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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium 31 Open-Access Research and the Public Domain in South African Universities: The Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems Sal Muthayan Doctoral Candidate, South Africa INTRODUCTION This paper, based on a broader empirical study I am conducting at three South African universities, examines how globalization and democratization have affected knowledge production at South African universities. It looks at whether increasing open access to academic research, which can be made readily available through new technologies, might enhance the research capacity of these universities and give impetus to the transformation project aimed at social justice and a new democratic order in South Africa. In this paper I consider the current state of research access at the three universities and whether open-access publishing systems, such as the Open Journal Systems developed by the Public Knowledge Project, are in a position to contribute to building research capacity at South African universities. The questions posed in this paper are: (1) Given global economic trends and the low value of South African currency in the exchange market, what has been the access to scholarly resources and technology at South African universities over the past five years? (2) To what extent do the experiences of historically black universities (HBUs) differ from those of historically white universities (HWUs)? (3) What are the research access and capacity issues confronting researchers and librarians at South African universities? (4) To what extent can open access and the public domain of research be increased through the Open Journal Systems? BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT As a new African nation South Africa is faced with challenges that are both local and global. The country needs to build a democratic society from the devastation in the wake of apartheid while finding its niche in a globalized world that is knowledge-based (White Paper 1997, as cited in Kraak, 2001, p. 20). The new higher education policies and several scholarly analyses of this policy focus attention on the universities’ agency in the transformation to a new democratic and equitable society nationally and in providing the country with skills, innovation, and knowledge to compete globally (Ekong and Cloete, 1997, p. 7; see also Currie and Subotzsky, 2000; Kraak, 2001; Soudien and Corneilse, 2000). Universally institutions of higher education have been seen as the main producers of knowledge and skills and as transmitters of culture (Sadlack and Altbach, 1997, p. 3; Neave, 2000, p. 1).
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium At the local level in South Africa the knowledge processes at the university can help to solve some of the many social problems facing the country. Universities can also assist in reconfiguring notions of culture, identity, and diversity in the postapartheid society (Cloete et al., 1997). In a knowledge-based global economy knowledge creation, innovation, and high skills formation at the university may help to position the country as a competitive global player. Although the new higher education policies emphasize the universities’ dual role in these processes of democratization and globalization, little research has been conducted on whether these universities have the research capacity to generate this knowledge, innovation, and skills. RESEARCH METHODS The research methods consisted of an ethnographic multiple case study of research access and capacity conducted at three sites, namely, an HBU, a historically white Afrikaans university (HWU-A), and a historically white English university (HWU-E). Although the three cases were limited to one particular province in South Africa, their different social and historical contexts not only are similar to most other South African universities but also mirror the sociopolitical context of South Africa and the dilemmas it presents for the transformation of the society from an apartheid past to a democratic future. These cases have allowed me to examine any similarities and differences in research capacity between privileged HWUs and underprivileged HBUs in South Africa. Although the intention is not to generalize the findings of this research, as Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 29) evince, “Each setting has a few properties it shares with many others, and some properties it shares with some others, and some properties it shares with no others.” A Likert scale and short answers and in-depth interviews have been the main data gathering techniques in the survey. Thirty participants consisting of academics, postgraduate students, librarians, university administrators, and policy makers were surveyed and/or interviewed. Participants were drawn from faculties across the disciplines, from sciences to humanities and social sciences. The sample included racial, gender, and language diversity. FINDINGS Access to Scholarly Resources Print Journals Two of the three universities have experienced a sharp decline in library serial holdings (see Table 31.1). The HBU was most severely affected, with journal subscriptions across the disciplines having been cancelled due to financial constraints. Not a single new book had been acquired over the past five years. Although the academics and librarians at all three institutions place a premium on the value of research literature for teaching, supervising postgraduate students, conducting and publishing research, and providing counsel to public bodies, they have had to contend with this lack of access to scholarly resources. Interestingly, the HWU-E, an institution traditionally TABLE 31.1 Serial Holdings University HBU HWU-A HWU-E Print journal subscriptions 2002 462 1057 1300 (45.6% decrease) (32.2% decrease) 1997 850 1559 1300 (approx)a Electronic database subscriptions 2002 14 13 21 aThis university could not provide accurate figures of print subscriptions over the five-year period.
