What’s in a “NAME”? A study of African and Arab journals in the DOAJ

This is a guest post by Souheil Houissa, editor of the North Africa & Middle East (NAME) group, and long-serving DOAJ volunteer. He wrote the article in February 2020 so the statistics are historical. (As of today, the group has processed 536 applications.) However, the general conclusions drawn throughout the article are still valid.


Journal applications are reaching the milestone of 500 titles assessed by the ‘North Africa & Middle East’ (NAME) editor group at DOAJ. This group took over from the former Arabic group in 2016, and I have been honoured to be the editor of this group.

The purpose of the NAME group is to assess as many applications as possible coming from both Arab countries and West Africa, as the regions of former groups had very few applications.

Thanks to the efforts of the 6 volunteering associate editors, we have so far accepted 290 journals and rejected a further 196 applications, for different reasons. The rest of the applications include some completed assessments, 14 are still in progress, and 4 applications were put on hold. In fact, these numbers are very little, a “peanut” comparing to the DOAJ 14267 journals, including 11290 searchable journals at the article level and about 4, 620717 articles altogether from 133 countries. 

Most applications are coming from other (mainly Muslim) countries: Indonesia; and Iran.

Of the 155 applications from Indonesia, our group has rejected 67 applications and accepted 88 titles of the total 1598 Indonesian journals included in the DOAJ.

In 2017, the total number of applications submitted to DOAJ reached its highest ever level for one year. Out of the 2488 journals added that year, nearly one quarter (602) of them came from Indonesia. Certainly, for that reason, the DOAJ managing editors decided, in September 2017, to involve the NAME group in reviewing the growing number of applications.

Of the Indonesian applications we have reviewed, 51 out of 91 have Arabic as the main full-text language. However, there were also 146 in English and 79 in Indonesian.

Indonesia is ranked the second country with 1598 DOAJ indexed journals, after the United Kingdom (1604), and before Brazil (1461). 

Iran took the 7th place in the DOAJ with 522 journals indexed. NAME editor group has accepted about 1/6th of them, that’s 86 journals after editing 131 applications. Iranian journals tend to use English (303 titles) as the main language more than the national language, Persian (239 titles). Some journals are bilingual and very few are in Arabic or French (2 journals each).

From the end of 2016, we helped with the evaluation of mainly those Iranian journals publishing in English; that’s 80 to only 6 in Persian. The highest number of accepted Iranian journals in the DOAJ was in 2018 with 128 journals.

Journal applications from the Arab states are coming from:

  • Iraq (61),
  • Algeria (25),
  • Egypt (22),
  • UA Emirates (21)
  • Morocco (9)
  • Jordan (5)
  • Saudi Arabia (4)
  • Yemen (4)

Some journals are based in the United States (19), bearing in mind that the country of the journal is linked to the address where the publisher is based.

Journals of Arab countries

Only 18 from the 22 Arab states are represented in the DOAJ; there are no applications from the Comoros, Djibouti, Mauritania, and Somalia.

Country Applications* Journals** DOAJ ***
1 Iraq 61 30 45
2 Algeria 25 5 24
3 Egypt 22 17 32
4 UA Emirates 21 12 10
5 Morocco 9 6 18
6 Jordan 5 3 4
7 Saudi Arabia 4 4 18
8 Syria 4
9 Yemen 4 4 6
10 Tunisia 3 2 5
11 Lebanon 2 1
12 Oman 2 2 7
13 Bahrain 1 1
14 Kuwait 1 1 1
15 Libya 1 1 3
16 Soudan 1
17 Palestine 1
18 Qatar 4
Total 166 87 180

*NAME group applications ** Journals accepted by NAME *** All journals in DOAJ

Table 1: Journals of Arab countries

As shown in Table 1, the NAME group has reviewed 166 journal applications and decided to include 87 of them, out of the 180 journals accepted in the DOAJ so far. The difference between the two numbers is justified by the change of the DOAJ editor groups at the end of 2017; many applications that were made in 2017 and before remained with the main database. For example, there are 24 journals in the DOAJ from Algeria, but we can find only 5 journals with the NAME group that have applied in July 2017 and later. (Public searching doesn’t include this distinction.) However, many titles were removed because they failed to reapply after 2014 or have not answered the changing requirements, and sometimes duplications may occur.

fig1

Fig.1: Journals of Arab countries

Journals of African countries

I have added South Africa to the list of African countries covered by NAME editor group to the table below to reflect an idea about the “gap” that exists between this country and the rest of the continent. (See also Ina Smith’s guest blog post: ‘Overview of the African open access landscape with a focus on scholarly publishing‘.)

This gap is also represented between Africa and the Arab countries on one hand, and the rest of the world (as shown in the DOAJ) on the other.  South Africa has 100 journals, whereas the rest of African countries together have only 29 accepted journals. Only four (4) of them were included by our group among 11 received applications.  

Country Applications* Journals** DOAJ ***
1 South Africa 100
Country Applications* Journals** DOAJ ***
2 Nigeria 3 1 8
3 Ghana 1 6
4 Kenya 5
5 Angola 2
6 Cameroun 1 1
7 DR Congo 1 1
8 Malawi 1 1
9 Mali 1 1 1
10 Ruanda 1 1 1
11 Uganda 1 1 1
12 Zimbabwe 1 1
13 Ethiopia 1
Total (without SA) 11 4 29

*NAME group applications ** Journals accepted by NAME *** All journals in DOAJ

Table 2: Journals of African countries

There are 525 journals in the African Journals On-Line (AJOL) database but only half of them are open access. 

fig2

Fig. 2: Journals of African countries

Some journals are also in the DOAJ, for example, two Tunisian journals are in AJOL. Arab North African countries have modest participation in AJOL as well.

On the other hand, many Sub-Saharan African countries are more represented in AJOL than in the DOAJ. For instance, Nigeria is the first with 222 journals (only 8 in the DOAJ) followed by 96 for South Africa, then Ethiopia (30), Kenya (29) and Ghana (27) that each has around 5 DOAJ titles. Except for South Africa which nearly has the same representation in both databases, the other African countries are modestly represented in the DOAJ.

Languages

English is the common language in the DOAJ in general and in the NAME group as well. It dominates the national languages such as Arabic, Persian, or Indonesian both for the applications and the Journals, but most journals are bilingual or multilingual. Besides English, Journals use Arabic and/or French for the Arab countries, and Persian or Indonesian with Arabic sometimes for the others.

