Researchers worldwide strive to publish in journals with high impact factors, but such journals are concentrated in developed countries, leaving journals in developing countries ranked at the bottom (see S. B. Vohora & D. Vohora, Nature 412, 583; 2001). These journals are further imperilled by the decreasing level of support among local subscribers, who in the face of economic constraints may prefer to subscribe to journals with high impact factors.

Electronic publishing is bringing hope to these threatened journals. Citations increase when papers are freely available on the Internet (see S. Harnad, Nature 410, 1024–1025; 2001), and journals can increase their impact factors by publishing their contents electronically (see M. Curti, V. Pistotti, G. Gabutti & C. Klersy, Haematologica 86, 1015–1020; 2001).

However, two shortcomings still stand out. First, online publication involves substantial costs (software development, hosting support, and so on), despite potential price cuts associated with the reduction of print editions. Second, free online access to local journals does not necessarily lead to increasing readership without a powerful means of dissemination. For these journals to be internationally recognized, regional networks with speedy access from search engines, portals and indexing services are required.

Such a network was launched in 1997: SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online: is a publicly funded initiative set up to promote cooperative, free electronic publishing of scientific journals from developing countries; the development of regional databases; and the implementation of indicators of scientific literature usage. It currently comprises 93 journals from Brazil, Chile and Cuba. We assessed its international impact by comparing the impact factors of journals before and after being incorporated in SciELO.

We found five Brazilian journals that had been indexed by ISI for at least five years and available in SciELO for at least two. The impact factors of these journals more than doubled (132.7% increase, one-tailed Wilcoxon signed ranks test, P<0.02) since their inclusion in SciELO.

This indicates that such networks not only foster the availability of scientific information on a regional scale, but also generate international impact which may entice researchers into publishing in the journals concerned. Those who fund and promote regionally coordinated networks for scientific electronic publishing can help developing countries to revitalize their local journals and enhance the international representation of locally generated knowledge.