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Open licensing is used for many different kinds of resources – open educational resources (OER), open access research publishing, open data, and more broadly open science. This post discusses developments in access to African research information through repositories that use open licensing. All of the resources are freely available and usually carry a Creative Commons or equivalent license.

OER Africa’s open knowledge primer provides a background on basic concepts and their pertinence to African researchers. OER Africa has also created a Learning Pathway on publishing using open access, which defines terms and will help you acquire the skills necessary to publish or advise on publishing research using Open Access (OA).

Like their global counterparts, many African research institutions and universities are increasingly using open licensing to make their research available and visible globally. The number of open access repositories is growing so quickly that it is difficult to keep track of them. The UK International African Institute (IAI) maintains a list that is frequently updated. IAI, in collaboration with AfricarXiv, has created an interactive map of African digital research literature repositories. You can also search on Google or the search engine of your choice by entering the name of an institution or country and repository (though this would require you to know better what you are looking for).

University open access repositories collect student theses and dissertations, case studies, conference papers, and sometimes journal articles. There are also continent-wide repositories. Three are discussed below. One focuses on university research output; one is a pre-print service; and one is discipline specific.

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Database of African Theses and Dissertations

The Association of African Universities maintains the Database of African Theses and Dissertations, including Research (DATAD-R). At this writing, universities in six countries contribute to DATAD-R. There are over 29,000 theses and dissertations and 4,700 research articles.

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AfricArXiv African Preprint Service

The AfricArXiv African Preprint Service is a part of the worldwide ArXiv movement in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics. ArXiv has become an important vehicle to speedily pre-publish scientific research and data on the coronavirus. The platform is maintained by Cornell University. Although contributions are not peer reviewed, ArXiv relies on a strong team of scientists as moderators and advisors.

Launched in 2018, AfricArXiv is an initiative of the Project for Open Science. This service allows African scientists to mount preprints of their research for review and discussion by peers in the international scholarly community before publication in a scholarly journal. AfricArXiv, which does not peer review submissions, sees itself as a way for African scientists to circulate their research quickly and freely in order to communicate with others in their field. It does not replace publication in a peer-reviewed journal. AfricArXiv is collaborating with Science Open to collect COVID-19 research in and about Africa.

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Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)

RUFORUM, is a continent-wide consortium in 126 African universities and 38 countries. It operates an open access knowledge repository in the broad-based agricultural sciences, with copies of theses and dissertations, journal articles, case studies, briefing papers, policy briefs, posters, presentations, and conference papers from RUFORUM member universities and RUFORUM staff.

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Click on the links below to access other articles in this series.

What's New

What have been the experiences of African Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives focussed on higher education? What can we learn from these experiences? Although the concept of OER initially gained publicity in the Global North, OER are gaining traction in Africa. OER Africa researched several African OER initiatives to assess their long-term contribution to establishing sustainable OER practices in African higher education.

What have been the experiences of African Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives focussed on higher education? What can we learn from these experiences? Although the concept of OER initially gained publicity in the Global North, OER are gaining traction in Africa, with an increasing number of OER initiatives focusing on areas such as OER advocacy, practice, and research. Today, the concept has been mainstreamed around the world, as exemplified through the unanimous adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on OER in 2019.

OER Africa researched several African OER initiatives to assess their long-term contribution to establishing sustainable OER practices in African higher education. This work explored their effectiveness and identified lessons to enable better development and support of OER practices. It also helped to deepen OER Africa’s understanding of professional development needs amongst African academics to enable more effective OER practices.

To do this, we developed case studies on eleven African OER initiatives in higher education to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of each initiative, followed by an analytical summary report. The report collates the findings from the OER initiatives , highlighting the implications of the findings for better development and support for effective OER practices.

Access the case studies and report here.


Related articles:

 Access the OER Africa communications archive here

Museums tell ancient and recent histories as they collect, safeguard, and make accessible artefacts and specimens that they hold in trust to inspire and enable people to explore, learn, and enjoy. They continue to evolve in their roles and contribution to education as they embrace open access and Open Educational Resource (OER) principles.

Image courtesy of Abdullah Elhariry, Unsplash (Unsplash licence)

Museums continue to evolve in their roles and contribution to education as they embrace open access and Open Educational Resource (OER) principles. Museums are joining the open access movement by, for example, providing high-resolution downloadable images free of charge to maximise the ability of people to interact with, share, and reuse their collections.  