English Arabic  Indonesian French Persian
NAME  Applications 468 119 79 34 11
NAME  Journals 264 56 48 11 6
DOAJ Journals 10.859 161 1307 985 239
Table 3: Languages of the Journals 

The table shows that almost half of the applications in every language was rejected. Journals in the NAME group represent only a small proportion of journals in English, Indonesian, Persian or French. The rest is assessed and accepted by other DOAJ specialised groups in those languages. On the other hand, Arabic, that is supposedly the national language of most countries covered by the group, represents only 34% (that is 56 journals out of 161 in Arabic). We may think that the remaining journals were treated in other groups, but in fact, many journals remain in the account of former DOAJ Arabic groups. NAME accepted 48 journals out of 1307 in Indonesian (nearly 4%), and only 11 from 985 journals in French (about 1,1%), and just 6 journals in Persian (2,5%). English is used in 264 journals of this group, and out of the 10.859 journals using English in all the DOAJ, they only represent about 2,4 %. Ranking the languages used in the DOAJ shows English in the first place, while Indonesian comes in the 4th rank, followed by French in the 5th whereas Persian takes the 11th level, and Arabic is placed the 13th. Spanish and Portuguese are the most used languages after English.

fig3

Fig. 3: Languages of the Journals

Figures show the same rank and proportions of those five full-text languages in both applications and accepted journals, but a few other oriental languages exist among the rejected applications. 

fig4

Fig. 4: Languages of  NAME Journals

Journal subjects

Journal subject classes are usually the same as the topics suggested as keywords in the applications:

  • 34 journals were classified in medicine,
  • 23 in education,
  • 16 in Islam and
  • 13 in science.

The results for NAME journals broken down by keywords have the same order. In DOAJ, social sciences took the second place in subject classes (604 titles), after medicine (786), and before both education (556) and education (general) (552). 

Journal Licensing 

The DOAJ requires that journals allow reuse and remixing of content in accordance with a Creative Commons license or other types of license with similar conditions. 

License CC BY CC BY-NC CC BY-SA CC BY- NC-SA CC BY-NC-ND CC BY-ND
Journals 113 61 45 36 22 1
Table 4: Licenses of the Journals

The CC BY license is the least restrictive, it allows distribution, remixing, adaptation, even commercially, and provided that the work is clearly attributed to the original author and source. This offers a maximum diffusion and use of licensed Journals. CC BY is the most used license in the NAME group journals:

  1. CC BY – 41%
  2. CC BY-NC – 22%
  3. CC BY-SA – 16%
  4. CC BY-NC-SA  – 13%
  5. CC BY-NC-ND – 8%

If we look at all the journal licenses in the DOAJ, we notice the dominating use of CC BY license and the low use of CC BY-ND, but the order is almost reversed for the rest. Some 385 journals are using their publishers’ own licenses. 

Many journal applications were rejected by our group editors because of ignorance or misuse of licenses. There is a lack of awareness about Creative Commons licenses. Some journals mention more than one license on their website because they misunderstand the difference, and many others confuse the licenses withholding copyright and retaining publishing rights without restrictions by authors (Questions 52 and 54).

Journals per year

fig5

Fig. 5: Number of Journals/ Year

The earliest date of an application received by the NAME group is 19/5/2015 but a bulk transfer of applications started in November 2016. My own records as  DOAJ Editor show that the earliest application I assessed was from April 2014 and the “last updated” date is not found for about 12 journals.

Generally, DOAJ has been accepting journals gradually in the first decade from 2003 to 2012. DOAJ decided in 2013 to expand its criteria. In 2014 the number of journals in the database went down because all journals were made to reapply under the new criteria. Some journals were removed after they failed to reapply in time or did not meet the new requirements.

In 2016 and 2017, the number of journals increased dramatically as many journals were accepted after reapplication and many others joined after awareness campaigns were organised. Furthermore, twelve DOAJ ambassadors were appointed in different regions of the world.  From 2018 on, journals have been added steadily at a reasonable rate and many regions and languages are reaching interesting levels in the DOAJ database.    

APCs, the DOAJ Seal, and Peer review   

After the update about Article Processing Charges (APC) in April 2016, journals were urged to provide the information about it. Around one quarter of the total journals in DOAJ ask for an APC and the same percentage is reflected in the NAME journals (70 journals). 

The DOAJ Seal is a qualification given to journals having best practices to answer requirements “related to accessibility, openness, discoverability, reuse and author rights. Only two journals in the NAME group have been accredited with the DOAJ Seal: PSU research review (2018, UK) and Arab journal of nutrition and exercise (2018, UAE). This is very little compared to the total journals in DOAJ: 1381 journals have the Seal; 13157 journals do not.

When it comes to editorial review/peer review, DOAJ checks if journals have editorial boards and which type of review is done. The database shows:

  • Double-blind peer review (7382);
  • Blind peer review (4015);
  • Peer review (2593);
  • Editorial review (136); and
  • Open peer review (132).

On the other hand, the numbers for the types of peer review of journals from the NAME group are:

  • Double-blind peer review (119);
  • Peer review (65);
  • Blind peer review (43);
  • Editorial review (1).

In both cases, journals tend to favour the use of double-blind peer review, but they differ in other choices.

Conclusion

As we have no access to other groups’ details on their applications and rejections and because features of applications and accepted journals are not the same, comparisons and analysis could not be exhaustively made. However, we have managed to come out with certain conclusions that may help editors and managers to bring necessary changes to the process to assure best practices in terms of applications, assessments and use of the DOAJ database, especially concerning Arab and African journals.

Although many Arab journals are online, participation in the DOAJ is very little, and African journals tend to adhere to other databases. Rejection of applications from Arab countries is quite high and that is due to a reluctance towards OA, ignorance of the main features of Gold OA, and lack of appliance to principles of transparency and best practice for scholarly publications. Efforts need to be made to encourage publishing in Arabic and national languages, to assist publishers to meet requirements of peer-reviewing, publication ethics, copyright and licensing.

Raising awareness of Open Access is still needed among academia, journal publishers, and decision-makers in Africa and the Middle-East.

The Keepers Registry is now available on the ISSN portal

This is a guest post by Gaëlle Bequet, Director of the ISSN International Centre. ISSN is a partner of DOAJ.


