Xin Bi (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University/DOAJ), Ina Smith (Academy of Science of South Africa), and Abel Packer (SciELO) recently joined OASPA for a webinar to discuss Open Access Publishing in the Global South. Lars Bjørnshauge (DOAJ) chaired the discussion. The Copyright Clearance Center hosted the webinar. Leyla Williams, Events and Communications Coordinator at OASPA, reflects on the discussion.
On Thursday, December 8th, 2016, OASPA was pleased to host a timely and wide-ranging discussion on the current state of open access publishing in different parts of the Global South. Xin Bi, University Librarian at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) and Editor and China Ambassador of the Directory for Open Access Journals (DOAJ) in China, opened the webinar by describing recent developments in open access publishing in China. In recent years, he explained, the Chinese central government has encouraged innovation strategies for economic and social development, which has involved a large increase in investment in Research and Development. Such strategies have included a focus on people being able to access and share research, and commitments to open access have expanded since 2014, when the China National Science Fund Committee and Chinese Academy of Science published their mandates for open access.
Publishing open access continues to grow in popularity, Bi argued, because much research produced by Chinese researchers – particularly in the sciences – has traditionally been published in international journals in English, which is then often sold back to Chinese academic organisations in the form of large publishing packages with ever-increasing subscription costs. Papers in the Social Sciences and Humanities are generally published in Chinese, but these papers are often still deposited back into Chinese local aggregator databases, which still charge for access and downloading. Open access publishing enables research outputs to be published in China instead of in international journals, allows for far more publishing in Chinese rather than English, and lays the foundation for easier dissemination of research within China and around the world. Challenges for the open access community naturally remain; Bi described there being a variety of different understandings in China of how ‘open access’ can be defined, with many looser definitions of the term in play. China, he added, is still slow in enacting open access policy changes. Universities tend to encourage their researchers to publish open access, rather than make it mandatory. Despite this, it is clear that progress in open access in China continues at a brisk pace, and the open access community around the world should be watching the region closely for new developments.
Our next panelist, Ina Smith, is a planning manager at the Academy of Science of South Africa, where she is working on a DST/ASSAf/ICSU/CODATA project for an African Open Science Platform, and is a DOAJ Ambassador for the southern Africa region. Smith took us on a whirlwind tour of the current state of open access publishing throughout the African continent. Fifty academic institutions in Africa have created open access policies. The publisher Hindawi and non-profit online library African Journals Online (AJOL) are the most active organisations working in the open access sphere within the continent. Half of all journals are open access, with around 200 of these being registered on the DOAJ. The growth of Internet usage and open source publishing software in the region point to an optimistic future for the open access community, and the Africa Open Science agenda offers excellent opportunities to push for open access publishing. However, large challenges remain for open access advocates across Africa. Many journals are still only available in print. Uptake of open access research and sharing of research outputs has been relatively slow compared to the rest of the world and other regions within the Global South. As Smith explained, many countries across Africa face widespread poverty, political instability, corruption, disease, and lack of infrastructure, connectivity, and electricity, and so support for open access publishing will continue to take a backseat while urgent social and political challenges are tackled. A ‘blind belief’ in the value of the journal impact factor system, Smith continued, also serves to hinder progress in the open access movement. Authors face a system of promotion and reward based on publishing in international journals rather than journals within Africa. There is a huge lack of knowledge on best practice scholarly publishing, Smith added. However, momentum for open access publishing must continue to be advocated for, since its rewards hold huge promise for the continent. Democratising access to quality research, Smith argued, allows individuals to better educate themselves, can empower the African research community to raise the quality of African publishing, can stimulate entrepreneurship and economic growth, and can ultimately serve to help alleviate poverty and enable healthier communities.
Our final panelist was Abel Packer, Director of the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) Program. Moderator Lars Bjørnshauge (Managing Director and Founder, DOAJ), introduced Latin America as ‘inventing open access before we (in the West) even started talking about it’, and from there, Packer took us through the recent history of, and developments in, open access publishing throughout Latin America. The population of Latin America, including the Caribbean, totals about about 9% of the world’s population, and the region publishes the highest proportion of open access research globally. 71% of all academic journals in Latin America are open access, compared to a total global average of 17%.
