions when my director asked me if I wanted to join the SLA-AGC board. I simply asked her ‘what is the SLA about?”

I admit that I have previously heard of the SLA but I did not really think about joining it. She told me that I will learn a lot and that I will gain some of the leadership skills that I will later need for my career. She managed to convince me and I was later nominated to join the SLA.

Honestly, it was a good experience to introduce myself to different people with different backgrounds: from academia to the private sector. I started learning from this new environment and was able to transform some of the things that I learned to a decision-making level. I also started to take part in organizing a regional event (the SLA-AGC conference) that serves most of the information professionals in the region. The SLA-AGC membership itself allowed me to eventually progress to become the chapter’s public relations officer. From that the time I started understanding that, we as information professionals are not just serving the institute we work for but we are serving the profession of librarianship itself.

Organizing an annual event gives us the opportunity to invite other potential professionals to join the SLA. The SLA is a big organization that started in the US back in 1909; whereas the SLA-AGC is one of the oldest SLA chapters. I have been fortunate to be part of this organization and serve the profession of librarianship.

(AA): What are some of the main goals of the SLA-AGC?

(MM): Our goals and objectives are not different of the main SLA organization. These goals include providing information professionals with the opportunity to network with each other. Moreover by attending our conference and various workshops, these information professionals will have the opportunity to learn and develop their work competencies and skills, learn how to acquire new technologies for the work place, as well as develop their collection in a way that can serve their community.

It is worth mentioning that the SLA-AGC deals with a different culture than the one in North America, and therefore somewhat different challenges. We try our best to invite more people to our annual meeting, to give them an opportunity to be a member of the SLA-AGC (which I believe will help them discover how to become a leader in their profession and how to serve their communities in the best way. We still have a mission to complete: we need to develop our programs for each year, and invite more speakers to attend, and encourage more people to participate. By establishing a partnership with different institutions within the Arabian Gulf over the last twenty years, the SLA-AGC has been able to build good relationships with different government and academic entities.

(AA): The SLA hosts an annual conference, and I had the chance to be there last year. How was it in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates?

(MM): I received good feedback from different delegates. I was in the middle of organizing the conference and I can say that it was indeed a successful event in Abu Dhabi. It was also the first time that we organized the event with the very prestigious Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi.  Also, it was very good in the sense that way that we managed to have a successful plenary session program. We worked very hard to bring the latest trend topics with the expectation of the professions in the region. I would like to think that we did a very good job! For sure, the next SLA-AGC conference in Doha will be a good opportunity to continue our successful journey.

AA: The conference in Abu-Dhabi was only my second SLA-AGC event (the first was a workshop I attended in Oman in February 2013). What I found interesting is that I met many librarians from outside the Arabian Gulf. Does the SLA extend its support to countries beyond the GCC countries?

MM: For sure! That is one of our main objectives. We should not really be limited by the name of the chapters (Arabian Gulf Chapter) but need to expand our support to professional librarians in the region and in the Arab world. We had a good opportunity this year to have people from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon as well. We are aiming to be an international event not just a regional event. We try our best to develop the chapter. We will continue aiming for the highest level of quality and international reach.

AA: What would you like to see in this year’s event?

MM: (Smiles) I would like to see a lot of new things! This year’s event will be here in Doha in partnership with Qatar University. For sure we have a lot of things in mind. We have a rich program for next year and we recently set out the call for papers (Deadline was 1st October 2013). We will need a lot of help from key players in Qatar. We are planning to have an event with QScience (which is part of Qatar Foundation) and we have a plan as well to have an event with the Qatar National Library of Qatar Foundation. We are looking forward to the next event!

AA: Now something more related to what does; I would like to ask what is your opinion on open access ?

MM: Open access is a very important publishing initiative and I have been introduced to open access in my previous position as medical librarians, in which I used PubMed Central to retrieve articles for academics. I was surprised by the large number of accessible scientific articles. When it comes to open access, we have to think about developing countries, which don’t have the resources and financial support to get access to the scientific literature. Open access helps a lot of scientist and researchers around the world to get access to the latest literature. This is very important to continue to their research and education. I completely support it!