KeepersLogotype_BD

As of December 2019, the ISSN International Centre is the sole operator of the Keepers Registry. This service aggregates preservation metadata and ISSN descriptive metadata to report the archival status of digital journals. The Keepers Registry is now fully integrated with the ISSN Portal. The latter provides a complete and accurate overview of a serial title’s journey from initial publication to transfer of responsibility and to long-term preservation by archiving agencies. The ISSN Portal is indeed the authoritative database for serial title identification and tracking.

Both libraries and publishers want easy and persistent access to scholarly materials across the Internet. The shift from print to digital format for all types of continuing resources, particularly journals, and the need to archive not just digital serials but also ongoing ‘integrating resources’ is a challenge. Archiving agencies are addressing this challenge and supporting the Keepers Registry as a tool to monitor the archival status of digital content.

Craig Van Dyck, Executive Director of CLOCKSS, USA, posits that “The Keepers Registry performs several critical functions: exposing information about which scholarly journals are preserved, and which volumes, and by which preservation archives; providing a normalized platform for users to find the information, and for archives to integrate with; and a social structure for archives to come together to collaborate. Digital preservation is an evolving field, and collaboration is key to moving forward. The ISSN International Centre makes a lot of sense as a home for the Keepers Registry.”

The Keepers Registry collects preservation metadata, supplied on a regular basis by 13 archiving agencies globally. National libraries, non-profit organisations, academic consortia cooperate with the ISSN International Centre to disseminate up-to-date information about archived serial titles and titles at risk.

Jeffrey van der Hoeven, Head of the Digital Preservation department at the Nationale Bibliotheek van Nederland (KB), Netherlands, explains that “From the perspective of long-term preservation, the Keepers Registry fulfills an important role for KB in determining the integrity of its collection”.

Grant Hurley, Digital Preservation Librarian at Scholars Portal, Canada, states that “The Keepers Registry is a crucial component of our collective preservation ecosystem. Keepers Registry gives its stakeholders the ability to evaluate what materials are being preserved and by whom, and therefore, what materials may still be at risk. As a preservation service provider, Scholars Portal benefits from exposing its holdings data in a consistent and reliable way, which ensures its preservation practices are transparent and supports the trust of its user communities.”

Our partner archiving agencies are: Archaeology Data Service, British Library, Cariniana Network, CLOCKSS Archive, Global LOCKSS Network, HathiTrust, Library of Congress, National Digital Reservation Program China, National Library of the Netherlands, PKP Preservation Network, Portico, Scholars Portal, Swiss National Library.

Keepers Registry is available for free through the ISSN Portal.

For information about specific professional services or to join the Keepers Registry as an archiving agency, please contact the ISSN International Centre (Email: sales@issn.org)

India MCI includes DOAJ on the list of medical databases

Blog post by our Managing Editor, Leena Shah.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) In one of its recent announcements on 12th Feb 2020 has amended the “Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations, 1998 ” to add a list of medical databases and indexes for aspiring medical professionals to publish their articles. We are very happy to say that this announcement includes DOAJ as one of the options along with other medical databases like Medline, PubmedCentral, etc.

DOAJ is a dynamic growing index and currently lists about 1295 quality, peer reviewed, open access medical journals of which approximately 800 journals do not have any article processing charges. Follow the simple steps below to find the journals in DOAJ:

Step 1 – click on the search button https://doaj.org/search

Step 2 – choose “journals” on the left facet

Step 3 – Under Subject choose Medicine [ 785]  or Medicine (general) [510]

Step 4 (optional) – Click on “NO” under APC to find journals that do not have APC

 

medicinesearch

Guest post: Being a volunteer at DOAJ

Interview with Xiaotian Chen, Electronic Services Librarian / Associate Professor at Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, USA and Editor at DOAJ.

Chen 2019 (2)

When did you start volunteering for DOAJ?

I started as the editor of DOAJ’s Chinese Group in 2014, working with a couple of associate editors. In January 2018, I became the editor of the newly created Southeast Asia Group with eight to ten associate editors.

What does your work as an editor entail?

The Southeast Asia Group primarily evaluates journal applications from Japan, Korea, and then other Southeast Asian countries. As Editor, I manage the associate editors and the applications assigned to them on top of processing my own applications. I follow up with associates and help them when they have questions.

What is most interesting about being an editor at DOAJ?

Professional development is probably the biggest accomplishment for me as a DOAJ volunteer. During the past five years with DOAJ, I have learned a lot about Open Access even though I had published two Open Access articles before I joined DOAJ.

Could you tell us some examples of areas where you improved your expertise?

I learned about Creative Commons (CC) licenses. Without being at DOAJ, I probably either would not know about, or would not pay much attention to, this alternative to the traditional “All Rights Reserved” practice.

I learned that some OA journals allow authors to retain copyright. Having signed quite a
few copyright transfer forms myself, I thought that all journals would require all authors do this.

I learned more about questionable publishing practices, or, the practices by the so-called “predatory” journals, although we do not use that term at DOAJ.

Have you learned anything about Open Access in South East Asia specifically?

Korea and China are similar in culture and yet in China, only a very tiny percentage of journals are published in English. However, a considerable number of Korean journals have switched from Korean to English and others are new OA journals which have started in English. That is a sharp contrast between China and Korea I did not know of before.

Japan seems less interested in OA than Korea. Since Japan is a leader in economy,
technology, research, and pretty much everything in East Asia, one would think Japan would publish more OA journals than other Asian countries. Surprisingly, my group at DOAJ processes way more applications from Korea than from Japan.

Everything I have learned through DOAJ has helped me in doing both my library work and my own research. Also, when DOAJ showed up as a resource in my library’s OpenURL link resolver, I didn’t need to do research on what it was and didn’t hesitate to activate it for my library users.

Overall, I find volunteering at DOAJ very rewarding. For me personally, it is
a window of opportunity that opens grand views and creates many possibilities.

Guest post: Creating value for peer review. Why not?

DOAJ has approximately 100 volunteers carrying out important reviewing work for it. These volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds within academia, journal publishing or from libraries. DOAJ relies on these volunteers to keep applications flowing through the system.

In the first of a new series, we are highlighting our volunteers’ skills and interests which are connected to scholarly publishing. This is a guest post by Alessandro Pierno, DOAJ Associate Editor and Head of the Editorial Board for ReviewerCredits.


image001  Creating value for peer review. Why not?

The peer review process is the cornerstone of scientific communication and should be considered as a key performance indicator (KPI) for scientists given the fact that, by its nature, the task demands time, knowledge and professionalism.

