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This week, we focus on publishing in high-quality Open Access (OA) journals, with an emphasis on African journals. Open licensing allows for distribution of research literature, primarily online, without cost to the reader. Most OA materials use Creative Commons licences, which lay out the terms under which they can be used and distributed. Many OA journals employ a particular Creative Commons Licence, CC BY, which permits distribution, copying, and adaptation without requesting permission. Full attribution is always required, however.

Traditional journals typically meet their costs through subscriptions and selling advertising space, with some charging authors. OA journals usually charge authors a fee, called an Author Processing Charge (APC). The business model thus switches from one in which the subscriber or the advertiser pays the costs to one in which the author must pay. There is also a third mechanism called hybrid publishing. Funders increasingly require their grantees to publish using open access licences. If they publish with traditional journals, because of these donor requirements, these journals permit authors to select a Creative Commons licence for their accepted submissions, but charge a fee for doing so. In addition, some traditional publishers now produce fully OA journals. SHERPA/RoMEO, which is hosted by the University of Nottingham in the UK, maintains a database with information on publisher copyright restrictions and permissions. Note author rights and general conditions, see Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: SHERPA/RoMEO entry for African Journal of AIDS Research

 

There are two major platforms where you can search for journals. One is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ); the other is through African Journals Online (AJOL).

 

AJOL hosts 526 journals, 264 of which are OA. On a national level, the University of Addis Ababa Libraries hosts Ethiopian Journals Online, a repository of 27 Ethiopian OA journals. The Academy of Science of South Africa also maintains Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) SA, which includes a selected collection of peer-reviewed OA South African scholarly journals and forms an integral part of the SciELO Brazil project.

Publishing research in African journals is significant for several reasons. It can give African scientists better global recognition. All too often African research is not accepted in traditional journals because it is not deemed a priority in Western journals or is considered too applied. African journals fill that gap; their peer review is comparable to their North American or European peers; and they are indexed by the same indexing and abstracting services. In addition, African OA journals charge lower Author Processing Charges or absorb costs in other ways. Moreover, the number of high-quality African OA journals continues to grow.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how well African publishers can speedily disseminate research particularly pertinent to Africa. As an example, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), which produces AAS Open Research, has a webpage on research and funding opportunities specific to Africa. It also maintains a COVID-19 collection with articles that have been peer reviewed and those that are awaiting peer review. This is an important mechanism to ensure that time-sensitive research becomes immediately available.

 

Equally timely, the Pan-African Medical Journal has published a special issue on COVID-19 in Africa. The research articles, essays, and commentaries in this issue are specifically relevant to the continent, for example, on the coronavirus in Nigeria, Morocco, conflict-affected areas of Cameroon, and migrant communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

The African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) has started to publish weekly COVID-19 situation reports written by researchers associated with APHRC. They cover topics not usually included in traditional publications, for example supporting communities living in urban informal settlements to protect themselves from COVID-19. Although APHRC’s core business is to conceptualize, implement, and publish long-term evidence-based research, the Centre believes that information on the coronavirus pandemic is so urgent that it decided to publish these weekly briefs focusing on Africa.

 

Resources on Open Access

OER Africa’s open knowledge primer provides background on basic concepts and their pertinence to African researchers. OER Africa has also created a Learning Pathway (LP) on publishing using open access, which defines terms and will help you acquire the skills necessary to publish or advise on publishing research using OA. Both the primer and the LP will enable you to understand how to identify and select peer-reviewed OA journals that meet international standards. Both provide information on how to evaluate open access journals, an important consideration because some OA publishers use deceptive practices.

Our upcoming post on 25 June 2020 will address the significance of open data as a part of OA publishing.

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What's New

Most research is only seen by a small number of specialists. Would you like to share your research with those who can use it directly? They can be teachers, policy makers, other stakeholders, or the media. In this post, we explore how you can make your work accessible to a wider audience and release it under an open licence.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Most research is only seen by a small number of specialists. Would you like to share your research with those who can use it directly? They can be teachers, policy makers, other stakeholders, or the media.  OER Africa has created a practical guide to communicating your research findings to a wider audience. In this post, we explore how you can make your work accessible to a wider audience and release it under an open licence.
  

