In the long-standing debate on the conflict between copyright-protected journals and open science, one unique dimension is the consequence of closed journals for knowledge in developing countries. Writing on voxeu, Patrick Gaule and Nicolas Maystre say:
Nonetheless, there is a problem of access to the scientific literature in developing countries. In Gaule (2009), we find, controlling for the quality and field of research, that the reference lists of Indian scientists are shorter, contain fewer references to expensive journals, and contain more references to open access journals than the reference lists of Swiss scientists. This corroborates anecdotal and survey evidence documenting the difficulties of Indian scientists in accessing the scientific literature.
The goal of open access advocates to have all scientific publications freely available to the world from the day of publication of goals is laudable. But in the short run, it is more important to make scientific publications freely available for developing countries, because this is where the problem really is. A number of programmes have been set up for this purpose, including by publishers, but they are inefficient and exclude middle-income countries which are the most active in science. Thanks to new software, it is technically straightforward to grant automatic journal access to all developing country users. This solution should be widely adopted, with not-for-profit publishers taking the lead.
I have repeatedly noticed that NBER handles this better than CEPR. NBER papers are open access in India (except if you're using a Reliance wireless modem, where their IP -> location mapping is getting it wrong) while CEPR papers are closed. This is something that CEPR should review.
The fact that NBER gives open access to Indian users while CEPR does not is a source of random variation which can be utilised for measurement of the consequence of open access, through the following steps. Construct a dataset of a random selection of NBER and CEPR papers which have broadly similar citation characteristics. Find out how often papers written by authors in India cite these. The difference will measure the consequence of open access in a developing country. At some point, one might hope that CEPR will change their policy. This will make possible a Mark II of this research, where it will become possible to identify the dynamics and steady state impact of opening up access.