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium recognized for its research output, has managed to maintain its journal holdings. Participants at the HWU-E described their access to journals as adequate to good, at the HWU-A as adequate to poor, and at the HBU as poor. Invariably African journals were considered less important than international journals at the HWUs and equally important at the HBU. The discipline with the highest journal subscriptions was social sciences for the HBU, life and physical sciences for the HWU-A, and humanities for the HWU-E. Science and technology were among the disciplines with the lowest percentage of journal subscriptions. On average 80 percent of the holdings of these universities consisted of international (Western) journals, whereas only 20 percent comprised African journals, these being mainly South African journals. One way that South African universities have overcome the limited access to scholarly resources is to form national and provincial consortia of university libraries. There were almost no endeavors to form regional African library consortia, a method used by other jurisdictions for securing greater access to journals (DFID, 1999). Interlibrary Loans Given the constrained access to scholarly resources, academics and postgraduate students had to depend heavily on interlibrary loan systems, which they believed was a further drain on their limited research funding. Articles retrieved internationally cost 110 rands while books cost 200 rands each. Postgraduate students working on their theses found this system “frustrating and time-consuming.” One student explained the frustrations with such a system. Sometimes when I get that book, my study is not there. I have moved on and I am busy with other areas. Sometimes I feel I have wasted their [librarian’s] time because I will refer maybe to a paragraph or two, but if I had made contact with that information from the beginning, I would have learned more. It posed [frustration] and it limits you and it makes you to make wrong choices because the tendency is that you are driven by the text (that is available) to make decisions. By the time you get, maybe things that are brilliant . . . you have closed your mind and made your choice and that is how you are going to do your research. So in a way I would say “yes, it does limit one.” This view shows that while interlibrary loan systems have worked well over the years, they do have shortcomings, which according to the student cited above, could have a significant effect on the research product. Electronic Journals Electronic access to journals has been well received by most participants. They cited the relative ease of wider access to scholarship and saving of time as the main advantages of electronic journals. In addition, several users may access an e-journal simultaneously, whereas print journals can only be consulted by one user at a time. For those who have access to the Internet at home, research may be conducted outside of library hours. It is perhaps no surprise that the librarians of the universities with better resources—the HWUs—claimed that the most popular format for consulting research literature was online, whereas the librarian of the HBU posited that print form was the only format available to students. The HBU university’s library had a total of 73 computers with Internet connections, yet only librarians used these computers (see Table 31.2). They conducted searches on behalf of academics and students, who had little direct access to them. The HWU-A’s library had a total of 94 computers TABLE 31.2 Library Computers with Internet Connections University HBU HWU-A HWU-E Computers with Internet connections, 2002 73 94 102 Student use 0 8 49 (including public) Faculty use 0 0 nil
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium with Internet connections but only 8 were available for use by the students and none by academics. The HWU-E had approximately 102 computers with Internet connections used by librarians and staff, 49 of these being available to the public, including students. At the HWUs the academics had their own computers with World Wide Web access. At the HBU, which is rurally located, the academics had only recently acquired computers with World Wide Web access, but the quality of the connections was still problematic and often resulted in slow and/ or aborted connections. Concerns about Access to Scholarly Resources Reasons for the declining access to scholarly resources went beyond the financial capacity of the individual universities. Librarians and academics at the HBU and the HWU-A complained that decision making about the allocation of resources seemed to indicate that management had placed a low priority on research output. These participants contended that a strong research culture, such as the one at the HWU-E, was not prevalent at their institutions. Policy makers and senior managers at the HWU-E placed a strong emphasis on research in their planning and budgeting. The dean of research, an active researcher, was also a member of senior management. In addition, the head librarian was included in budget discussions Participants at the HWU-A attributed this lack of research culture to the history of these universities. The former government of South Africa had established these racially segregated universities to implement and consolidate its apartheid policies. By and large the HWU-Es produced skills for the mining and manufacturing industries (Bolsmann and Uys, 2001; Mabokela, 2000; Nordkvelle, 1990). HWU-As