Still, lack of recognition for the peer reviewing work is an unsolved issue which certainly contributes to the shortage of scientists accepting the task. At the same time, with the growth of open access and the “pay to publish” model, journals need to prove the reliability and trustworthiness of their peer review process. It is clear that reviewers, journals and publishers would greatly benefit from an efficient system, rewarding reviewers and validating journals. These considerations triggered a growing interest with companies like ORCID and Publons which started offering authors the opportunity to add reviews that they had performed to their scientific profile. Going one step further, we think that adding a tangible benefit to the peer reviewing work would represent the real game-changer in the field. 

The ReviewerCredits solution

ReviewerCredits.com (RC) keeps a verified history of all reviews performed by each registered reviewer, and – for each verified review – assigns a number of credits, which can be used in a “virtual store” representing, for the first time ever, a tangible benefit. After completing the review of a scientific paper, reviewers log in to the portal and enter a completed review claim for any journal (whether registered with RC or not). RC verifies that the review has been performed by asking a confirmation from the journal’s editorial office. This step is critical in order to create a reliable and traceable history of activity performed. The review is added to the scientist’s personal account earning a variable number of “credits”.

reviewercredits

Furthermore, journals using PKP’s Open Journal Systems for article submission and review can now integrate a free plugin which allows a direct transfer of the claim to the RC platform.

Finally, RC has the ability to add to the author profile any talk delivered during scientific conferences, complementing the information available on the author.

What is unique in ReviewerCredits?

There are three major assets that make ReviewerCredits really unique: 

(a) all reviews claimed must be certified by the Journal Editor and so 100% of the data are double checked and there is no room for inaccuracy or improper claims; 

(b) performing reviews means accruing credits that can be exchanged for benefits across a number of journals and services; 

(c) conference talks can be added to the author profile.

What are the benefits?

The first advantage is that registered scientists will be able to record in one single place all their certified reviews, as well as conference activity. A PDF certificate can be downloaded at any time and will list all the activity performed in chronological order. Additionally, as RC assigns virtual credits, they can use their credits to access selected, discounted services, specifically tailored for authors.

Registered journals benefit from transparency and higher engagement from their reviewers. By rewarding reviewers on behalf of journals, RC creates value for the work they perform, thus helping to motivate them and contributing to reducing the burden on journal Editors. Journals can take an active part in the process supported by RC registering their journal and encouraging their peer reviewers to record their completed reviews.

RC provides a valuable qualifier for a journal by documenting that proper peer review is performed before acceptance of manuscripts. This is particularly relevant at a time when the explosive growth of low quality or questionable journals (journals who accept any manuscript, independently of their quality, for a fee and  provide little or no peer review) is making journal selection very difficult for authors outside the top indexed journals. 

In RC the peer review activity performed by each journal is clearly visible to all and can be shared with a PDF certificate, listing all confirmed reviews performed on behalf of the journal. This is a huge asset for journals wanting to be transparent and it does not affect the confidentiality of review comments.

In conclusion, the topic of recognition of peer review has finally reached the spotlight due to the initiatives of Orcid, Publons and others recently highlighted by Peer Review Week. In this evolving scenario reviewercredits.com can contribute to creating real value for peer reviewers.

 

About ReviewerCredits
ReviewerCredits is a spin-off company endorsed by the University of Milan-Bicocca, launched in 2016. Its core business is the development, maintenance and upgrade of an online platform which has the purpose of certifying peer reviews and conference talks. ReviewerCredits is listed as an innovative startup company in the Italian company register. It was co-founded by two academic researchers, Giacomo Bellani, and Robert Fruscio with a growing team of experts in digital entrepreneurship and STM publishing (Veronica Mariani, Alessandro Pierno, Lucia Steele and Giulio Zuanetti).

Guest post: Overview of the African Open Access Landscape, with a Focus on Scholarly Publishing

Photo of Ina Smith, DOAJ Ambassador for Southern AfricaThis is a guest post by Ina Smith, our Ambassador for Southern Africa.

Ina managed the pilot  for the African Open Science Platform project from October 2016 until October 2019. She holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Pretoria (South Africa) in Computer-Integrated Education, a Higher Education Teaching Diploma, and two degrees (BBibl and BBibl Honors) in Library and Information Science. She is Planning Manager at the Academy of Science of South Africa, and has vast experience of Open Access in general, Open Science, scholarly research activities, repositories, and Open Access journal management and publishing. Ina is the DOAJ ambassador in the region of Southern Africa.


This article reports on selected findings from the pilot African Open Science Platform landscape study, conducted by the Academy of Science of South Africa, on request of the SA Department of Science and Technology, and funded by the National Research Foundation. Direction was provided by CODATA (International Science Council).

1. Introduction

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) – during October 2016 until October 2019, conducted a landscape study (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019) of what is happening on the continent in terms of Open Science and progress made regarding Open Access. This formed part of the pilot African Open Science Platform, in preparation of building an actual platform addressing the collaborative needs experienced by scientists in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Awareness regarding Open Access is evident through the

Main findings on the status of Open Access scholarly journals on the continent, as well as factors contributing to the current status, are shared below.

2. Low commitment towards science, policy, incentives and infrastructure by African governments

It is estimated that Africa produces only around 0.74% of global scientific knowledge. Low levels of political willingness among African countries to make funding available towards advancing science, is at the core of this low level of contribution. From the landscape study, only 35 out of 54 African Union member countries (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019) demonstrate some level of commitment to science through its investment in research and development (R&D), academies of science, ministries of science and technology, policies, recognition of research, and participation in the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI). Only two African countries (Kenya and South Africa) at this stage contribute 0.8% of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to R&D (Research and Development), which is the closest to the AU’s (African Union’s) suggested 1%. Countries such as Lesotho and Madagascar ranked as 0%, while the R&D expenditure for 24 African countries is unknown (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019).

2.1 Policies lacking and not harmonised

National Open Access policies are positioned within a broader regulatory framework, together with policies for intellectual property rights (IPR), research ethics policies, policies for STI, funding policies, HE policies and ICT policies.

According to the UNECA 2018 Sustainable Development Report, there are low levels of organisation and funding of many science systems in Africa. Although there are efforts towards aligning IP, ICT and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policies on the continent with one another and with international policies, African governments still have a long way to go. Apart from developing the relevant policies, policies need to be aligned towards regulatory convergence, the environment required to implement the policies needs to be conducive, and accountability needs to be built into all policies.

