OER Africa Menu

Close Menu

Search form

Image courtesy of Kojo Kwarteng, Unsplash

What is Open Access?

As the world continues to grapple with the uncertainties that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, the need for accessible, rigorous, unbiased knowledge has never been more urgent. However, this need stands in the wake of a barrage of misinformation, disinformation, and ‘fake news’.

In spite – or perhaps because – of this, the Open Access (OA) movement has gained even greater traction over the past 18 months, in an effort to make research on COVID-19 more widely available and to make research in other fields accessible to remote teachers and learners. But what is OA? Why is it increasingly important and how has COVID-19 advanced the OA cause?

OA is a set of principles and a range of practices through which research outputs are distributed online, free of cost or other access barriers, providing users with full re-use rights.[1] OA seeks to make research and data available for anyone, anywhere in the world to read, use, and build upon the knowledge, thus making knowledge outputs more valuable to a greater number of people.[2]

Open access can be applied to any published research output, including peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed academic journal articles, conference papers, theses, book chapters, monographs, research reports, and images. OA journals are categorized using a simple colour system.[3],[4]

Table 1         The OA publishing system

OA can, to an extent, be contrasted with ‘traditional’ publishing models for research outputs, with often exorbitant journal subscription fees that have consistently outpaced the consumer price index by a factor of four to five over the past three decades.[5] The high cost of journal subscription fees has meant that educational institutions, educators, researchers, and students may be locked out by paywalls and often cannot afford to access these articles, or are forced to buy them without knowing whether the content is relevant for their purposes. Moreover, publishing in scholarly peer reviewed journals usually involves long delays from submission to publication, which takes an average of nine months. This is partially due to the length of the peer review process, but can also be attributed to the prevailing tradition of publishing in issues – which has become less relevant because of the digitization of materials. This custom ultimately creates backlogs of manuscripts awaiting publication.[6]

 

Open Access during COVID-19

Why is OA more relevant now than ever before? The last 18 months has provided an extraordinary research context in which researchers have bypassed traditional systems to provide up-to-date research and findings about the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. As a group of United States-based patient and disease advocacy organisations recently noted, ‘information critical to health should no longer be held hostage by arcane publishing’[7].

Throughout the pandemic, researchers have embraced open publishing platforms and preprint servers to disseminate their findings as rapidly as possible. The first article related to COVID-19 was published on bioRxiv on 19 January 2020 – just 20 days after the Chinese government informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the impending COVID-19 threat. The article was licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence.[8] Some publishers have committed to publishing scientific articles relating to the disease as OA. Others are facilitating rapid open peer review and expediting the publishing of related research. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzig refers to this convincing demonstration of the value of OA to scientific research as one of the most important positive disruptions caused by COVID-19.[9]

At a practical level, the adoption of open practices has ignited collaboration and interaction amongst the scientific community. As Heather Joseph, the executive director of SPARC explains,

One of the things that COVID is showing us is that when scientists start openly pooling their data and articles, they start to have conversations about science in real time. Instead of waiting months for key findings to be published, scientists are sharing their findings on the sorts of channels many people use every day—such as Slack and Twitter.

This demonstrates how OA is part of the evolution of research publishing and in so doing, how it has contributed to our understanding of the disease. It is easy to see how the greater availability of information has propelled more rapid progress in various areas relating to COVID-19 – freely available scientific information has never been more necessary than in this age, where misinformation from unidentifiable or unrecognised sources muddies the waters between fact and fiction. But how has the pandemic highlighted the need for more people to consider making their research and data OA?

 

What about other research?