produced an Afrikaner elite to assume key positions in politics, government, and public administration, while HBUs were intended to legitimate the policy of separate development and to reproduce the subordinate social and economic position of black people (Mabokela, 2000; see also Subotsky, 2001). Furthermore, HBUs received an inequitable resource allocation from the apartheid state. Between 1989 and 1990 just before the end of apartheid, the 10 white universities spent more than 300 million rands on research while the six black universities spent a mere 24 million rands (Nordkvelle, 1990, p. 10). The new policies aimed at transforming higher education in South Africa have now emphasized the importance of research (White Paper, 1997) and individual institutions are beginning to institute significant incentives and rewards for research output by academics. At the HBU, for example, the university may receive 30,000 rands from the government for articles published in rated journals, with 12,000 rands of this going to authors (interview with executive dean, HBU, 2002). Librarians and academics also pointed out that although electronic access opened new pathways and allowed for wider access to resources, it was not necessarily cheaper than subscriptions to print journals. The costs of electronic scholarly resources were still prohibitive due to unfavorable currency exchange rates and dwindling resources. In addition, researchers and librarians believed that existing facilities and resources were not being used optimally because many academics and postgraduate students did not have sufficient information technology literacy skills to conduct advance searches for print or electronic resources. This, they claimed, was particularly acute among some black academics and the majority of black postgraduate students who had little to no access to libraries or technology outside of the university. Whereas white academics and students reported having access to online connections both at the university and at home, most black academics and students had no access to these facilities at home. In fact, some academics at HBUs were not assigned or allocated their own computer. By contrast, as one participant observed, many white university students had access to computers at the secondary school level and were therefore more empowered to conduct their research. Black academics, on the other hand, were sometimes reluctant to admit their lack of search skills to the mostly white librarians at the HWUs. A black academic, who felt embarrassed about admitting her lack of search skills to the librarians, shared the empowering effect electronic access has had on her, enabling her to conduct the searches in the privacy and comfort of her office, away from the intimidating gaze of the librarians. Library orientation programs, consisting of hour-long sessions, were inadequate for equipping students with necessary information and skills to use the facilities efficiently. As one student pointed out,
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium That is your only orientation to the library…. It is not an individual one hour slot, but it is the whole group. Then you are offered that if you want to come back you are welcome. Yes it is good to say that but as a student it hinders you…. [They may] show me this one journal … I want different options that say if you can’t find it here you will find it there. It is like they are holding the information to themselves and they are using that information against you as a student. That is how you think because it threatens you and you as a graduate student don’t want to look stupid. In their evaluation of these sessions postgraduate students expressed the need to have such sessions during their first year at the university. Librarians were particularly concerned that they did not have sufficient time to devote to information literacy training because of their workload. Inevitably the libraries at all three universities were short-staffed. Vacancies could not be filled because of a lack of finances. Existing staff was expected to fulfill a number of functions. For example, at the HBU the periodicals librarian was also a subject librarian and a cataloguer. Some participants—librarians, academics, and students—were of the view that information literacy should be integrated into coursework, “just like the research methods course” said a postgraduate student. Research and Publishing Almost all academics claimed that they devoted a greater percentage of their time to teaching than research. The general lack of resources for recruiting more staff resulted in most universities’ increasing the teaching loads of academics. On examining the allocation of time spent on research, teaching, and administration and policy, the lowest ratio for research was 10:50:40, whereas the highest ratio was 60:20:20. On average, academics devoted only 20 percent to 30 percent of their time to research. When asked about their visions for the future, almost all academics expressed a strong desire to have more time for conducting and publishing research. Aside from this lack of time for research, new academics, in particular black academics, and students asserted that they received very little support on how to go about publishing. One student was told by her supervisor that certain journals only accepted articles from their members. This would mean that black researchers might find it difficult to publish in a country like South Africa, where previous patterns of privilege still exist. A student mentioned the need