The need to share scholarship openly

Most academics think that their research is important. Although they publish it in journals for others to read and build on, the reality is that academic journals are aimed at a specialised audience. Journal publication is important, but not necessarily sufficient. If you can find different ways to make your findings available, your research might be of value to a much wider variety of people, including local communities, who could use it to improve their lives, and policy makers, for whom it might provide useful evidence to inform their decisions. You could also help to generate trust in researchers, encourage public participation in important issues, and improve your own communication skills in the process. Professor Jerry John Nutor believes that: 

Research is meant to benefit society by raising public awareness and creating products and innovations that  enhance development. For research to serve its full purpose, the results must leave the confines of  research laboratories and academic journals.

If you find Nutor’s argument compelling, why not think about ways to make your research available and accessible beyond journal publication? In addition, when communicating your research, applying an open licence helps others to disseminate it further, without the need for permission from you.

Becoming a communicator of your research

Most research can and should be communicated to audiences beyond academia. One area of research communication which is developing into a field in its own right is that of science communication, and all researchers can learn from some of the methods that science communicators use to disseminate their research. SciDev.netexplains why accurately and clearly communicating science during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential. 
 
Here are some suggestions to consider: 

  • Identify the potential audiences for your research and the formats that they are likely to find most accessible. Producing a pamphlet for teachers to use in the classroom would look very different from making a short video for farmers to try out a new technique. Once you have identified your audience, you can plan how best to summarise your findings for them.
  • Decide on your key message/s. You are not writing a research paper; you need to decide what you want to tell your audience, and ensure that the message gets across to them early on in your communication. Using a message template can help you; tell your audience:
  • Here’s what we know.
  • Here’s what’s new.
  • Here’s why it matters.
  • Use plain language to write your blog, pamphlet, or other communication. Your audience will not want to read jargon or academic writing; it will want to understand your research quickly and easily. Good advice about writing in plain language can be found here.
  • Apply an open licence to the new communication you have developed to make it easier for others to share and use. The advantages and types of Creative Commons open licences are explained here.
  • Depending on your audience, you may want to translate your new communication into another language.
  • Decide where to disseminate the communication you have developed.

Where can you publish your communication?

It is best to start with familiar, local possibilities. These might include a website or newsletter of your own research group, department, or faculty. You could also contact NGOs or local community organisations related to your research to see if they would like to publish your piece. Your institution may have a communications department with which you could work to write a press release or similar.  You can also approach your radio stations or newspapers, particularly those that broadcast or publish in local languages that reach a broad audience.
 
Further afield, there is no one-stop-shop for finding examples of good research communication, but the following sites provide examples of research transformed for non-academic audiences. They are all openly licenced or have an option to publish with a Creative Commons licence. For these sites, you will need to learn how to pitch a story to the editors (i.e. ‘sell your story idea’) before you write it. For any of these, you can also publicise your piece using social media. 

  • The Conversation is a good example of a forum that many academics use to publish their research for non-specialists to read. The site includes opinion pieces and other issues as well as research findings, and is available in English and French.
  • Although it is more journalism-focused, you can contact SciDev.net to pitch a piece of research reformulated as a story.
  • You can also create an entry (or edit an existing one) on Wikipedia once you register as an editor. It is available in several languages.
  • You can create a channel on YouTube, develop your own videos, and upload them as OER.

In summary, developing the skills of sharing your research more widely than traditional academia is well worth pursuing: it gets you more widely known as a researcher, while also enabling your findings to be used by practitioners, educators, and the general public.
  

With thanks to Dr Marina Joubert (Stellenbosch University) for advice on dissemination.


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In August, OER Africa introduced the Open COVID Pledge for Education, which was launched at the OER20 Conference earlier that month. OER Africa is proud to be a founding signatory of this Pledge, which encourages individuals and organisations to make their intellectual property available through open licensing arrangements to support educators, learners and decision-makers and assist educational organisations.

What is the Open COVID Pledge for Education?

In August, OER Africa introduced the Open COVID Pledge for Education, which was launched at the OER20 Conference earlier that month. OER Africa is proud to be a founding signatory of this Pledge, which encourages individuals and organisations to make their intellectual property available through open licensing arrangements to support educators, learners and decision-makers and assist educational organisations.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, millions of learners and educational institutions globally have had to place greater reliance on digital communication and media in teaching and learning. The long-term effects of such shifts have yet to be seen, but there is no doubt that those most negatively affected will be learners in under-resourced environments, where access to high-quality educational resources, ICT, and learner support is often limited.