While most COVID-19 related studies were commendably made freely available to all, much of the world’s publicly funded university research remains hidden behind paywalls. However, the tide seems to be turning. Publishers, research institutions, and funders are collaborating to deliver high-quality OA publications for free at the point of publication.[10]

Efforts to remove journal paywalls have also gained significant traction since 2018, when an influential group of research funders announced that the scientists they fund should publish their peer-reviewed papers outside journal paywalls. This initiative, named Plan S, created instantaneous speculation over its efforts to eliminate journal subscription models. After many deliberations over policy, the project officially began in 2021, with 25 funding agencies rolling out similar OA mandates.[11] This has catalysed a significant shift, as an article in Nature explains,

Despite the complexity it’s brought, Plan S has already catalysed a shift in the OA landscape, advocates say. Journals that previously offered no route to make peer-reviewed articles immediately OA now do — even if only for authors with Plan S funders — and there’s been a blossoming of experiments with OA business models.[12]

Other significant developments include the global OA advocacy initiative OA2020’s efforts to implement transformative agreements in transitioning scholarly journals to OA. Transformative agreements allow users to repurpose former subscription payments to cover open publication of a country’s or institution’s research articles, thus eliminating author-facing article processing charges. Transformative agreements also allow one to restructure financial streams, creating enabling conditions for OA publishing and a more transparent, competitive market.[13]

In Africa, Côte d’Ivoire has launched a country-level Open Access repository, while Ethiopian university and government stakeholders have implemented OA policies for repositories, journals and infrastructures. In South Africa, institutions like University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand have made similar inroads in promoting OA, with the former institution developing a continental platform for publishing OA journals, monographs and textbooks in Africa.[14] In addition, countries such as Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda, have finalized their national policies for data and repository management.[15]

These kinds of arrangements have contributed to significant progress in mainstreaming OA. Piwowar et al estimate that, as of 2019, approximately 31% of all journal articles are available as OA and 52% of article views are to OA articles. Given these trends, they project that, by 2025, 44% of all journal articles will be available as OA and 70% of article views will be to OA articles.[16] However, there is still a lot of work to be done, as noted in a recent article:

In addition to and sometimes combined with geopolitical arguments and regional skepticism, active attempts to discredit open access as “bad science” are never far from the surface, e.g. the insinuation that open access publications may not be properly peer reviewed or that the APC model inevitably leads to lots of publications with questionable merit.[17]

This drives home the point that OA requires a consistent commitment to make sustainable – and sometimes incremental – gains in realising its goals. The current COVID-19 crisis highlights the importance of unfettered access to scientific and scholarly information, for researchers, educators, students, journalists and non-academic professionals alike. But sustainable change needs to happen at both the systemic and individual levels. Ultimately, it is not a question of whether OA is better than other publishing models, but rather of how OA can enhance a more equitable publishing ecosystem and thus make knowledge and data more accessible.

For more information on how to publish OA research, OER Africa has created a learning pathway to give you practical guidance for doing so. Visit Publish Using Open Access to access this tutorial. Other learning pathways are available here.

 

Related articles:

 

Access the OER Africa communications archive



[4] Open Access.nl. (nd). What is Open Access? Retrieved from https://www.openaccess.nl/en/what-is-open-access

[5] Burns, P. (2017). Academic journal publishing is headed for a day of reckoning. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/academic-journal-publishing-is-headed-for-a-day-of-reckoning-80869

[6] Björk, B. and Solomon, D. (2013). ‘The publishing delay in scholarly peer-reviewed journals’. Journal of Infometrics. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259165321_The_publishing_delay_in_scholarly_peer-reviewed_journals

[8] Kiley, R. (2020). ‘Open access: how COVID-19 will change the way research findings are shared’. Wellcome. Retrieved from https://wellcome.org/news/open-access-how-covid-19-will-change-way-research-findings-are-shared

[9] Tavernier, W. (2020). ‘COVID-19 demonstrates the value of open access: What happens next?’ Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved from https://crln.acrl.org/index.php/crlnews/article/view/24414/32251

[10] Boyle, P. (2021). ‘Covid-19 underlines the need for full open access’. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/covid-19-underlines-need-full-open-access

[11] Else, H. (2021). ‘A guide to Plan S: the open-access initiative shaking up science publishing’. Nature. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00883-6

[12] Else, H. (2021). ‘A guide to Plan S: the open-access initiative shaking up science publishing’. Nature. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00883-6