Museums tell ancient and recent histories as they collect, safeguard, and make accessible artefacts and specimens that they hold in trust to inspire and enable people to explore, learn, and enjoy. All museums support education as they provide unique prospects and platforms to engage students in their spaces and through their exhibitions, presentations, lectures, and discussion sessions on history, science, mathematics, technology, medicine, arts, politics, religion, humanities and social sciences, among others.

The Shenzhen Declaration on Museums and Collections of the UNESCO High-Level Forum on Museums from 2016 promoted the educational role of museums and the adaptation of museums' contents to provide a variety of formal, non-formal, and lifelong open learning experiences through universal accessibility for various audiences and removal of barriers to disadvantaged groups and persons with specific needs and capacities.

Learning about history and culture includes learning about all the aspects of the human ‘being’ and their day-to-day life. For example, if a student visits a museum and explores an exhibition dealing with historical figures or events involving aviation, the student is likely to be intrigued to want to learn more about flying which may not have been introduced as a vocation in the classroom. In such a case, the museum experience could well be an initial influence on future life choices of the students.

Museums are adopting open access to increase public engagement with their collections, introduce news areas of operation, and collaborate with creators and other institutions of learning, including universities, colleges, and schools.

The challenges of COVID-19 lockdowns in the past two years left museums without visitors, prompting them to accelerate digitization of their collections and adopt open licences for learners and academics to access their holdings as part of their learning or academic research. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 1,000 cultural heritage institutions around the world have adopted open licences to provide virtual access to their collections and resources.

Open access for museums refers to efforts made by museums to digitise their collections allowing for the creation of virtual exhibitions and databases or libraries, which are accessible online, containing high-resolution downloadable collections of digitised images of artefacts and information resources, including text, photos, movies, audio files, maps, graphs, and links to other sites.

Some of the digitised museum collections for Africa and African resources include the following:

African Online Digital Library (AODL) – AODL is an open access digital library of African cultural heritage materials created by Michigan State University in collaboration with museums, archives, scholars, and communities globally.

Smithsonian Open Access National Museum of African American History & Culture – The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 21 museums and the National Zoo—shaping the future by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing resources with the world. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is exclusively devoted to the documentation of the African American life, history, and culture. The museum has collected more than 40,000 artefacts. The images and data are in the public domain under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence, allowing use, transformation, and sharing of the open access assets without asking permission from the Smithsonian.

COM Library - African Art – This hub of open access resources for African art features Google Arts and Culture content from over 1,000 leading museum and archives that have partnered with Google Cultural Institute to bring the world’s treasures online. 

Adoption of open access and OER principles by museums increases the diffusion of knowledge for both education and information. It helps students, researchers, and education providers access unique material locked up in museums all over the world. Open access can also help provide the education sector in Africa access to some of Africa’s artefacts in many museums in the global north collected during colonialism.


Related articles:

OER Africa coordinated a project with members of the Network of Open Orgs, a coalition of organizations that meets regularly on implementing and supporting the UNESCO OER Recommendation. The project involved a collaborative effort among several members of the Network to develop a set of seven research summaries that explore the success of OER.

Advocates of Open Educational Resources (OER) often promote their perceived benefits, such as increasing access to educational materials; improving scalability and circulation of resources; and providing opportunities to adapt resources to suit learners’ needs and contexts. However, the past five years alone have seen significant shifts in education systems. Transformative forces such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leaps in technology development, and global economic reconfiguration mean that now more than ever, education systems need to remain dynamic and responsive.

Key to this responsiveness is ensuring that there is ongoing research on the actual benefits of using OER, so that we can gain a comprehensive, measured understanding of its implementation, benefits, challenges, and lessons. Such research can provide insight on how to most effectively implement the goals of the UNESCO OER Recommendation.

Within this context, OER Africa coordinated a project with members of the Network of Open Orgs, a coalition of organizations that meets regularly on implementing and supporting the UNESCO OER Recommendation. The project involved a collaborative effort among several members of the Network to develop a set of seven research summaries that explore the success of OER. The summaries were then analysed to extract key findings, which were presented in a short report.

The Network aims to make such analyses an ongoing activity to remain abreast of OER implementation around the world. Ultimately, this will assist in realising the goals of the OER Recommendation.

Access the case studies and summary report here.