to understand the conventions of publishing and the hindrance these conventions posed for novice researchers. Older academics expressed a preference to publish in international journals mainly, while newer academics, both black and white, claimed it was important to publish in South Africa or Africa, where their research might hold more relevance and thus serve a social purpose. On the other hand, participants also pointed out that locally published journals are not as highly rated as international journals and hence there is little incentive for publishing in them. One participant was concerned about the hegemony of the West in publishing and dissemination of knowledge, pointing out the anomaly that some African journals are published in the developed world and then sold to African institutions at exorbitant prices. Open Access All participants in the study expressed positive views about greater open access to research resources, believing that it would provide greater access to scholarly information, enable researchers to conduct searches and retrieve information with ease, reduce costs, and save time (see Table 31.3). The librarians in particular were positive about open access. Rather than consider it a threat to their jobs, they believed that their role in an open-access world would be to act as managers and facilitators of information. The participants expressed a number of concerns regarding open access. One participant pointed out that open-access publishing would not offer the kind of financial incentive institutions or individuals receive from the government for articles published in rated journals. Hence, he could not foresee South African researchers publishing in open-access journals unless they were rated. But the main concern expressed by several participants related to the abundance of information available through an open-access system. Librarians and academics were concerned that the students may find the information overload overwhelming. Given the students’ relative lack of information literacy they may not be able to distinguish quality research from the range of research materials and information available through open access. Academics were of the view that open-access scholarship must be
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium TABLE 31.3 Advantages and Concerns Expressed about Open Access Advantages Concerns Greater access to journals and research information. Quality and standards may drop. More sources of information. Peer-review systems are essential for online publishing. Access to most recently published articles. Issues relating to copyright and intellectual property rights may be problematic. Home access to scholarly information. Plagiarism. Enables students to search and retrieve information by themselves without the help of librarians. Open access may reduce credibility of journals. Provides students with more choices. Some scholars feel it is “beneath” them to publish online. Inspires users to conduct more research. Can only benefit a few with access to technology. Access to technology is still limited in South Africa, especially at HBUs. Time and energy saving. Speed of access still problematic where technology is inadequate. Timely access as opposed to time-consuming interlibrary loans. Lack of information literacy skills. Low capacity to use technology. High cost of subscriptions will be a thing of the past. Management and security of technological facilities and equipment is a problem. Will help with problem of declining library subsidies. Information overload. Need information management training on how to critically evaluate information. Reduce the costs of publishing. Universities receive funds for articles published in rated journals. Open access journals would have to be rated. Reduces need to use personal funds for articles. subjected to the peer-review system and that students must be coached on how to become discerning users of open-access scholarly resources. Although open access can be an “open door to learning,” as one student put it, it could also result in researchers expending valuable time on irrelevant information, especially if they do not have good information literacy skills. Other concerns related to plagiarism, copyright, and intellectual property rights. Although many academics were very concerned that open access would lead to greater incidences of plagiarism among students, a few pointed out that the Internet has made it easier to monitor and detect plagiarism. A further concern was that open access would increase the digital divide in South Africa. The following observation made by a study participant may pertain to the global realm as well: “People that have had access before, like the white people of this country, will still be more advantaged with technology because they have computer access in their homes and the very people that were discriminated are left behind now.” She expressed a sense of hopelessness in all of this: “I think it is more threatening to them. People give up…. They feel more disadvantaged now.” But she admits that we cannot ignore technology and that this sense of hopelessness may be limited to the older generation: The solution is to [begin with] the younger generation, to have more computers in schools…. I have learned with children that technology is not something that is threatening. It is a challenge to them, but to us who are grown-ups it becomes a threat. That is why I think the earlier people are exposed, the more advantages they will see in technology because technology is beautiful!