AA: As you probably know, some of the universities in our region do not have the financial support to get all needed journal subscriptions. How do you see the role of open access in developing research in the region?

Open access will help increase the research level a lot in the region and the world. I was involved in an advisory board for another publisher and some of the things that was discussed was how open access can develop research on a national and regional level. I think the Arabian Gulf has a low research output compared to other regions. Some researchers find it difficult to publish in high-impact journals and tend to publish in lower-impact journals. They eventually find out that their research does not reach the audience they wished for. Many open access journals still have the high quality peer review process and will allow their findings to be more accessible to academics worldwide. As librarian professionals, we should convince the different academic institutions in the region about the important of investment in open access. Some institutions have research funds dedicated for publishing and I would like to see some of these institutions to adapt more open access policies. There is a lot of great research that is published in the region but I consider it as gray literature because it does not have the opportunity to be seen by a lot of the people around in the world. Open access will be an important way for their work to be seen by researchers around the world.

AA: Thank you Mohamad for meeting with me and I look forward to seeing you again at the next SLA-AGC conference in Doha
The 20th Annual conference “Enhancing in Digital Knowledge Society’s Information Needs” in Doha, Qatar from 25th – 27th March 2014

For more information please visit:

نص المقابلة مع محمد مبارك  باللغة العربية

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Open access in the Arab world: Sulieman AlShuhri and the Arab Initiatives of Open Access

While searching for Arabic content on open access, I found the Arab Initiatives in Open Access blog, which is moderated by Dr. Sulieman AlShuhri, Amal AlSalem, Dr. Abdel-Rahman Farrag, and Dr. Ramadan Elaiess. The blog not only covers recent developments in the open access field, but also delivers its content in Arabic.

The Arab world definitely needs more open access advocates like Sulieman AlShuhri and his colleagues.

In collaboration with the Arab initiatives of Open Access blog (, QScience presents Sulieman AlShuhri, AIOA founder, Asst. Professor at Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia and e-DocsLab research fellow. Sulieman speaks about the AIOA blog, about open access, and about the benefits of publishing in open access. The video transcripts (English and Arabic Transcript) can be found below. Note that the video is in Arabic with English subtitles.

“Your ideas will be easily quoted as long as they are easily reached” 

Video transcript (Sulieman AlShuhri, Arab Initiatives of Open Access)

What is the Arab Initiatives of Open Access blog?
The Arab Initiatives of Open Access was established in the 4th quarter of 2007 as a response to worldwide dynamics that called for the adoption of open access as a publishing approach and the use of available technologies to achieve it. Whereas many developed and developing countries took significant strides in the open access domain and left their own landmarks on the open access map during the time this blog was established, no significant Arab presence was perceived. We decided to provide Arab readers and researchers with a blog that introduces concepts of open access, practices, approaches with some relevant examples. We also intended to follow up on the world’s open access activities including efforts, initiatives, as well as institutions and universities that made efforts to implement and adopt open access all over the world.

What is open access?
Open access simply means that intellectual property including periodicals, articles, conference proceedings, theses, books, and other electronic material, are available on the Internet at no costs to the end-user, whether they are researchers, readers, or students. They can read, download, and print material for free. Concurrently, such availability would be free of most copyright and licensing restrictions while respecting laws and traditions of author copyrights, as well as providing proper attribution and referencing by the end-user.

The concept of open access is mirrored in Arab and Islamic culture through Waqf (endowment), in which  students and researchers were granted free access to books and libraries. This may represent the first manifestation of open access concept in Arab culture. In western culture, the open access concept can be traced back to the Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin open access initiatives, which came to existence in the third millennium. As for the practice of open access, some researchers maintain that it dates back to 1970’s and to individuals such as Peter Suber.

