Open Access News

News from the open access movement


Thursday, March 09, 2006

The case for OA, especially in South Africa

Allison Moller, The case for open access publishing, with special reference to open access journals and their prospects in South Africa, Masters thesis, Department of Library and Information Science, University of the Western Cape (South Africa), 2006. Abstract:

Open access publishing is an initiative that aims to provide universal, unrestricted free access to full-text scholarly materials via the Internet. This presents a radically different approach to the dissemination of research articles that has traditionally been controlled by the publishing enterprise that regulates access by means of subscriptions and licences fees levied on users, predominantly academic libraries.

In presenting the case for open access publishing, the thesis explores the contemporary research environment, changing modes of knowledge production, the problems associated with the existing academic journal system, and the subsequent growth of the open access movement as an intervention to reclaim scientific communication. It highlights the ways in which open access better answers the
requirements of researchers, funders, governments, and society more broadly. Free access to publicly funded scientific research is more democratic and is necessary for knowledge dissemination and production in a knowledge economy, particularly for developing countries such as South Africa. Attention is drawn to the ways that open access intersects with the ethical norms guiding the practice of research, with the idea of information as a public good, and with other parallel initiatives that resist the enclosure of knowledge through excessive copyright legislation.

The study also closely interrogates the economic viability of open access journals, and shows how the Ďauthor paysí model represents a reasonable approach, but by no means the only one available to publishers considering the transition to open access. Sections are also devoted to examining the impact potential of open access articles and the ways in which open access journals can achieve greater permanence.

The main research question centres on the feasibility of open access journals becoming widespread within the South African research system. The study presents the findings of an investigation undertaken to assess the current awareness, concerns and depth of support for open access amongst South African stakeholders. Separate questionnaires were distributed to government departments, research councils, research funders, research managers within universities and a sample of published authors from biomedical fields.

The conclusion recommends proactive engagement by faculty librarians and organized advocacy on the part of LIASA to promote the cause of open access within South Africa. It further calls for government to mandate open access to publicly funded research as a more democratic, cost-effective and strategic intervention to promote South African science. The gains to be won are particularly relevant for present challenges: training a new generation of researchers and scholars, and stimulating knowledge production and its subsequent application to solve the nationís developmental needs.