Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The state of scholarly communication in South Africa

Eve Gray, The State of the Nation - South African scholarly publishing and the global knowledge divide, Gray Area, February 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

...[I]t is perhaps time, in a series of postings, to do my own State of the Nation overview of where South Africa stands at the start of 2007 in relation to my area of interest - the dissemination and publication of African scholarship.

First, a background sketch. I hold an International Policy Fellowship from the Open Society Institute (Budapest) investigating policy for the dissemination of African scholarship....In particular, the project researches the question of whether countries like South Africa and its African neighbours can start to turn around the global knowledge divide and raise the reach and visibility of African research using electronic media and the Open Access publishing approaches currently taking hold across the world.

If one looks at the current state of research publication in African countries, what stands out most strongly is the persistent marginalisation of African knowledge - particularly of scholarship about Africa, produced in Africa....

This publication takes place within a generally unquestioned value system in which quality is measured by publication impact in an international arena in which scholars and publishers from Africa are unequal players in the global research economy....

[T]he very criteria that the developing world uses for its traditional-model scholarly output are those that contribute also to its marginalisation in the global arena....

2007 might well be the year in which South Africa starts to pay more attention to these issues. On the international front, a number of initiatives are putting the issues on the front burner - the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) is in the process of creating an African Science and Innovation Facility; the World Bank has identified higher education as a key driver for African economic growth and poverty eradication; the funding agencies are taking an increasing interest in the potential for unlocking access to African knowledge through the use of ICTs and Open Access; and the steadily growing number of international initiatives for access to publicly funded research (the most recent being the EU meetings held last week). Locally, the Academy of Science of South Africa's project on scholarly publishing is beginning to take shape, under the aegis of the Department of Science and Technology (more on that in another posting), an increasing number of Open Access projects are beginning to emerge and the middle economy alliance of Brazil, India, China (and South Africa, tagging on behind) is beginning to impact. But a lot still needs to be done to get these debates a higher profile in the universities and in government.