The African Observatory of Science and Technology Indicators (AOSTI) were established in 2011 by the African Union to help African countries to build capacity for STI policy activities and initiatives. The AOSTI report on the Assessment of Scientific Production in the African Union, 2005–2010 recommended “creating open and free access publication outlets for Africa, with improved review committees” (African Union African Observatory of Science Technology and Innovation, 2014) and highlighted the challenge of high article fee requirements for publishing in citation-indexed journals and the high subscription prices to commercially available databases.

Policy is a process, and depends on the government of the day. Furthermore, Open Access policies registered in ROARMAP are at institutional level only, and not at national level. Ethiopia is the only African country this far with an Open Access policy on national level, announced and released during October 2019, paving the way for other African countries to hopefully follow suit.  For Open Access policies to be adopted and integrated as part of national Science, Technology and Innovation policies, far more advocacy and awareness initiatives are required across the African continent.

2.2 Insufficient e-Infrastructure

Science globally has become fully dependent on stable ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) infrastructure, which includes connectivity/bandwidth, high performance computing facilities and data services. And so have scholarly journals. Open Access scholarly journals can forget to exist if a stable ICT infrastructure does not exist. Especially where Internet shutdowns (or Internet censorship) is common. From the landscape study, 20 African governments applied some form of Internet censorship 45 times since 2001, of which 36 times the shutdowns related to anti-government related protests.

Academic and research intensive institutions in Africa rely heavily on NRENs (National Research and Educational Networks), which are endorsed by their respective governments and benefit from tax waivers or exemptions, free operator licenses or even Universal Service Funds, e.g. in Uganda and Zambia.

The concern however, is that selected African governments (with the exception of a few countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia and others) have low awareness of how the Internet works, how much ICT (and the 4th Industrial Revolution) have affected research, and the added value an NREN – through being connected to fellow NRENs – can bring to higher education and research in addressing the respective needs, which is far more complex than simply providing connectivity (Foley, 2016).  A main threat to NRENs in selected African countries is commercial public ISPs influencing governments, sometimes creating the impression that NRENs offer nothing more than what commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer. Galagan and Looijen (2015) confirm that each of the NRENs and Regional RENs have their own political, financial and other challenges. The main challenge is the unaffordability of telecoms’ pricing in many markets across the continent. Private industry Internet service providers (ISPs) have monopolies in many African countries (especially in Central and West Africa), closing down access to cable landing stations, which keep Internet connectivity very expensive in these countries within a closed market and not allowing other competitors to enter the market. This makes collaboration and participation with other NRENs, collaboration and sharing among researchers, and the publishing of Open Access journals, almost impossible in those countries.

Of the 36 African countries with NRENs1, 17 NRENs are connected to the global Research and Education Network, while 19 are not yet connected (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019).

In addition to Internet censorship and the threat commercial ISPs bring, power outages on the continent interrupting Internet service delivery is a further challenge, resulting in interrupting the flow of science. Africa has enormous infrastructure gaps, including broadband infrastructure, and access to broadband services, where they exist, is also very expensive (Economic Commission for Africa, 2017). Moreover, personal connectivity costs remain extremely high in most African countries (Alliance for Affordable Internet, 2017). Issues of connectivity are further complicated by ageing and unreliable power infrastructure and frequent power outages.

2.3 Skills shortage

In addition to a general lack of awareness of Open Access – especially at government level, there is also very low awareness around the availability of open source scholarly publishing platforms such as PKP Open Journal Systems (OJS) and other tools in support of the research and scholarly publishing process. Publishing high quality journals aligned with best practice criteria further needs upskilling, something for which there is a huge demand. Through ASSAf, DOAJ, EIFL, AJOL and efforts of many others, training has been conducted. More resources are however required to not only equip editors, but also reviewers, copy editors, proof-readers and authors with the necessary skills to deliver on high quality trusted Open Access scholarly journals and articles. Open Access online courses and virtual training are possible solutions to address the skills gap, but only if a stable infrastructure and connectivity can be guaranteed.

2.4 Incentivisation is non-existent

Publication-focused metrics are heavily used within African academia as a means of evaluation. This is often only one of very few – if not the only – criteria determining promotion. An unhealthy obsession with publishing in high impact factor journals often result in research conducted to address local problems, ending up in subscription-based journals unaffordable for the very audience it was intended for.

Funding to conduct research remains a challenge. African researchers mostly fund their own research, and there are few incentives for them to make their research and accompanying data sets openly accessible. Funding and peer recognition, along with an enabling ICT enabled research environment conducive for research, are regarded as possible major incentives.

3. Status of scholarly journals published in Africa

There is an increase in the North-South divide; publications not listed on international citation indexes are proven to suffer lower visibility, citation, and effect; and these research results make little or no contribution to the existing body of global knowledge. Furthermore, few African researchers form part of editorial boards of international journals. In some instances, African journals are published by publishers in Europe and North America, resulting in those not being regarded as African journals.

African scholarly journals are often not online available, and leadership on managing journals in a trusted way not available. Through an Ambassador initiative of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), slow progress is being made. More and more, scholarly journals are making the transition to using PKP Open Journal Systems, an Open Source journal workflow solution, to publish journals online.  African Journals Online (AJOL) another initiative, has been working on assisting journals to make the transition from print to online journals. According to DOAJ, 19 African countries representing 196 of the 13 773 journals are currently listed on this index that provides access to high-quality, Open Access, peer-reviewed journals. Until recently, 200+ journals published by Hindawi appeared under Egypt, which would have brought the number of African journals listed in DOAJ to 400+. These journals are now being classified as UK publications due to Hindawi’s move to London.

A notable development towards an Open Science publishing approach is the AAS Open Research mega-journal. Using the F1000 publishing platform, AAS Open Research implements open peer review and requires that data underpinning the research findings should be open by default.

The Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) SA hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) covers a selected collection of peer-reviewed South African scholarly journals, and forms an integral part of the SciELO Brazil project. Journals are considered for inclusion in SciELO SA when they have received a favourable evaluation after being peer-reviewed. This peer-review is coordinated by ASSAf, and occurs in cycles of 5 years. SciELO SA focuses on strengthening the scholarly journal evaluation and accreditation systems in South Africa.

Scienceafrique.org – an initiative by Florence Piron and project SOHA – addresses the need to have a platform to publish scholarly journals and share science in the francophone region. It currently hosts 5 French journals2. The main objective of this platform is to give African researchers (including Haiti) the opportunity to freely and openly share their research and text in their local language, to build quality African science, visible and accessible to all, from the perspective of cognitive justice and serving the common good.

