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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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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.


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 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.


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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.