[13] Open Access 2020. (2020). OA2020 Progress Report. Retrieved from https://oa2020.org/wp-content/uploads/OA2020-Progress-Report-December-2020.pdf

[14] Makoni, M. (2021). New continental platform for open access publishing. University World News. Retrieved from https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20210203114558607

[15] Markin, P. (2020). Open Access in Africa, Institutional Repository Development and Open Science Challenges. Open Research Community. Retrieved from https://openresearch.community/posts/open-access-in-africa-institutional-repository-development-and-open-science-challenges?channel_id=2448-players

[16] Piwowar, H., Priem, J. and Orr, R. (2019). ‘The Future of OA: A large-scale analysis projecting Open Access publication and readership’. bioRxiv. Retrieved from https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/795310v1

[17] Spichtinger, D. (2020). ‘Not yet the default setting – in 2020 open research remains a work in progress’. London School of Economics. Retrieved from https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2020/01/17/not-yet-the-default-setting-in-2020-open-research-remains-a-work-in-progress/

 

What's New

You may have seen ArXiv pop up in your science-related or open access repository searches. ArXiv is an open access repository for pre-prints and post-prints that have been moderated but not peer reviewed.

Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute, Unsplash

What is ArXiv?

You may have seen ArXiv pop up in your science-related or open access repository searches. For those of us who are still wondering how to say it, it is pronounced ’archive’. The X represents the Greek letter, c, which is pronounced ‘ch’ and thus spells out archive.  

ArXiv is an open access repository for pre-prints[1] and post-prints[2] that have been moderated but not peer reviewed. It was the first freely available, open access repository, established years before Creative Commons or other mechanisms were available or the Internet became ubiquitous. ArXiv was established in 1991 as a way for physicists and mathematicians to circulate their research for comment before peer review and publication in a journal. It was developed with distribution formats few people use today — File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Gopher, and Mosaic (the world’s first Internet browser). According to Wikipedia:[3]

In many fields of mathematics and physics, almost all scientific papers are self-archived on the arXiv repository before publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Some publishers also grant permission for authors to archive the peer-reviewed postprint.

ArXiv has become tremendously important for scientists worldwide. On this, its 30th birthday, there are almost 2 million articles posted on the site in physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering, systems science, and economics. 

In the 30 years since ArXiv’s  founding, many additional servers for different disciplines and regions have been established, all on the Xiv model.  AfricArXiv, for Africa, is discussed in detail below. Two preprint servers in the biomedical sciences have received considerable attention because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the publication of several highly quoted articles in the mass media and research publications.[4]  But how much relevance do ArXiv and the other servers have for Africa?

How relevant are preprint servers to Africa?

ArXiv and the disciplinary servers that followed aim to help scientists worldwide share results and get feedback quickly without waiting for publication in journals.  Although bibliometric surveys have not been done for all of the servers, two in the biomedical sciences point to the paucity of African research appearing in them.  A 2020 survey of in eLife, of over 67,000 articles posted on bioRxiv found that international authorship and collaboration of African researchers was scant and most were not principal author.  Table 1 shows which were the 11 most published African countries in bioRxiv.[5]

Table 1: Which African countries publish the most in bioRxiv?

Figure 1: The good news[6]

When the researchers dug deeper into subject matter and where the research was carried out, they found:

Figure 2: Digging deeper[7]

This is important research for those of us who care about the contribution of African scientists to the global knowledge pool.  The role of scientists has evolved over the course of the pandemic – they are becoming more public-facing, which can significantly improve dissemination of accurate information in any given country.  Examples include Dr. Anthony Fauci[8] and Dr. John Nkengasong.[9] It is also important to encourage representation so that we can learn from other approaches and develop solutions that cater for diverse populations. 

