Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More on the OA summit in Botswana

Alma Swan, African genesis, OptimalScholarship, November 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

Last week a two-day conference on Open Access took place in the University of Botswana in Gaborone. So what? Open Access conferences are not unusual these days. This one was, though, for two reasons. First, it is the first time that the terms 'Open Access' and 'Leadership Summit' have ever come together in a conference title. Second, the vice chancellors of Southern African universities - for it was their meeting - sat through two days of presentations and discussions on the topic. Having the attention of a group of vice chancellors focused on Open Access for two days has to be a first, too.

It is said that once someone in the world has an idea it is easier for everyone else to have it too. That has been hard to believe where Open Access is concerned. The uptake of the concept has been appallingly slow and embarrassingly cock-eyed in many cases. Yet we seem to be entering a new phase. University leaders are starting to understand the messages about the new opportunities for science and scholarship now that we have the Web. It's not just Open Access. The issue is far broader, deeper and important for mankind than even that. But OA is the start, the founder principle upon which the rest can be built, and thinking leaders in the academic world are seeing this. In the last few weeks we have had the initiation of movements at university level to promote and further Open Access and its associated benefits in Brazil, Europe and now Southern Africa....

I want to highlight...the significance of this meeting in the context of world scholarship. The problems of African scholarship are in general more than, and different to, those in the developed economies. Eve Gray set this scene in the most authoritative and impressive of ways in her opening talk at the meeting. Nonetheless, there are also difficulties that are shared, and the suboptimality of communication is one. Hussein Suleman followed up on the second day, from his perspective as a computer scientist, with an excellent overview of what can and should be done in Africa to address this issue. The vision and actions he promoted apply everywhere else, too. Africa's uniqueness in certain respects does not simply read-over into the scholarly communications arena too. True, the problems in this respect are exacerbated in Africa, but they are not confined there, nor even to the developing world as a whole. All parts of the globe share that particular suboptimality.