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Africa Embraces Open Access

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The development of Open Access in Africa has been discussed for a long time. The accompanying discussion followed two main directions: OA as a way for scientists from the continent and their research results to break into the scientific mainstream; and OA as a social and economic development factor, based on the assumption that free access to scientific output can act as an important stimulus.

Many of the continent’s universities have become strongly interested in implementing Open Access practices. There are already a number of initiatives with the goal of promoting Open Access in Africa. One such initiative was announced yesterday by EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries). It has launched – as reported on its website – an Open Access program for three African countries: Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In Kenya there are 7 OA repositories, but only 3 universities have their own OA policies; in Tanzania there are only two repositories, and in Uganda only 3. Altogether, these three countries have just 13 OA journals.

EIFL defines its mission on its website: “Open Access: knowledge sharing and sustainable scholarly communication in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda” is a new EIFL regional project funded by Spider, the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions DSV, Department of Computer and System Sciences, Stockholm University. The aim of the project is to raise visibility and accessibility of research outputs in three countries. It builds on previous work of EIFL in the region and combines awareness raising, policy work and practical training to promote, support and establish open access (OA) journals and OA repositories at institutions of higher learning. The project is expected to last until 2014.

Since the program has just begun, the specific measures that the organisation is planning to undertake are still unknown. What is beyond doubt though, is that such an initiatives can prove beneficial, both for the development of Open Access worldwide, and for Africa itself.

It is also worth mentioning that the University of Nairobi has recently introduced (in Dec 2012) its own policy on Open Access and launched a repository. Under the new policy, all members of the University community will be required to submit their scholarly output to the University of Nairobi Digital Repository. The University of Nairobi expresses its hopes that the policy will achieve the following ends:

  • Providing open access to scholarly output resulting from academic activities undertaken at the University
  • Promoting high standards in the management of research outputs
  • Securing long-term preservation of the University’s research outputs
  • Increasing visibility and impact of the University’s research outputs
  • Enhancing collaboration with the global research community

Year by year, more scientific institutions from Africa are introducing Open Access policies, opening repositories and issuing OA journals. As a result, scientists from this region have a better chance to improve visibility and impact. Of course, the biggest problem is still a lack of funds – not only to pay for the cost of publishing, but also to launch the appropriate infrastructure for Green OA.

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2 Comments

  1. In some ways, the open-access model is actually bad for African scholars. With the Researfh4Life program, many African scholars have better access to research than their counterparts in the developed world. They are able to access toll-access scholarly journals for free.

    However, the advent of the gold open-access model means these same African researchers have to pay to publish in OA journals. The APCs (article processing fees) that OA journals charge can surpass $1,000, and not all publishers grant discounts. So, while OA means free access to research, they already had that. Now they will have to “pay to say” — that is, they will have to pay high author fees to get their work published.

    1. It is true, that high APCs can be seen as a financial barrier for African researchers. However the OA, Green and Gold, is still changing. New funding models are developed, and authors rarely pay out of pocket. OA fees should be covered from the institutions money, and this does not only apply to the authors from the African continent.

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