 

AfricArXiv

In 2018, African scientists established an open access African preprint server, called AfricArXivto promote better visibility for African research and enhanced collaboration throughout the continent. AfricArXiv’s African focus has a special set of objectives, among them:

  • It is an African-owned open scholarly repository, a knowledge commons of African scholarly works to catalyze the African Renaissance.
  • Submissions must be relevant to Africa, with at least one African author.
  • Language is important in Africa, where AfricArXiv estimates that over 2,000 are spoken, a number which has been confirmed elsewhere.[10] All submissions must be accompanied by a summary in English and French to ease language gaps. Automated translation is allowed and must be acknowledged because these translations are not always accurate.  AfricArXiv also uses volunteer translators. In addition, AfricArXiv encourages postings in African languages and is partnering with Masakhane to undertake human translation of articles into African languages. AfricaArXiv writes about the significance of translation as follows:[11]

We encourage submissions in languages that are commonly used by the scientific community in the respective country, such as English, French, Swahili, Zulu, Afrikaans, Igbo, Akan, or other native African languages. Manuscripts submitted in non-English languages will be held in the moderation queue until we can get them verified. We herewith encourage you to suggest people who could assist in moderating in your language.

For those who want to know more about the significance of preprint servers, we encourage you to read Ten simple rules to consider regarding preprint submission, which was published in May 2017 in PLOS Computational Biology, an open access and highly prestigious journal. The article has been viewed over 44,000 times and cited 61 times.[12]

For those who would like more information on the lack of representation of African science in the journal literature, please see Where there is no local author: a network bibliometric analysis of authorship parasitism among research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, published on 27 October 2021 in BMJ Global Health.[13]  It demonstrates how few African biomedical researchers receive recognition for research results from their own countries.  See also the journal’s editorial on ‘parachute’ research: Using scientific authorship criteria as a tool for equitable inclusion in global health research.[14]

 

This has been one of OER Africa’s communications on open knowledge, which we will continue to explore in future communications.


Related articles

Access the OER Africa Communications Archive here

 


[1] Wikipedia contributors. (2021b, October 8). Preprint. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preprint (CC BY-SA)

[2] Wikipedia contributors. (2021b, October 1). Postprint. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postprint (CC BY-SA)

[3] Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 7). ArXiv. Wikipedia. Retrieved 13 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArXiv#Moderation_process_and_endorsement (CC BY)

[4] Ginsparg, P. Lessons from arXiv’s 30 years of information sharing. Nat Rev Phys 3, 602–603 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42254-021-00360-z (Freely available but copyright protected.  Springer Nature has a content-sharing initiative, which does not permit printing; the link for this article is https://rdcu.be/czHnW.

[5] Abdill RJ, Adamowicz EM, Blekhman R. International authorship and collaboration across bioRxiv preprints. Elife. 2020 Jul 27;9:e58496. doi: 10.7554/eLife.58496. PMID: 32716295; PMCID: PMC7384855. (CC BY)

[6] Guleid, F. H., Oyando, R., Kabia, E., Mumbi, A., Akech, S., & Barasa, E. (2021, March 17). A bibliometric analysis of COVID-19 research in Africa. MedRxiv. Retrieved 19 October 2021 from https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.03.15.21253589v1(CC BY)

[7] Guleid FH, Oyando R, Kabia E, et al, A bibliometric analysis of COVID-19 research in Africa, BMJ Global Health 2021; https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/5/e005690. (CC BY)

[10] Wikipedia contributors. (2021d, October 23). Languages of Africa. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from Wikipedia contributors. (2021d, October 23). Languages of Africa. Wikipedia. Retrieved November3, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Africa (CC BY)

[11] Languages – AfricArXiv. (n.d.). AfricArXiv. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://info.africarxiv.org/languages/ (CC BY)

[12] Bourne PE, Polka JK, Vale RD, Kiley R (2017) Ten simple rules to consider regarding preprint submission. PLoS Comput Biol 13(5): e1005473. Retrieved 20 October 2021 from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005473 (CC0)

[13] Rees CA, Ali M, Kisenge R, et al Where there is no local author: a network bibliometric analysis of authorship parasitism among research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa BMJ Global Health 2021. https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/10/e006982. (CC BY-NC)

[14] Sam-Agudu NA, Abimbola S. Using scientific authorship criteria as a tool for equitable inclusion in global health research. BMJ Global Health 2021. https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/10/e007632 (CC BY-NC)

 

Are academics at your institution struggling to find the time and space to invest in their own continuing professional development (CPD)? With so many competing priorities, many academics find it difficult squeeze CPD in among their other daily responsibilities.