Developed by the Open COVID Coalition and hosted by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), the Open COVID Pledge for Education responds to this context by drawing from principles highlighted in the UNESCO Recommendation on OER (2019) and building on the Open Education values outlined in the Cape Town Declaration. It has been signed by representatives of many global Open Education Open Education bodies and professional organisations, universities, and individual researchers.

The Pledge asks that signatories commit to sharing Open Educational Resources (OER) for educators to support teaching and learning over the course of the pandemic. It also asks that signatories share practice and policy lessons, such as how individuals or organisations are responding to COVID-19 and what they are learning. In addition, the Pledge encourages signatories to share the following:

  • Open data, e.g. from surveys;
  • Open access research;
  • Unpublished research, organisational research, action research; and
  • Open source applications to support open education.

What has happened since the Pledge was launched?

Since its launch, two planning meetings were held online in September and October. These meetings produced an email discussion list, the Twitter account and hashtag, and an informative slide deck and logo. The team also conducted an open webinar in collaboration with the Open Education Special Interest Group to promote the Pledge.

UK-based members of the Open COVID Pledge for Education are currently developing two organisational case studies – one on University College London and the other on the University of Edinburgh – to showcase how they have released OER for educators as well as policy and research purposes under the Pledge. A keynote panel will be held on 15 December 2020 as part of the ALT winter conference, where the two case studies will be launched.

To date, there are 60 organisational signatories and 121 individual signatories and the project team welcomes new signatories.

How can I get involved?

The Open COVID Pledge ultimately aims to build a fairer and more resilient education system. It has been promoted using the @Covid_education Twitter account and #OpenCovid4Ed hashtag; through blog posts on the ALT blog; and on a public email list. You can become involved in the Pledge in various ways:


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The Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) (40 C/32) was adopted at the 40th UNESCO General Conference in Paris on 25th November 2019 as the culmination of a long process of UNESCO engagement with the concept of OER. Now that it is adopted and a UNESCO Dynamic Coalition has been discussing the next steps (download workshop report here), this raises the practical question of what steps government and educational institutions at all levels can do to help to operationalize the OER Recommendation.

Image courtesy of opensource.com, Flickr

The Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) (40 C/32) was adopted at the 40th UNESCO General Conference in Paris on 25th November, 2019 as the culmination of a long process of UNESCO engagement with the concept of OER. Now that it is adopted and a UNESCO Dynamic Coalition has been discussing the next steps (download workshop report here), this raises the practical question of what steps government and educational institutions at all levels can do to operationalize the OER Recommendation.

To help to unpack the possibilities, OER Africa has been facilitating a process to support UNESCO and its stakeholders to consider what actions they might take in each of the four key areas of the Recommendation:

  1. Building capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER;
  2. Developing supportive policy;
  3. Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER; and
  4. Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER.
 
This work is being done with support and input from a Network of Open Organizations established by Open Education Global. Discussions are in very early phases but has so far led to development of a very detailed Matrix of possible actions to operationalize the OER Recommendation. The draft Matrix considers in detail all the Actions identified for each Area of Action in the OER Recommendation and lists possible initiatives that governments and institutions might take (analysed separately for each stakeholder group). It is a work in progress. A Working Draft of the OER Recommendation Actions Matrix can be downloaded as a PDF file here.
 
As OER Africa is committed to ensuring that the impact of the OER Recommendation is maximized for African governments, networks, institutions, and other stakeholders, we encourage you to review the draft Matrix and add your ideas and comments (editable version can be found here).
 
Additional suggestions of how African governments and institutions can be supported in adopting the Recommendations are most welcome. Please add these to the editable version.
 
Your feedback and suggestions will make the draft Matrix much stronger and useful to others. We anticipate that it might be used, amongst other purposes, to:
  1. Develop a catalogue of freely available online resources for each Area of Action that governments, networks, institutions, and other stakeholders can draw on for support.
  2. Create communications and advocacy resources, drilling into detail on specific aspects of the OER Recommendation to provide ideas on possible activities.
  3. Repackage content for governments and other audiences to explore possible actions and policy reforms that governments might consider when implementing the OER Recommendation.
 
We hope the draft Matrix is already a useful contribution to implementing the OER Recommendation. We will keep the document open for editing until 30th November, 2020.

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