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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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Half a century ago, on 26 April 1970, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention came into force and is commemorated as World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, with the aim of increasing general understanding of IP. At OER Africa, we respect the right of individuals to protect their IP and we understand its importance in driving innovation. However, in the case of educational materials, we believe that All Rights Reserved may often not be the most appropriate copyright in today’s world.

Image courtesy of Markus Winkler, Unsplash

Half a century ago, on 26 April 1970, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention came into force and is commemorated as World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, with the aim of increasing general understanding of IP. WIPO is a self-funded agency of the United Nations and serves as a global forum for an IP system that enables innovation and inventiveness for the benefit of humankind. Almost all sub-Saharan African countries are members of WIPO. IP refers to property that does not necessarily have any physical substance (‘creations of the mind’), such as  inventions, designs, artworks, books etc. It provides for ways in which the IP embodied in such works can be protected. This protection is provided through, for example, copyrights, patents, and trademarks. These give creators rights over information and intellectual goods that they have produced, often providing economic incentives by protecting their ideas. A WIPO resource that explains the concept of IP is Making IP Work, and the organization is a leader in protecting people’s IP to drive innovation.

Critics of the concept of IP maintain that it prevents the free flow of ideas, hampers progress, and harms the public interest by concentrating on the benefits for the few at the expense of the many. A recent example would be the patenting of Covid-19 vaccines, resulting in enormous profits for certain pharmaceutical companies at the expense of global public health. For educational materials, the mechanism used to protect the rights of the creator is the concept of copyright

At OER Africa, we respect the right of individuals to protect their IP and we understand its importance in driving innovation. However, in the case of educational materials, we believe that asserting copyright with all rights reserved may often not be the most appropriate copyright in today’s world. Many of the resources are produced with public funds, so these should be available for reuse. Higher education institutions are coming under increasing pressure to produce better results, massify enrolments, and lower costs. Embracing the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER) by replacing All Rights Reserved with an open licence (such as one of the Creative Commons licences) can assist educational institutions to provide resources that can be accessed freely, used, adapted, and redistributed by others without restriction. You can find out more about open licensing on our online tutorial called Find Open Content.

The theme of World Intellectual Property Day for 2022 is “IP and youth innovating for a better future.” Correctly, WIPO aims to encourage youth to develop their ingenuity and creativity by using the tools of the IP system to build a better future. However, we would like to urge youth to consider openly licensing educational materials they may develop, and in turn, to make use of openly licensed materials.

A Creative Commons CC BY licence allows educationists to freely access and adapt educational resources for their own contexts. Enabling materials to be used in this way is especially important in developing country settings where resources are often not available or too expensive for students to access. For example, a better future for many young children in Africa would be learning to read for understanding. The African Storybook initiative provides openly licensed picture storybooks to encourage children to read for pleasure in numerous African languages. Encouraging youth to translate existing storybooks into their own language or adapt them for a different context or reading level are ways they can contribute to the development of literacy across the continent. If they have the skills to do so, they might also contribute storybooks to the website. Authors who develop such resources retain the copyright to their work; the open licence merely enables others to use the materials for their own purposes – which is very useful for youth, teachers, and parents alike. There are currently 3,210 storybooks available on the website, in 224 languages. An evaluation of the early years of African Storybook noted that ‘The number of stories and range of languages is … a powerful testament to the open publishing model which enables one story to be adapted …. or translated into many languages, quickly and easily and cost-effectively.’

At the higher education level, academics can develop course materials which they can openly license for adaptation and use by others. Many academics are concerned that they are giving away their IP by releasing them as OER. This however is not the case; as mentioned above, the course developer is the copyright holder, and all open licences require attribution of the original source. As Butcher (2011) explains in A Basic Guide to Open Education Resources, only a small percentage of teaching and learning materials generates revenue through direct sales, while teaching resources that have commercial resale value are few, and are declining still further due to educational material being freely accessible on the Internet. Releasing them under an open licence extends their longevity and brings recognition rewards to the author. Where there is a real potential for resources to be marketed for profit, the individual or the institution can maintain all rights reserved copyright, using WIPO’s guidelines. An academic wishing to openly license their work can refer to OER Africa’s Copyright and Licensing Toolkit, to find out about licensing options, applying a licence, and understanding copyright clearance.

IP clearly has a role in driving innovation. However, it is important to remember that it is a social construct, not a law. When considering World IP Day, we believe that all educationists should aim to strike a balance between using IP for their own personal benefit and openly licensing their works for the benefit of the constituencies they work within.


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As of 2022, activities by UNESCO to support implementation of its OER Recommendation are gathering pace and OER Africa is pleased to be assisting UNESCO in this important work. 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.