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium Although this statement ends on a positive note, the concern that open access would only benefit a small privileged group, rendering those without technological capacity to the periphery, presents a real challenge to proponents of open access. It is a challenge to which careful consideration should be given, even as we push the frontiers of open access. Public Domain of Academic Research The notion of the public domain of academic research was relatively new for some participants and they had some difficulty with its credibility. Others, however, believed that universities had a social responsibility and that the research generated by universities should have a public value. Several participants were not convinced that research could become readily available to the wider public—given their relative lack of access to technology—but they claimed that it was essential to at least make research available to practitioners and policy makers. As one participant noted, There are people out there, not all of them are interested in being researchers, but they are interested in being competent practitioners. If they could have access to the research that is being done that would give more solutions to the problems that they are encountering out there…. That would be a useful system. Participants also pointed out that there were examples of community centers equipped with computers and Internet access throughout the country, rendering the notion of community access to knowledge less remote. However, the quality of connections and the incidence of power failures in remote areas posed a problem for electronic access to public knowledge. Some participants were of the view that academic researchers should play a bigger role in shaping public policy, locally, nationally, and regionally. They contended that regional African organizations such as the Southern African Development Community and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development could benefit from research that focused on regional growth, sustainable development, peace, and security. Open access would also ensure that the deliberations of these organizations at various conferences and forums, could be made available to the public immediately. Over recent years the conditions attached to research funding stipulate that South African researchers work closely with a range of stakeholders, including local communities. A botanist pointed out that she was working closely with rural communities and the government in water and estuarine studies; a legal researcher explained that her research dealt with customary laws and the rights of African women and that this information needed to be made available to these women. Although these communities do not have electronic resources, the researchers explained that they popularized this research through community talks, radio, popular magazines, and pamphlets. Some academics worry that applied research of this nature will erode the base of pure research. Others contend that it is possible to conduct socially relevant research while maintaining the foundations of basic research. Researchers in the medical and pharmaceutical sciences were less hopeful about making their research open to the public because of intellectual property rights. Librarians noted the increasing use of their facilities by the public. Corporate and professional bodies and individual lawyers, teachers, social workers, business people, and other interested persons were already using academic library facilities. Yet others expressed concern about Western domination of knowledge and definitions of knowledge and public knowledge. One participant, for example, raised the question about the imperialism of knowledge and knowledge ownership: “Who generates the knowledge? Who sets the rules and determines what is scientific?” DISCUSSION Given the high expectations South Africa has of its higher education sector in contributing to knowledge production, innovation, and skills development as noted above, the universities in this study do not have the necessary research access and capacity to fulfill their roles as agents of transformation. As has been the case for most of Africa and the developing world, there is a lack of adequate resources for producing knowledge, making innovative interventions, and developing a highly skilled workforce.
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium Access Access to the latest international research through updated serial holdings and other research literature is key to producing cutting-edge research and finding innovative solutions to the range of social and development problems facing South Africa. Teaching and research are integrally related. A university cannot produce highly skilled professionals when academics and students do not have access to the latest research in their respective disciplines. The findings in this study show that journal holdings have declined sharply at two of these universities, almost 50 percent at the HBU, where not a single new book has been acquired in five years. Journals in discipline areas that are crucial for innovation and development, science, and technology have suffered the most. The costs of electronic journal subscriptions have also been prohibitive. The interlibrary loan system, although an essential resource facility in higher education over the years, is not without its problems. The process can be slow and this might impact negatively on the quality of research produced, as noted in the findings above. Despite the limited availability of resources, access to technology such as computers with Internet access does not appear to be a big problem. As can be seen from Table 31.2, all libraries had between 74 and 102 computers with Internet connections. Poor connections at the HBU recently have been resolved. Academics at the three universities have their own computers in their offices and some even have home access. The problem with the library computers is that students should learn how to use them independently of the librarians. It is no surprise that at the HWU-E, the university with the highest research output among the three universities, 49 of the 102 computers available were being used not only by students but the public as well. Perhaps the remaining two universities should also