Latin America offers strong open access publishing options in the form of both gold and green open access publishing, Packer continued. The SciELO network, which runs on a gold open access model and was established in 1998 in Brazil, was set up to increase the visibility, quality, use and impact of academic journals. As of this year, the network operates in 15 countries, including 12 countries from across Latin America, as well as Portugal, South Africa and Spain. SciELO boasts more than a thousand active journals, around 600,000 articles, and over a million downloads per day. Alongside this, green open access models are also on offer; La Referencia, a network of institutional repositories across 8 ‘national nodes’, compliments SciELO by offering public access to over 1.3 million research documents and 750,000 journal articles. Packer spoke of open access research as being largely envisaged within the Latin American research community as regional or global ‘common good’; the SciELO model consists of a decentralised network of national collections of journals across the region, all of which are governed and funded nationally, usually by government research agencies. Over the years, Packer explained, SciELO has greatly strengthened the visibility, usage, and impact of quality journals in these national collections. As with other open access publishing movements elsewhere, there are, of course, ongoing challenges; SciELO and others in Latin America are working to improve recognition, credibility, professionalisation, internationalisation, and sustainability of nationally published journals, and he points out ‘major challenges’ remain in the way of research and journal evaluation. However, it is evident that the open access movement within Latin America that Packer described has been nothing less than a phenomenon, and open access advocates across the world should take inspiration from the continued work of SciELO and others across the region.
We finished off the webinar with a short Q&A session with the panelists, in which Bi, Smith, and Packer reflected on particular leaders within the Global South Open Access movement who have inspired them and their work, and where they saw the open access movement in the Global South in ten years time. Smith cited Stevan Harnad, Peter Suber, and the DOAJ as historically inspirational open access advocates, and described wanting to see large increases in quality of journals and a shift in impact factor measurement across the Africa region over the next ten years. Packer argued for acknowledgement of the risks of enforcing the use of Article Processing Charges (APCs) in publishing within Latin America, and agreed with Smith on the urgency of pushing for quality in journals in the future. Bi wished for greater government support in China for open access publishing, which he sees as vital for the continuing progress of the open access movement.
The recording of this Open Access Publishing in the Global South webinar, along with the accompanying slides from the discussion, are freely available for the public and can be found here.
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Dr. Xin Bi has been University Librarian in Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) since August 2007. At XJTLU, Xin has established the Library, Museum, Campus Bookstore and an ACCA examination Centre for the university with his team. In his capacity as University Librarian, he was a lecturer of Computer and Communication Skills from 2008 to 2012 and the acting head of Brand and Marketing Office from 2012 to 2014. He has been active in research since 2014 as the Research Associate in the Institute of Leadership and Educational Advanced Development of XJTLU since 2014. He also currently serves as Editor and China Ambassador of DOAJ in China, and is a board member of Asia (Pacific) Library Advisory Boards for several international .
Ina Smith is currently preparing for further studies on the adoption of open access publishing in the Global South, with specific emphasis on Africa. She is currently employed as a planning manager at the Academy of Science of South Africa, where she is working on a DST/ASSAf/ICSU/CODATA project for an African Open Science Platform, and is a DOAJ Ambassador for the southern Africa region. In 2014 she received the LIASA President’s Acknowledgement for Exceptional Contribution (2014), in 2011 she was a Runner-up in the international EPT Award for Open Access, and in 2016 she was awarded LIASA Librarian of the Year. She holds a Masters’ Degree from the University of Pretoria in Computer-Integrated Education, a Higher Education Teaching Diploma, and an Honours Degree in Library and Information Science.
Abel Packer is Director of the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) Program of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and Project Coordinator at the Foundation of the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), Brazil, since June 2010. Previously, he was Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences (BIREME) of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization for 11 years. He participated pro-actively in the conception, management, operation and dissemination of major Latin American and Caribbean multilingual scientific information networks, such as the Latin American Population Documentation System (DOCPAL), the Virtual Health Library (VHL) and the Scientific Electronic Library Online network that publishes currently about 1000 journals through national collections from 15 countries most from Latin American in addition to Portugal, Spain and South Africa.
Lars Bjørnshauge is the Managing Director and founder of the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals). From 2012-2016, he was the SPARC Europe Director of European Library Relations, and previously he was the Director of Libraries at Lund University, Sweden (2001-2011), the Deputy Director and the Acting Director of the Technical Information Center of Denmark Technical University of Denmark (1992-2000), and President of the Danish Research Library Association (1992-1994). He was the first Vice-President of the Swedish Library Association (2005-2011), and is currently a Board Member of OASPA (2012- Present). He is also the co-founder of Infrastructure Services for Open Access, co-founder of OpenDoar, the Directory of Open Access Repositories, and co-founder of the Directory of Open Access Books.