Are academics at your institution struggling to find the time and space to invest in their own continuing professional development (CPD)? With so many competing priorities, many academics find it difficult squeeze CPD in among their other daily responsibilities. CPD is often the first thing to be jettisoned in busy schedules. Gone is the time when five days of training could be allocated to improving the skills and knowledge of academics. So how might we rethink academics’ CPD to make it more accessible and relevant? 

OER Africa is conducting research on different CPD methods that might resonate with busy academics. We are advocating repackaging training to be appealing, engaging and relevant to today’s academic. Below is an interactive report developed to showcase some of the initial findings of this research. Initially presented as part of the OE Global’s 2021 CONNECT conference, it is now made available for your attention, right here.

Please click the link below to access the interactive presentation, but be warned, your active participation will be required! Please complete the interactive components of the presentation honestly and fully as we would like to use your data as part of the research process.

                              

Related articles:

In this week’s article, Leanne Rencken delves into the ongoing collaboration between the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) and OER Africa. OER Africa has developed three learning pathways, as part of its grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and, along with AfLIA, is piloting them with university and academic librarians on the continent.

African Library and Information Associations & Institutions (AfLIA) Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, 2019

Image courtesy of AfLIA, CC BY

 

Report by Leanne Rencken,[1] for OER Africa.

Three inspiring conversations with remarkable African librarians provided me with great hope that our libraries on the African continent are in good hands.

Why did I have these conversations? My mission was to find out more about the ongoing collaboration between the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) and OER Africa

OER Africa has developed three learning pathways, as part of its grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and, along with AfLIA, is piloting them with university and academic librarians on the continent. 

The pilot project focused on three learning pathways:

  • Find Open Content is a short tutorial for participants to acquire the skills necessary to search for open content, decipher Creative Commons rights and permissions and evaluate the accuracy and relevance of Open Educational Resources (OER) identified.
  • Adapt Open Content provides a rapid solution to adapting open content for new purposes. It covers adaptation options, and how to revise and remix open content.
  • Publish using Open Access explains what Open Access is, and why academics might consider publishing in this way. It goes on to discuss publishing options, guidelines, and touches on other Open movements.

I spent a few delightful hours on Zoom calls with Dr Nkem Osuigwe, who is based in Nigeria, but commutes to Accra, Ghana for work, Dr Sarah Kaddu, who is based in Kampala, Uganda and Dr Ayanda Lebele, who is based in Palapye, Botswana. 

With their shared vision, curiosity, thirst for knowledge, leadership, and a collection of PhDs, it’s not surprising that I’m in awe of these three women who, in one way or another, are stewards of library science and services on the African continent.

Dr Nkem Osuigwe, who is the Human Capacity Development and Training Director at AfLIA, chatted to me about the pilot, in which 50 librarians across Africa participated, and who, by completing these learning pathways, are testing innovative alternative approaches to continuing professional development (CPD), to reduce dependence on traditional workshop-based professional development. 

Dr Osuigwe reveals herself through anecdotes; she is a great storyteller and admits she is driven by curiosity and her love for anything that concerns reading. She is the only librarian in a family of medical professionals, her late father, husband, and children included. She explains that she holds a position of importance in her home, because doctors can’t know everything, and often turn to their in-house librarian for research assistance.  

This same thirst for knowledge, and innate hunger to find out more about how the world works led to her appointment at AfLIA and how she approaches her current position. 

As she describes it, AfLIA is the platform for all librarians in Africa to come together, learn from each other, and encourage one another. It’s a strong network of different types of libraries, as well as an advocate for better operating environments for libraries on the continent. One of her most vivid memories, from when she first started out at AfLIA, is of a goosebumps-inducing visit to a library in Nakaseke, just outside Kampala. She was struck by how much the humble, two-room establishment influenced and involved the community it served.

"This little library could get news from the radio, TV, newspapers, but also books. They knew when and where it was going to rain, the cost of seedlings, how to get better produce. They were passing this information down to members of the community, so, in turn that made the community go there to find out, ‘where do I sell my bananas today, at what price, how do I sell them, which market will give me higher prices…’ That was the first time I realized that public libraries can really do awesome things when the people that work there understand what it is all about, when they engage their user communities more."

Thanks to this need to know more, see more, and do more, coupled with her networking skills, Dr Osuigwe stumbled across open licensing. She pursued a friendship with Amna Singh of StoryWeaver on Twitter, and, through these interactions was introduced to Pratham Books (India) and its enormously appealing StoryWeaver project. This work sees the creation of openly licensed children’s storybooks that can be translated, copied, and adapted at will, because of the Creative Commons licence used. Once she had made the connection, written a book for the platform, and participated in a StoryWeaver competition to translate children’s stories, Dr Osuigwe had a better idea of the potential for open licensing, what it means for African libraries, and how children can access books in their mother tongue.

And because Dr Osuigwe goes all-in with everything she does, she continued to make fruitful connections, initially via Twitter and then in-person, between AfLIA and Wikimedia, as well as AfLIA and OER Africa. Subsequently, several productive projects have ensued. 

For the learning pathways pilot, AfLIA selected potential participants from amongst its tertiary-level librarian community. They received questionnaires to ascertain their knowledge of OER and open licensing, Open Access, and using the Internet to retrieve information. Librarians from nine universities in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda were ultimately selected. 

Dr Lebele and Dr Kaddu were two of the participants selected to participate in the pilot project, which consisted of an introductory Zoom call, followed by a call for participants for each learning pathway. The librarians had two weeks to complete the learning pathway(s) they had chosen. Participants also received pre- and post-pilot questionnaires and a user experience survey. 

For Dr Kaddu, who works as a lecturer at the East African School of Library and Information Science at Makerere University, CPD is critical, because she’s got to stay relevant to her students, who are a lot more digitally savvy than she was when she studied for the same degree. As she explains it:

"When you look at the information landscape today, you’ll see that it’s characterized by plenty, there is a lot of information available out there, so the question is, how do I navigate all this information?"

She also says that the webinars AfLIA has provided, as well as the digital skills it is supplying to support educators in their daily work, have been well received. 

"They raise awareness of existing trends that we might otherwise take a while to get to know. AfLIA, being a continental voice, has been key in unifying all that is needed on the continent, there is one place to go for guidance on curricula, for example, and it’s been very useful."

In fact, Dr Kaddu, who completed the Adapt Open Content and Publish Using Open Content learning pathways, has taken these resources and worked them into her own curriculum, so when her publishing seminars with the masters and doctoral students come up, she is teaching them a lot of what she’s just learnt. 

While Dr Osuigwe believes that much of what librarians learn during their formal education can become obsolete in five to ten years, Dr Kaddu reckons that sometimes it feels like three to six months. To counter that, she says:  

"You must continuously learn and discover what is out there to make your work better, something that is going to complement what you are doing, to make your work appreciated, otherwise your learners will challenge you. Acknowledge that there is a gap, while you are teaching, and challenge your students to help."

Prior to the pilot project, Dr Kaddu had a vague awareness of OER, and the symbols representing the various Creative Commons licensing options. However, following these tutorials, she says a lot has now been clarified for her, and in turn for her students. 

‘They were really awesome, they were well designed, the information was easy to find, the materials were very, very clear,’ she says of the tutorials, and although she only had to complete two of the three, she’s working on learning pathway one in her free time. 

Like many others in her line of work, Dr Kaddu is mindful of the fact that ‘academics are supposed to publish’. She says knowing what she now knows, she plans to publish more and is advocating for open content. 