make such facilities more readily available to users so that they may develop the skills to use them independently. Another consequence of inadequate resources has been understaffing, of both librarians and academics. Librarians cannot find the time to train academics and students on how to use existing scholarly resources and facilities optimally. This creates a double jeopardy; not only are the libraries limited in scholarly resources but existing materials are also not being used efficiently and optimally. As some participants wisely observed, information literacy programs should be integrated with the coursework, but this will require additional human resources to conduct this training. The historical background of these universities and the low prioritization that management and policy makers have given to research at two of these universities have affected their research capacity negatively. It seems that when there were cuts to spending, the libraries at all three institutions were always targeted (interviews with librarians and policy makers). The established research culture at the HWU-E may largely be attributed to the emphasis senior management and policy makers place on research activities. For academics teaching has been prioritized, whereas the time afforded to research is viewed as a luxury or privilege for only a few. As noted the quality of teaching depends on the research being generated and vice versa. Heavy teaching loads mean that these institutions are generating little research. Since most academics expressed a strong desire to have more time for research and publishing, one wonders how this constraint may affect their sense of job satisfaction, self-worth, and their identities as researchers. Already South Africa, like many African countries, is experiencing a “brain drain.” Over the five-month initial phase of this research two academic participants from different institutions, both in computer and information sciences, emigrated. In an earlier interview one, himself a dean, expressed much dissatisfaction with what he and other academics perceived as management’s disinterest in research. The consequence of the “brain drain” is that it further erodes the research and skills base of a country like South Africa. Research and Publishing Publishing presented a dilemma for some South African researchers. Limited access to the latest research developments can seriously impinge on researchers’ capacity to produce and publish research, let alone cutting-edge research (see also Altbach, 1987; Canagarajah, 1996). As Altbach contends, scholarly journals are a key element in the knowledge distribution network and are even more important than books (p. 72). Some participants believed that their research was more relevant to the South African or African context, for example, in estuarine
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium studies and the African woman’s right of succession in customary law. Yet, there were higher incentives, such as status, recognition, and rewards, for publishing in international journals. On the other hand, African journals were not highly rated nor were they well publicized and some participants did not even know of their existence. This trend is common in other African countries as well (see DFID, 1999, p. 7). In general, African journals had not been subscribed to and were thus not available at the library. Given the limited resources librarians prioritized subscribing to international and South African journals over African journals. As noted above, many African journals are published in the West and sold back to African universities at high cost. Participants referred to this as the “imperialization of knowledge.” A few developed nations dominate the production and distribution of knowledge by controlling the publishing houses and the production of scholarly journals that the rest of the world consumes: 34 industrialized countries with only 30 percent of the world’s population produce 81 percent of the world’s book titles (Altbach, 1987, p. 18). Although these figures are dated, scholars seem to concur that the knowledge gap has increased and will continue to do so (Altbach, 1998; Gibbons et al., 1994; Willinsky, 2000). According to Altbach, 62 percent of social science periodicals and virtually all “prestigious scientific journals” are published in the West (p. 28). In addition, the spate of mergers and acquisitions in journal publishing over the last few decades appears to have set off spiraling price increases that are undermining the circulation of knowledge. These increases can be traced to a growing corporate concentration in scholarly publishing, especially in the sciences, which has resulted in three Western companies, Elsevier, Springer, and Taylor and Francis, controlling 60 percent of the journals in the leading citation index, ISI Web of Science (Merger Mania, 2003). Hence, these Western countries define research paradigms and the focuses of the field, rendering the rest of the world peripheral in determining the research agenda (Altbach, 1987, p. 17; 1997, p. 16). As has been shown above, there has been little exploration of regional networks to overcome such barriers to publishing. Nor does foreign aid help (Altbach, 1987, pp. 17-27; Day, 2002, p. 3). Instead the university libraries in this study received large donations of not only irrelevant books but also hundreds of copies of the same book. In addition, scholars like Altbach have shown that the textbook publishing programs of the World Bank have actually weakened the indigenous private firms (1987, p. 24; 1996, p. 7). According to Altbach, neo-colonialism is maintained through foreign aid programs and loan policies and is a factor that must be considered in any analysis of publishing in the Third World (1987, p. 33). Aside from a lack of time for research and publishing, black academics and students noted the lack of support and access to publishing. Publishing rules and conventions often inhibited them from publishing. Scholar Canagarajah (1996) refers to these conventions as the “‘nondiscursive’ requirements” of academic publishing houses in the West, a “hidden publishing” agenda that makes it virtually impossible for researchers from the Third World to publish successfully in the industrialized world and leads to the exclusion and marginalization of peripheral (Third World) research (p. 1). These requirements include format of copy text, bibliographical conventions, weight and quality of paper, number of copies required, postage, procedures for revision, procedures for interaction between author and board, and deadlines (p. 2). These conventions speak directly to scholars in the West alone, ignoring not only the context of peripheral writers (e.g., a lack of access to computers, photocopiers, fax machines, and telephones; electricity; copy paper according to specifications; funds for postage of bulky copies, especially to referees in the West; access to reference conventions; access to journals as guides and diskettes), but also time and space factors, which global technology has not yet compacted in most of the world. In setting deadlines of three to four days editors reveal that they have little concept of the distance between Sri Lanka, for example, and the West, or the unreliability of international mailing systems (see also Day, 2002). Based on his experiences and that of fellow scholars at the University of Jaffna, Canagarajah (1996) shows that these conventions preclude peripheral scholars from publishing. More perniciously, the apparent lack of attention to these requirements on the part of peripheral scholars may result in them being labeled unscholarly, unprofessional, or downright incompetent, despite the substantive value of their research. He notes that scholars in Asia, Latin America, and Africa have similar experiences (p. 9; see also Muchiri, et al., 1995). Canagarajah contends that “these publishing conventions are deeply implicated in the politics of knowledge production and the hegemony of intellectual property of the developed nations” (p. 3). Drawing on Foucault, he shows that these rules of publishing serve to legitimate particular conventions and exclude others.
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium A more reciprocal flow of knowledge and publishing would not only benefit the periphery. Canagarajah argues that if all knowledge is situated and personal then periphery perspectives, which are often critical of center research, may enrich and expand the narrow knowledge base of the center (p. 21). Altbach (1996) recommends a better balance of the research agenda between researchers and users, the strengthening of regional and international networks for sharing of research, and the inclusion of peripheral research communities in the international mainstream (p. 20). Open Access This discussion focuses on participants’ orientation toward open access and the public domain of academic research. As previously noted, the participants welcomed open access and the possibility of making academic research more publicly available. Their concerns about open access centered on the quality of the research and the need for strong peer-review systems, information literacy, and management systems to deal with the information overload, plagiarism, and inequitable access to technology that might lead to the exacerbation of the digital divide. The participants expressed enthusiasm at the prospect that academic research could be made available to the public at large. Although they were concerned that rural communities would not have the technology to access such information, they agreed that it was worthwhile to make this information available to practitioners and policy makers, whose work impacts directly on the people “out there.” The new higher education policies emphasize the social value of academic research and support applied research conducted in collaboration with public stakeholders (see Gibbons et al., 1994). Hence, the expansion of the public domain of research in South Africa may be well received when viewed as a contribution toward the democratization process. The discussion above notes the constraints on current South African research capacity, leading to the following crucial questions for developing research capacity not only in South Africa or Africa but also in other parts of the developing world. What measures do we have that are readily available to deal with the factors constraining research access and capacity in South Africa, Africa, and the developing world? How can we overcome resource constraints and increase access to journals so necessary for the production, publishing, and distribution of knowledge? How can we begin to establish journals with locally relevant content and whose agendas are determined by periphery researchers and editors? Open-access systems such as the Open Journal Systems of the Public Knowledge Project may be just one example of how open access may help to address the constraints the academics, graduate students, and librarians in my study have voiced. The following section discusses the possibilities of the Open Journal Systems in building research capacity in developing world contexts, such as in South Africa. THE OPEN JOURNAL SYSTEMS1 The Open Journal Systems of the Public Knowledge Project,2 the University of British Columbia’s federally funded research initiative to improve the scholarly and public quality of academic publishing on a global basis, was launched in November 2002. The Open Journal Systems is an online journal management and publishing system that enables editors to manage, publish, and index peer-reviewed journals over the Internet on an open-access or free-to-read basis. It can be installed on Web servers anywhere and requires few if any technical skills from editors. It has tremendous potential to make journals easier, more efficient, and cheaper to run. The Open Journal Systems open-source software can be downloaded free of charge. The intention is to enable journals and scholarly societies to consider publishing in an open-access or free-to-read basis, which has been shown to increase readership dramatically. Open Journal Systems is currently under consideration in Canada, Turkey, Kenya, Rwanda, India, Australia, and the United States. In January 2003 it was listed as a “landmark event” in the timeline of the Free Online 1 Additional information about the Open Journal Systems can be found in Chapter 32 of these Proceedings, “The Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal System,” by Florence Muinde. 2 See http://www.pkp.ubc.ca. A demonstration journal and further information about Open Journal Systems may be found at http://pkp.ubc.ca/ojs.