Forms or approaches of open access were categorized by into two routes and given two colors, the gold and the green. The gold open access route means that academic work is directly provided through publishing channels such as journals, electronic periodicals or e-books. As I have mentioned, such material is free to use via the Internet. The second way or the green route involves providing academic material through means of archiving channels such as digital repositories or digital archives. As I have mentioned, these archives would be accessed for free online. Providing or archiving academic literature from articles to editorials, theses, conference proceedings and other type of work for free to the end-user, whether they are researchers, readers, or scholars, and facilitating the swift access through the Internet as an easy accessible channel of communication, those are all key tools for open access.

What are the benefits of publishing in open access?
Thus we discern that open access is a developmental tool in the field of communication and scientific publishing. Unfortunately, information has been used for many centuries as a commodity that is supplied in return for continued monetary compensations. This matter exhausted recipients or information providers like libraries and information centers. We have witnessed numerous problems such as the inability to pay subscriptions for scientific journals and databases, or the inability of libraries and information centers to continue operating due to limited budgets and resources, especially if we took into consideration that the developed countries invest billions in scientific production and try to restore their payout through publishing revenues.

Naturally, accumulation of funds on end users or libraries led to a barrier of information and its prevention from reaching the end-user. Access to this information may otherwise lead to significant changes on regional, international, and even personal levels. No doubt, placing barriers to information and dealing with it as a commodity subject to fiscal bargaining, affects not only the scholarship and scientific exchange but also communication amongst the human race. We may call this “knowledge capitalism” that depends on nothing but fiscal opportunism. Therefore, open access comes to provide real chances for discovering research and applying information in different contexts and elevating knowledge to new levels and domains of research that facilitate solving problems, which is the main purpose of all efforts exerted by scientists and researchers. It is a more efficient, cost-effective, fair, and equitable means of scientific exchange. What we actually need to change is to help the researcher, scientist, reader and the decision makers to realize that information is not mere commodity subject to fiscal bargaining, but a human right, especially if such information relates to lives or to the way of living. As a researcher, author or writer, you should keep in mind that when publishing scientific work as a research paper, thesis or a book, always remember that you have been facing challenges, obstacles and the inability to access information, so please help others who follow you to avoid such challenges. Share your work with others via open access channels: gold and green routes, and increase the number of your readers. This is the best way to increase readability and disseminate your ideas. Your ideas will be easily quoted as long as they are easily reached. “Just say it once and it will be said a thousand times”.

In conclusion, I call on every one, listening or watching us, to visit the blog of Arab Initiative of Open Access to know more about the concept of open access. I also call on researchers to make use of services provided by Qatar Foundation to Arab readers and researchers. It is a true and leading open access service in the Arab world as it a wonderful example of the gold open access publishing model. I extend due thanks to the editorial staff of the Arab Initiative of Open Access’s blog, Ms. Amal AlSalem, Dr. Abdel-Rahman Farrag, Dr. Ramadan Elaiess and everyone who took part in this blog along with our visitors, readers and followers on Twitter, and Facebook.

Thank you,
Dr. Sulieman AlShuhri

 نص فيديو د. سليمان الشهري من المبادرات العربية للوصول الحر

(Alwaleed Alkhaja 27/05/13)

Interview with Dietrich Büssselberg (Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Local and Global Health Science)

The Journal of Local and Global Health Science (JLGHS) is a peer-reviewed, international journal that publishes research on all aspects of both basic and applied research related to global health practiced in specific local environments, as well as the implications of local health issues in a global context.

We met with Dietrich Büssselberg*, one of the editors-in-chief of JLGHS, and asked him about the journal and why he supports the open access publishing model.

The journal which can be found on the platform, has published articles on various global health issues such as breast cancer and arsenic poisoning to papers on the effect of air pollution on daily morbidity in Pakistan and lead (Pb) exposure to the use of Kohl and surma eye cosmetics. More recently, the journal published a review article about the pre- and post-synaptic effects of lead. Instead of using static images to describe molecular mechanisms at neurons, the article uses animated illustrations. This article serves as an example of how aims to innovate the way we read academic papers.

*Dietrich Büssselberg is Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar


Alwaleed Alkhaja, 12/05/2013