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Greek scientists lose access to digital journals

The country's economic crisis is hitting researchers hard.

The Internet portal that provides scientists in many Greek universities and research institutes with access to electronic journals from 27 publishers suspended many of its services on 1 July because the government has not provided the funds to keep it going.

Greece’s stormy economic climate has meant that the Hellenic Academic Libraries Link (HEAL-Link) has come close to shutting down multiple times over the past decade. But now faced with the threat of state bankruptcy, scientists are not expecting rescue funds to become available this time around.

Greece defaulted on a critical debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund on 1 July, and the country's banks had closed to forestall financial panic. A referendum on 5 July on the terms of a proposed bail-out could determine whether Greece will stay in the eurozone.

“HEAL-Link is particularly vital to universities, which rarely have funds for institutional journal subscriptions,” says molecular biologist Nektarios Tavernarakis, director of the FORTH Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB) in Heraklion, Crete. Like other leading non-university research institutes in Greece, the IMBB has its own subscriptions to relevant journals, so is not as dependent on HEAL-Link, Tavernarakis says.

HEAL-Link will still be able to provide archival issues of journals. Some of the publishers have agreed to a three-month grace period to continue providing new issues of their journals. But for others, no new issues will be made available from now on.

Money management

HEAL-Link has agreements with many large publishers, such as Elsevier and Springer. The portal is paid for by the Greek government, partly through money from the European Union's regional-development funds.

A spokeswoman for HEAL-Link told Nature's news team that the organization has struggled for years to pay for its subscriptions. “Every year, we have been paying in arrears. Now, with everything going on in Greece, we really can’t predict what will happen,” she says.

The portal is not alone in struggling to get its money from the government. Tavernarakis says that the IMBB has yet to receive a single euro for its 2015 budget and is operating on its reserves. “We have to weather things out until the crisis passes,” he says.

Scientists also fear that, with the block on money being transferred out of the country in force since 29 June, it could become hard to buy research consumables, the majority of which come from abroad.

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Abbott, A. Greek scientists lose access to digital journals. Nature (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2015.17908

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