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Open Access and the Public Domain in Digital Data and Information for Science: Proceedings of an International Symposium Scholarship movement by Peter Suber. The Open Journal Systems has the option of being able to publish by issue, volume, and year, by volume and year, and by year alone. It can be refined so that each article comes out by number and exact date within a given volume and year. As one interested person from Turkey observed, “I did not expect such a comprehensive programme for free!” Possibilities for Building Research Capacity As noted, resource constraints severely hamper the capacity of South African universities to produce and publish research. An online journal system such as Open Journal Systems can make journals readily available to academics, postgraduate students, and librarians at almost no cost. Academics and graduate students can have easy access to the latest research for both teaching and research purposes, including journals to which libraries currently have very limited access, namely, science and technology journals. The HBU, with its severely constrained coffers, would especially benefit from such a system. Libraries could then use the savings from journal subscriptions, both print and electronic, to recruit staff to deliver information literacy courses, which would help students to use technology more efficiently, optimally, and independently of the librarians. Hence the HBU and HWU-A will be more confident about allowing their students to use the existing library computers. The course will also empower students to cope with the information overload, enabling them to become critical and discriminating users of online open access. The negative impact the slow processes of interlibrary systems may have on research will be reduced since the researcher will not have to depend on this system alone. Although resources will be needed to recruit staff to lessen teaching loads, open-access publishing would cut down on the time spent accessing print and interlibrary loan materials, especially materials that may not be available through the libraries’ e-journal subscriptions. The time saved can be allocated to conducting more research. Open Journal Systems perhaps has the most to offer in the area of local or, as Canagarajah puts it, “peripheral” publishing. As we have seen in the discussion on publishing, not only do peripheral scholars have limited access to the latest research but the publishing conventions also inhibit them from publishing successfully. Peripheral scholars have no voice in defining research paradigms, focuses for the field, or what constitutes relevant research within a particular context or environment. Open Journal Systems has the potential to make the latest research readily available to all researchers at no cost through a fully indexed system. Peripheral editors may determine focuses and content that is context relevant. The conventions for publishing are easy to follow. This means greater freedom for peripheral scholars who have felt constrained by the “nondiscursive requirements” of publishing. Although some conventions still should be followed, other cumbersome requirements such as quality paper, copies, postage, communication with editors, and unrealistic deadlines for the resubmission of articles can all now be avoided through open online publishing using the Open Journal Systems. This system may be suitable not only for South Africa and the African continent but for countries in Asia and Latin America as well, where scholars have had similar constraints. More importantly, publishing through an open system like the Open Journal Systems would perhaps enable a more reciprocal flow of knowledge between the center and the periphery, allowing peripheral perspectives, especially when considering developing world issues, to expand and enrich the narrow knowledge base of the center. This should not be done merely with the hope of including peripheral research in the mainstream but rather to revisit the notions of knowledge and knowledge ownership to confront what one participant referred to as “knowledge imperialism.” Concerns about open access should be addressed. There should be little concern about the quality of the research published through Open Journal Systems because the journals will be peer reviewed. Also, free access through the Open Journal Systems can potentially expand the public domain of research. For those who have access to technology, for example, practitioners and policy makers, Open Journal Systems can be a readily available source of scholarly information on which competent practice and good policy making may be based. The lack of access to computers with Internet connections need not be a major shortcoming at this point because we are seeking to increase access for those who have a growing ability to tap into technology but cannot afford the prohibitive costs associated with current print and e-journal access.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: