Access to Africa’s Knowledge: publishing development research and measuring value
African Journal of Information and Communication Issue 10, February 2010
This paper reviews, critically, the discourse of research publication policy and the directives of the regional and global organizations that advise African countries with respect to their relevance to African scholarly communication. What emerges is a readiness to use the concepts and language of the public good, making claims for the power of technology to resolve issues of African development. However, when it comes to implementing scholarly publication policies, this vision of technological power and development-focused scientific output is undermined by a reversion to a conservative research culture that relies on competitive systems for valuing and accrediting scholarship, predicated upon the systems and values managed by powerful global commercial publishing consortia. The result is that the policies put in place to advance African research effectively act as an impediment to ambitions for a revival of a form of scholarship that could drive continental growth. While open access publishing models offer solutions to the marginalisation of African research, the paper argues that what is also needed is a re-evaluation of the values that underpin the recognition of scholarly publishing, to better align with the continent’s articulated research goals.
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Publishing and Alternative Licensing Models in Africa: Comparative analysis of the South African and Ugandan studies
Eve Gray, with Andrew Rens and Karen Bruns
Publishing and Alternative Licensing Models in Africa (PALM Africa) was a two- country research programme funded by the IDRC and conducted in South Africa and Uganda, using action research to explore the potential of open access and flexible and open intellectual property licences with the aim of enhancing the impact of African publishing. The premise of the PALM intervention was that in Africa, which needs the development impact of knowledge production more than any other continent, the conventional book trade – both commercial and not-for-profit – faces serious barriers in reaching readers and creating sustainable business models.
The PALM research analysis and demonstration projects have revealed the variety of the contributions that African publishers across a wide spectrum are already making to cultural life, human resource development and critical development areas such as health and
agriculture. Much of this contribution has been neglected or under-recognised in the existing literature, largely as the result of preconceived notions of what constitutes publishing, which is in turn informed by neo-colonial power systems of knowledge dominance.
The potential that the PALM programme has identified for the use of flexible and open licences to grow access to Africa-centred and relevant knowledge for development would need to be supported by research and advocacy in a wider context, if is to reach its full potential. Given investment in research to underpin a strategic plan for policy development at national and regional level, there could be real potential for a vision of African publishing that is in line with developments in the 21st-century knowledge society, using the full potential of open and flexible licences and new business models to give the continent a strong global voice and the capacity to address its own cultural and knowledge needs.
A Critique of Research Dissemination Policy in South Africa, with Recommendations for Reform
A policy report prepared for an Open Society International Policy Fellowship, held in 2006-7. This was supported by the Open Society Institute in Budapest.
This paper reviews the policy context for research publication in South Africa, using South Africa’s relatively privileged status as an African country and its elaborated research policy environment as a testing ground for what might be achieved – or what needs to be avoided – in other African countries. The policy review takes place against the background of a global scholarly publishing system in which African knowledge is seriously marginalised and is poorly represented in global scholarly output. Scholarly publishing policies that drive the dissemination of African research into international journals that are not accessible in developing countries because of their high cost effectively inhibit the ability of relevant research to impact on the overwhelming development challenges that face the continent.