The inequality of access to information among scientists becomes a crucial factor in formal science, and Africa can be said to be suffering from a scientific information famine. This famine has largely been due to the high cost of subscriptions and the dwindling budgets of most African libraries in universities and research institutions. Worsening this crisis is the mergers and take-overs of some publishing companies thus reducing competition and encouraging monopolistic opportunism. All this has the tendency to widen the gap between the information rich and information poor countries with the end result being that researchers, libraries, institutions, and the general public suffer the consequences of high costs and access barriers. It is for this reason that African Higher Education Institutions and research institutions should seriously consider supporting the Open Access initiative and institutionalizing policies that make it mandatory for authors to publish in open access journals.
Open Access (OA) is a term used generally to explain the situation where the full-text of scholarly articles are made available freely for ALL to read, copy, download, and distribute over the World Wide Web. Other definitions are cited in the links below:
Open Access (OA) allows users to read, copy, download, distribute, print, search, or access links to research articles and permits the use or reuse of the content for non-commercial causes or lawful one. Some OA platforms however allow for commercial use, reuse and for any lawful purpose, as long as Internet access to the material is possible. The initiative removes the bottleneck of price restriction for purchasing, restriction virtue of non-subscription, limited access due to geographical location, and even worse to those who have not encountered or never heard of the journal that published a particular research finding. In a situation where the article is published only in hard copy print, access becomes even more restrictive.
The Bethesda Statement on Open Access publishing clarifies what qualifies as an Open Access publication with these two conditions:-
- The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
- A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well established organization which seeks to enable Open Access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/bethesda.htm)
Way Forward – Sherpa / Romeo Services
There is a list of publishers under a colour code scheme recommended by the Sherpa/Romeo initiative. Institutions are being encouraged to promote the use of the green and blue publishers to enhance knowledge sharing among members of their faculty and among colleagues across the continent. This will ensure that research findings are made more relevant to the community where the research was done and will further ensure that others in and around the research locality have access and derive benefits from the research. The Sherpa / Romeo link below provides a list of all publishers (All colours)
Contributed by Abednego Corletey – Senior IT Officer at AAU