Uncovering Open Access: seizing the moment and making it work for you – experiences from the ground

Led by: Martie van Deventer, Head of Information Services Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR) South Africa

There is extensive coverage and discussion in various disciplines and the literature regarding open access. The open access movement is supported and advanced by a wide range of interest goups and activities such as national and international organisations, the academic community, governments and publishers. While open access is gaining strength and popularity as the new model for dissemination of information, there are still many unresolved issues particularly in its application. This session covered challenges and rewards in this area and focuses particularly on the implementation of Institutional Repositories and the development of publishing models.

Siphethile Muswelanto and Dr Martie Van Deventer of CSIR were joined by Ina Smith (University of Pretoria) and Karen Bruns (HSRC Press) to present a compelling case study of efforts to introduce Open Access (OA) across South Africa’s research sector. Whilst uptake of OA – both in the promotion of OA publishing models and the establishment of repositories – still has some way to go progress to date has been good and compares favourably with the comparable situation amongst the development research community in my own country (the UK). Why was this? Dissatisfaction with a system which sees knowledge created in Africa being published in formats which are too expensive for African researchers themselves to access clearly provides an incentive. But, as I listened to the presenters I was struck by two things. Firstly the apparent energy, knowledge and enthusiasm of the participants in their pursuit of this agenda. Secondly their willingness to work together and share knowledge to overcome the barriers they face. This second point has been a recurring theme here and something that bodes well for the future of this emerging intermediaries group being convened here in Centurion.

Of course it’s not all plain sailing – challenges remain and we were cautioned not to regard Open Access as a silver bullet. More remains to be done to encourage uptake, develop skills and connect the different initiatives so that the audience for the research available can be broadened.

Alan Stanley, IDS

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