Another important player in advancing equitable scientific partnership with developing Francophone countries in Africa and elsewhere is the French National Research Institute for Development (IRD). Being a French public research institution, “the IRD defends an original model of equitable scientific partnership with the countries of the South and an interdisciplinary and citizen science committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”. The planned IRD “Open science in the South: challenges and perspectives for a new dynamic” symposium (23 – 25 October 2019) “will offer an opportunity to discuss the challenges of open science in developing countries and to present national, international and local incentive policies as well as practical case studies to initiate trends towards open science. It will focus in particular on research in French-speaking countries in the Global South.”

Open Science and Open Access in Arabic countries such as Algeria, are driven by the DGRSDT (General Directorate of Scientific Research and Technological Development). The vast majority of the total of 359 Algerian scholarly journals are only available in print, with 21 available as Open Access and registered in the DOAJ. The DGRSDT strategy includes:

  • training editors in managing and publishing scholarly journals;
  • promote sharing and collaboration among Algerian editors, and
  • promote global collaboration in advancing Open Access.

The aim is for all Algerian journals to make the transition from print to online, and to adhere to the DOAJ criteria for possible inclusion. An Algerian journal portal by the name Webreview has been launched by the Research Centre on Scientific and Technical Information (CERIST) for the science community to publish journals – whether open or restricted access. On institutional level, and similar to South African universities publishing their own journals (e.g. SUNJournals at Stellenbosch University3), many Algerian universities prefer to host and publish their own journals. An example from Algeria is the Université de Béjaïa4 (Belhamel, 2016).

Only one (1) African country thus far is participating in Plan S5 (i.e. the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), Zambia6), while none subscribes to AmeliCA yet.

In response to the portentous need of access to scholarly content by the African research community, an additional SPARC Chapter, SPARC Africa7, has been established and was launched at the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Academic and Research Libraries (ARL) Satellite meeting on the 14th August 2015. The Chapter’s primary concerns this far has been to capacitate Africans in academic and research sectors to champion free access to scientific knowledge as a means to alleviate Africa’s lack of access to scholarly content. It further concerns access to Northern output which has the risk of continuing a neo-colonial agenda (Mboa, 2019). The SPARC Africa Open Access Symposium 2019 (4 – 6 December 2019) will be “challenging the open access movement and its advocates with their social justice principles to usher in equity and equal opportunity and to open the doors for full participation of new African voices in the scholarly communication landscape.”

4. Conclusion

For Africa to address its many challenges through Open Access, policies need to be developed, research sharing should be incentivised, provision should be made for skills development, and proper infrastructure and affordable and stable connectivity should be readily available.

A future federated African Open Science Platform (AOSP) in which policies, skills, incentives and infrastructure needs are addressed will not only encourage more collaboration among researchers in addressing the SDGs, but it will also benefit the many stakeholders identified as part of the research process. But only if there is commitment from African governments.

References

  1. Prof Meoli Kashorda, personal email communication on 13 May 2019
  2. https://www.revues.scienceafrique.org/catalog/
  3. https://www.journals.ac.za/
  4. http://www.univ-bejaia.dz/revues
  5. https://www.coalition-s.org/
  6. https://www.coalition-s.org/coalition-s-welcomes-its-first-african-member-and-receives-strong-support-from-the-african-academy-of-sciences/
  7. http://aims.fao.org/activity/blog/sparc-africa-capacitating-africa-towards-access-open-scholarship

Bibliography

Academy of Science of South Africa. (2019). African Open Science Platform – Landscape
Study. Unpublished.

African Union African Observatory of Science Technology and Innovation. (2014). Assessment of Scientific Production in the African Union, 2005–2010. url: http://aosti.org/index.php/component/content/article/88-reports/133-the-state-of-scientific-production-in-the-african-union?Itemid=437

Alliance for Affordable Internet. (2017). Affordability Report. Washington DC. url: https://a4ai.org/

Belhamel, K. (2016). Open Access Journals Strategy in Algeria. url: https://blog.doaj.org/2016/10/06/open-access-journals-strategy-in-algeria/

Economic Commission for Africa. (2017). Towards Improved Access to Broadband in Africa. Addis Ababa. url: https://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/PublicationFiles/towards_improved_access_to_broadband_inafrica.pdf

Foley, M. (2016). The Role and Status of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. url:  http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/233231488314835003/pdf/113114-NRENSinAfrica-SABER-ICTno05.pdf

Galagan, D. and Looijen, M. (2015). National Research and Education Networks: Analysis of Management Issues. url: http://www.isoc.org/isoc/conferences/inet/99/proceedings/3h/3h_1.htm

Mboa Nkoudou, T. H. (2019). Epistemic alienation in African Scholarly communication: Open access as a Pharmakon. Old Traditions and New Technologies: The Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Open Scholarly Communication. Edited by Eve, M., Gray, J. Cambridge, MIT Press (in Press). url:  https://eve.gd/2019/06/07/old-traditions-and-new-technologies/

Guest post: a technical update from our development team

This is a guest post by Richard Jones, founding partner of Cottage Labs and member of the DOAJ team. Cottage Labs has hosted, developed and managed the DOAJ platform since December 2013 and is responsible for keeping DOAJ available to the vast number of individuals using DOAJ every day.


To the public, it may seem that not a lot has changed at doaj.org for the past year or so but in the background, a lot of work has been going on to prepare for some major improvements.

January – August 2019

During this period, our technical focus has been on 3 major areas: the Application Form; the editorial workflow system, which underpins the application process; and the User Interface (UI). In addition, we have been carrying out the final bits of work to improve the stability and scalability of the system, with the net result that in those 8 months there was only 3 minutes of unscheduled down-time.

The team measures its throughput via the number of issues that are successfully dealt with per month in our GitHub issue tracker. On average we’re handling 20-25 issues per month, some of which are support questions. These questions come from a variety of sources including DOAJ team members, end users, or from technical users of the API and other machine interfaces.

We’ve also been working with a new performance monitor to identify bugs, and for the first time we are able to detect issues with the system that go unreported or even unnoticed by end users.

Here are some of the minor improvements we’ve made:

  • Improved API documentation
  • Further GDPR compliance: cookie consent banner; marketing opt in/out preferences for users; and anonymisation of data used in testing and development
  • Data about articles in the Journal CSV file
  • A preliminary overhaul of the site’s layout template and CSS, in preparation for a much larger UI upgrade next year.