 

Image courtesy of Martin Weller, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As of 2022, activities by UNESCO to support implementation of its OER Recommendation are gathering pace and OER Africa is pleased to be assisting UNESCO in this important work. 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.

First and foremost, UNESCO is planning a series of regional virtual consultation workshops around the world, with at least one workshop to be organized for each of the five regions into which UNESCO organizes member states (Africa, the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and North America). These workshops will provide a first platform for member states to re-convene formally since the OER Recommendation was adopted, allowing an opportunity for them to share information on how they have progressed with implementation and discuss ideas for the way forward. This will be an important opportunity for such discussion and for UNESCO to share key messages learned in the first two years since adoption. It will also enable member states to begin planning what and how they would like to report on their progress with operationalization of the OER Recommendation, a process which occurs for all UNESCO Recommendations every fourth year at the UNESCO General Conference (and is thus due to occur in 2024 for the OER Recommendation).

In parallel, with this work, UNESCO has begun a process to develop a guide on the integration of OER into national policies and strategies, which will be developed in French with a focus on Francophone Africa and particularly the Sahel Region. Although many such guides exist, they have typically always been developed in English first with a global audience in mind, so development of a guide such as this, with its specific geographical focus, is a global first and will help to resolve some of the inequities associated with rate of progress of adoption of OER globally. OER Africa is glad to be providing technical and research support to a Consultant contracted by UNESCO Dakar who has been appointed to undertake this important work.

While this is all happening, UNESCO continues its work in advocacy and information-sharing through the OER Dynamic Coalition. Regular webinars are held online (the most recent, on Quality OER, was held on 10th March, 2022) and a monthly newsletter keeps interested parties up to date on latest developments. Anyone interested in receiving the newsletter can request to be added to the mailing list. Please fill out the form here.

OER Africa is proud to continue to support UNESCO in its important work in facilitating implementation of the OER Recommendation around the world.


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Access the OER Africa communications archive here

This week (14-20 March 2022) is South African Library Week. In 2001, the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) established Library Week for all types of libraries in South Africa to market their services and create awareness of the important role that libraries play in a democracy.

Msunduzi Public Library, South Africa. Courtesy of AfLIA

This week (14-20 March 2022) is South African Library Week. In 2001, the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) established Library Week for all types of libraries in South Africa to market their services and create awareness of the important role that libraries play in a democracy. This includes advancing literacy, making the basic human right of freedom of access to information a reality, and promoting tolerance and respect in society. Although South African Library Week is only recognized in South Africa, these values resonate with libraries in countries across Africa and globally.

This year, the theme for Library Week is ReImagine! RePurpose! ReDiscover... Libraries! It will explore how libraries reimagine their services and their ability to render those services, repurpose both their spaces and their services to continue being effective in the communities that they serve, and allow library users to rediscover the library and the ways in which it benefits them. An ongoing collaboration between the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) and OER Africa aims to encourage librarians in Africa to be able to reimagine libraries as spaces for opening access to information for their communities. This has been done through a series of activities to raise awareness about the importance of open licensing and open knowledge, including the 2020/21 piloting of a series of learning pathways on open education, with 50 librarians across Africa participating.

Increasingly, public libraries in South Africa and around the continent are required to do more with less, while providing vital access to reading material and resources for communities and individuals who cannot find such support elsewhere. Libraries continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and many are looking for new ways to provide services to their communities. While they battle under current challenges, they remain valuable places for people to be able to read books and newspapers, do homework or research, and use computers and the Internet. Could open education practices assist librarians to reimagine how their communities access the information they need?

In an interview for OER Africa, Dr Nkem Osuigwe, the Human Capacity Development and Training Director at AfLIA, described the importance of libraries to the community after a visit to a library in Nakaseke, just outside Kampala,

"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."

Dr Osuigwe believes the open licensing and open educational resources (OER) can enable librarians to help their communities rediscover libraries: "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."

African libraries are in good hands, with the support of AfLIA, which is constantly striving for equitable access to information for all. Through engagement with critical issues around open knowledge and open licensing, AfLIA encourages its members to reimagine their services and repurpose their spaces and services to help users rediscover how the library will benefit them. Open knowledge initiatives, such as the #1Lib1Ref campaign and the Wikipedia project for African Librarians, and free webinars AfLIA that presents with partners from across the globe, are establishing AfLIA as the platform for all librarians in Africa to come together, learn from each other, and encourage one another. AfLIA is creating an online space for African librarians to share knowledge, insights and perspectives that represent African voices, cultures, and philosophies as well as making sure that African narratives are represented in the global body of knowledge available online. In doing so, AfLIA is ensuring that African libraries and their users are able to reimagine and rediscover libraries as accessible knowledge centres for the global open knowledge community.

This week, join us in celebrating libraries and the important work they do in our communities.

 

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Access the OER Africa communications archive here