"I really want people to put their content out in the public domain, so that it can be utilized. If we publish to a greater audience, who are available to comment on our work, we can only improve. When info is in the open, it attracts many benefits. I no longer want to have it ‘closed’ – that’s selfish, and it’s not taking Africa anywhere. We need to add on to the existing literature, content, and data we have. We want to promote our scholars."

It’s going to take some convincing though. Dr Kaddu says the initial reaction, amongst her students, to publishing using open access, is negative. She says, ‘we need to be into it, to participate in it and promote it, then they will appreciate it’.

Dr Ayanda Lebele is the Director of Library Services at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). She tells me that it’s impossible to talk about her professional self separately from her private self because ‘I’m passionate about librarianship, it’s generally who I am.’ While she has this in common with her colleagues from Nigeria and Uganda, there are other similarities in their approaches to work.

‘For it to be functional, and effective, it’s the people that matter the most,’ says Dr Lebele, describing her team of librarians or, as she sees them, her work family, at BIUST.

To this end, she has entrusted a lot of the processes around CPD to her team, directing them where necessary, but also letting them find their own way. That way, she’s constantly learning as well. 

With regards to the learning pathways, she had 16 members of her team sign up for the tutorials. It was a challenge, as they were just going into lockdown in Botswana at the time, so there was the related anxiety, difficulty in adapting to working from home, and data and device limitations. 

But she’s pleased to report that they succeeded and are still reaping the benefits. One of her team members, Winnie Jamara, was the self-appointed champion for the completion of the course work, while another, Barulaganye Hulela has taken the knowledge on board and applied it specifically to podcast development. 

‘She adapts content we get from the open access platforms and uses it to suit the BIUST context, and to disseminate information to our audience, who we no longer interact with face to face due to COVID-19,’ Dr Lebele explains. ‘Through the pathways we did, we’re able to enhance our service delivery.’ 

Just as Dr Kaddu admitted that there was some hesitancy in her students adopting the idea of open publishing, Dr Lebele has seen a similar attitude from teaching academics at her own institution. She believes that, as librarians, they have some responsibility towards changing this mindset.

‘We see ourselves as knowledge workers,’ she says.

"We don’t just manage giving people information, we also manage how they participate in knowledge creation. We have a responsibility to help those who don’t have the awareness, to know their role is not just to be reading knowledge created by other people; they also have to package their own knowledge, so that somebody else may benefit from it in a context that best suits their environment."

Having completed the Adapt Open Content and Publish Using Open Content learning pathways, Dr Lebele is a great believer in the subject matter, but would like to see a more basic introduction to open licensing and OER. She explains further, saying we need to take a step back to where people are, bring them on board and build their interest. She’s concerned that ‘people don’t see the need’. 

Dr Osuigwe shares this sentiment: 

"People inherently want to learn, but the point is that sometimes you don’t know that something exists, and so, you don’t hunger for it. Once you’re curious to know what’s happening in your field, and you dig into it, you stir up that hunger to learn."

Finally, Dr Osuigwe chatted to me about motivation, what will drive librarians to complete these tutorials, and thus embrace this unique opportunity for CPD.

With reference to open licensing and OER, she says:

"This is an area that people do not know much about, and it’s also an area that will help librarians generate more resources for their user communities. Where they can go and learn how to collaborate with others and to create resources if needs be. That’s the motivation for me! I believe that in everybody there’s a curiosity quotient, there’s that element in everyone born in this world to find out what’s next. But you know, life kind of puts out the fire in almost everyone, so what we are trying to do is to reignite that fire to find out what’s next, what can be done, how can this be achieved. This is the adventure!"

If you’d also like to get in on the adventure and find out more about open licensing and OER, you can complete the learning pathways available here on the OER Africa website.

 

Related articles:


[1] Leanne Rencken is an enthusiastic, happy person with years of experience in content creation, curation and publishing. She has travelled extensively across Africa, from Botswana where she grew up, to Nigeria, Kenya, Angola and beyond. She believes in the transformative power of great content, no matter the platform or product. Most recently this love of story-telling has led to her to pursuing travel, teaching English as a foreign language, and freelance writing and editing on a wide-range of topics.