Here are some major bits of work that we have carried out:

  • Enhancements to our historical data management system. We track all changes to the body of publicly available objects (Journals and Articles) and we have a better process for handling that.
  • Introduced a more advanced testing framework for the source code. As DOAJ gains more features, the code becomes larger and more complex. To ensure that it is properly tested for before going into production, we have started to use parameterised testing on the core components. This allows us to carry out broader and deeper testing to ensure the system is defect free.
  • A weekly data dump of the entire public dataset (Journals and Articles) which is freely downloadable.
  • A major data cleanup on articles: a few tens of thousands of duplicates, from historical data or sneaking in through validation loopholes, were identified and removed. We closed the loopholes and cleaned up the data.
  • A complete new hardware infrastructure, using Cloudflare. This resulted in the significant increase in stability mentioned above and allows us to cope with our growing data set (increasing at a rate of around 750,000 records per year at this point).

And here are some projects we have been working on which you will see come into effect over the next few weeks:

  • A completely new search front-end. It looks very similar to the old one, but with some major improvements under-the-hood (more powerful, more responsive, more accessible), and gives us the capability to build better, cooler interfaces in the future.
  • Support for Crossref XML as an article upload format. In the future this may also be extended to the API and we may also integrate directly with Crossref to harvest articles for you. We support the current Crossref schema (4.7) and we will be supporting new versions as they come along.

Finally, we welcomed a new developer to our team, Aga, who joined Cottage Labs and the DOAJ team in July of this year.

Taking a longer view, developments coming down the pipe in the next 6-8 months or so are:

  • A major overhaul to the UI, following extensive design and user experience work by DOAJ’s UX consultant.
  • A lot of work on the editorial back-end (so you might not notice much change on the public side) to improve the throughput and usability of the system for the editors and administrators.
  • A new, revamped application form, which will be easier to use and offer you better support in applying to DOAJ or updating your existing Journals.

If you have any questions or would like more detail on anything you have read here, do please contact us or leave a comment here.

The Long-Term Preservation of Open Access Journals

The long term preservation of open access journals is one of the 7 criteria for the DOAJ Seal because DOAJ believes that it is an extremely important business process which a publisher of academic content should commit to. This couldn’t be more applicable than in the Global South where financial support and rigorous standards around journal publishing aren’t always available and, sadly, journals tend to just disappear from the Internet without warning. This is a huge problem for the academic footprint of the Global South, not to mention the hundreds of authors whose published papers just aren’t online any more and cannot be retrieved or ever cited.

When DOAJ established its criteria for the Seal in 2014, we were conscious that anything with a cost associated with it effectively put up a barrier to those low income or financially unstable journals to getting the Seal. DOAJ is committed to smooth that path as much as possible. In 2013, DOAJ announced a working agreement with CLOCKSS, one of the archives included on our application form, to seek out funding for a joint project which would get as many of DOAJ’s long-tail of single journals archived and preserved as possible. Unfortunately, those plans didn’t come to fruition and since then, the archiving and digital preservation landscape has changed somewhat.

What remains to be done is clear however: we must help ALL journals get into an archiving and digital preservation program and therefore I am delighted to welcome this guest post by Craig Van Dyck, the Executive Director of the CLOCKSS Archive.

Thanks for reading.

Dom, DOAJ Operations Manager


Users of scholarly content rely upon long-term access to that content. Scholarly research is long-lived, and users need to be able to re-access content repeatedly.

One concern about digital scholarly journals is that they could disappear from the web, which would undermine scholars’ ability to access the materials that they need.

In response to this concern, several Preservation services are available. These services work somewhat differently, but they all aim to ensure the long-term availability of scholarly content on behalf of end-users. Prominent services are CLOCKSS and Portico in the US, Scholars Portal and the Public Knowledge Project Preservation Network (PKP PN) in Canada, and CINES in Europe. Publishers are welcome to participate in any or all of these services. And some national libraries also have archival collections.

In today’s environment, it is considered best-practice for a scholarly publisher to include its content in a preservation service. To receive the DOAJ Seal, journals must be included in a preservation system.

In this post, we will focus on CLOCKSS, with some reference to PKP PN, because those two services both use the LOCKSS technology, which is arguably at the high-end of the spectrum of preservation solutions.

LOCKSS Technology

LOCKSS stands for Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe. The technology was invented at the Stanford University Library about 20 years ago. It relies upon multiple copies of the digital content being hosted at geographically distributed nodes. The software (which is open source) includes a unique polling-and-repair mechanism. The multiple nodes are constantly exchanging information about the content that they hold. If one node reports a difference vs. the other nodes, that one node is out-voted by the other nodes, and the variant node’s piece of content is replaced by the correct content from one of the other nodes. In this way, the archive is “dark”, meaning that end-users do not access the content, but the technology ensures that the data is in good repair.

The CLOCKSS Archive

  • The C in CLOCKSS stands for Controlled. This is because CLOCKSS uses twelve servers located at blue-chip libraries around the world, all with first-rate infrastructure and security. CLOCKSS is a free-standing 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization, using the LOCKSS technology and working with the LOCKSS technical and operational teams at Stanford, to preserve scholarly content for the long-term. CLOCKSS is certified as a Trusted Digital Repository. In its Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification report by the Council for Research Libraries, CLOCKSS received the only perfect score for technology.
  • CLOCKSS includes many Open Access publishers. For example, 24 publishers using the open source OJS publishing system are preserved in CLOCKSS. In total, CLOCKSS is preserving over 20,000 journal titles, with over 30 million journal articles and 75,000 books, growing rapidly each year.
  • One unique aspect of CLOCKSS is that when content is “triggered” for access, CLOCKSS makes the content freely available to all, under a Creative Commons license, which is a sign of the commitment to the concept of Open Access. A “trigger” occurs if a journal has disappeared, or will soon disappear, from the web. To date CLOCKSS has triggered 53 journals.
  • CLOCKSS can access publishers’ journals in two different ways: by harvesting the content from the publishing platform; or by the publisher providing the content to CLOCKSS by FTP.
  • Another unique aspect of CLOCKSS is the governance structure. The Board of Directors is comprised half by libraries and half by publishers. The scholarly community itself is thus responsible for the policies and practices of CLOCKSS.
  • Publishers sign an Agreement with CLOCKSS, which governs rights and responsibilities. There is a small annual cost for participating in CLOCKSS. CLOCKSS is financially sustainable, which is an important element for a long-term preservation archive. 350 libraries around the world, as well as 250 publishers, contribute to CLOCKSS’s sustainability.

