Open Access Africa, Cape Town 4-5 November

Updates and reflections from Open Access Africa and Berlin 10 - 4-8 November 2012, Cape Town & Stellenbosch, South Africa - Jonathan Harle, Programmes Manager at the Association of Commonwealth Universities (@jonharle)


  1. The background: Between Sunday 4th and Thursday 8th November there are a series of conferences and workshops taking place at the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch. Although the Berlin conference is international, the implications of open access for African research and education are high on the agenda, and are the main focus of BioMed Central's Open Access Africa.
  2. Hosted by the University of Cape Town. I'll be presenting in the 'research capacity' strand - provisionally titled 'Growing research by going open: The possibilities and problems for strengthening capacity'. 
  3. Sunday 4th November: Deborah Kahn introduces open access and BioMed Central. Notes that 

    open access is about different business models but the same quality & standards.  The business model doesn’t effect the peer review process. Growth has been fast since 2000. Although biomedicine leads, growing in all areas – including in the social sciences. 

    OA has a number of distinct advantages Deborah says - OA journals are not limited by size like a paper journal is and thus publish inclusively. If the science is good a paper gets in, rather than an editor asking ‘is this going to be a headline paper?’. Papers also get read widely much more quickly -       within a few weeks of publishing several titles got 12,000 accesses.

    The second presentation is from Eve Gray at UCT.
  4. Researchers' careers - their promotion prospects - are driven by their publishing profile, and impact factors are a huge factor in this: is the journal highly rated?. But Eve Gray argues that the impact factor is a 'car crash' for African researchers & cites Stephen Curry who says anyone using the impact factor is 'statistically illiterate'.
  5. National policy environments are critical. At present South Africa has commitments in pockets says Eve Gray, but at the same time pursues and innovation agenda which is built on IP and commercialisation. 
  6. Open access offers some great advantages to Southern researchers - but there are real worries that African universities could still lose out.
  7. Much of the debate assumes a national model - but Eve Gray suggests we need to think regionally.
  8. Next comes a presentation by Laura Czerniewicz, UCT, presenting on OpenUCT initiative.
  9. Universities are all very different, with different policy contexts. There is no one-size fits all model for moving towards open access. Laura's slide here on different types of institutions and their policy environments looked interesting but flashed past. Will look for it later.