Public Knowledge Project Preservation Network (PKP PN)

  • The Public Knowledge Project is a multi-university initiative developing (free) open source software and conducting research to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing. PKP is based at Simon Fraser University in Canada, which is where the Open Journal Systems (OJS) software was originally developed.
  • The PKP Preservation Network is an additional capability that enables easy long-term preservation of journals using OJS version 2.4.8 or higher. PKP PN uses the LOCKSS preservation software.
  • There are currently 800 journals preserving their content in PKP PN.
  • There are no fees for participating in the PKP PN. A journal manager must agree to Terms of Use.

Conclusion

It is strongly recommended that scholarly journals and books should be preserved for the long-term in a preservation system. Content that is not preserved is at-risk of being lost. And publishers who do not contribute their content to a preservation system are at-risk of not being considered a serious publisher. The value of long-term preservation is well worth a small cost.

Craig Van Dyck
Executive Director, CLOCKSS Archive
cvandyck@clockss.org

Open Access in the Francophone Global South: Between Collective Empowerment and Neocolonialism

This is a guest post by Florence Piron from Université Laval, Québec, Canada.

fpiron_01

An anthropologist and ethicist, Florence Piron is a professor in the Department of Information and Communication at Université Laval where she teaches courses on ethics and democracy. She is the founding President of the Association for Science and Common Good and its open access publishing house. She is interested in the links between science, society and culture, both as a researcher and advocate for a science that is more open, inclusive, socially responsible and focused on the common good. She’s doing research on open science, and cognitive justice with universities in Africa and Haiti.

 

Two major issues are often lacking within the general conversation about open access, whether in blogs, discussion lists or papers. Indeed, their invisibility is in itself a symptom of the problem that I want to briefly expose here.

The first issue is the difference between openness and accessibility. Depending on where a person lives or what their resources are, they may forget that there exists such a difference, whereas it is obvious to others. A door may be open, but if a person does not have the ability to walk or find the path that leads to it, if many obstacles prevent them from moving forward, they will not be able to go through it: what then is the value or the meaning of the door’s openness? In other words, are articles and books in open access always accessible  and, if not, what does openness really mean? This question demands that more precise social and political analyses of accessibility be added to the usual discussions of publishers, copyright or policies.

The second issue concerns what lies behind the door, in other words what kind of knowledge is so precious that the opening of the door to get it justifies all kinds of fighting and arguing and huge amounts of money? This fundamental epistemological debate seems to me very seldom dealt with within the general conversation about open access. Should all types of knowledge be covered by the open access movement? Or only the “science” that lies within the boundaries of the Web of Science, Google Scholar and Scopus databases, that is to say the “centre” of the science world-system? Should knowledge produced outside these boundaries, for instance non-English non-indexed knowledge produced in universities from the periphery of the science world-system, be left out of the fight for open access because it is not “properly scientific”?  Should the invisibility of knowledge coming from minorities or the Global South continue to be seen as not a problem?

A detour to the Global South, particularly Haiti and Francophone Sub-Saharan African universities where I have been doing research for several years through the SOHA project (Piron et al. 2016, 2017), can open eyes and ears. In the North, open access is equivalent to effective access because a researcher or a student always has a computer, web access, electricity and a basic digital literacy that enable them to have immediate access to everything that is open. But this is not the case in the Francophone Global South, where our SOHA project has identified and documented several huge cognitive injustices. In this part of the world, not only is Internet access far from being generalized and remains very expensive, but students often touch a computer for the first time when entering university, lecturers rarely know how to use the web in their teaching and sometimes mistrust it, electricity can be cut for several hours a day, the quality of the connection is usually very low and connectivity is often not the priority of university leaders. Most important of all is the fact that digitalization of African theses and journals is very rare, which contributes to their invisibility. We have also met African academics who still hope to compensate for their meagre salary by selling books and are thus opposed to open access in general. Let’s add that very few of these countries have a research and innovation policy able to fund research, libraries and equipment, so that they usually depend on “partners” from the North who have their own research agenda, a neocolonial situation in itself (Mvé-Ondo 2005). That many people manage to do brilliant research there, without leaving to the North, is a feat in itself! Believing that “open access” is the grand solution to problems of research in the Global South is therefore a huge mistake, mirroring the general ignorance of the centre about the periphery. Open access is a necessary, but not at all sufficient, condition.

The second issue may be more complex to grasp, since it is of a socio-epistemological nature. Let’s just recall here the postcolonial and feminist scholarship that has shown that “science” is in fact a situated (fascinating) knowledge anchored in European male white history which became hegemonic during Modernity and its colonial project. This knowledge carries a specific epistemology based on the hope of producing a decontextualized (“universal”), neutral (value-free, culture-free, gender-free), explicative, predictive type of knowledge which I call “positivist” in short. Such a knowledge, defined as a normative ideal, obviously considers any mention of cultural/political context as irrelevant or even anti-science, anti-truth. Let’s do it anyway. If open access only concerns the hegemonic positivist science that is produced and showcased in journals obeying the norms and rules created in the North, it would contribute to maintaining other epistemologies or knowledges not quite following the said rules in their state of invisibility and inaccessibility, whether in the North or in the (Francophone) Global South. Yet these knowledges are indispensable to overcome the challenges in these countries, each country needing local relevant nuanced knowledge that could help its action, that “speaks” to local social actors.

In summary, if open access reinforces the visibility and usability of papers, theses and books from the North (even if only because they have a digital life), knowledge from the (Francophone) Global South, mainly constituted by un-digitized theses and research reports (Piron et al. 2017), will remain invisible and little used, unless published in journals from the North. This is why, if open access is only interpreted as facilitating access to “science” without any analysis of material conditions of access and without any conscience of the necessity of maintaining a “knowledge diversity” within an ecology of knowledges (Santos 2007), it could become just another tool of neocolonialism.

Conversely, open access can become a formidable tool of collective empowerment for the Global South – and of improvement of world science –  if its leaders and proponents make a sincere commitment to creating and maintaining within “science” a real openness to the plurality of epistemologies, of knowledges (in the plural form) and of normative frameworks. My African and Haitian colleagues and I have been working on numerous concrete projects in this regard, notably a pan-African open repository. We are convinced that DOAJ could also play a major role not only in showcasing African and Haitian journals without necessarily imposing on them a rigid normative positivist framework, but also in helping journals from the North become more open to epistemologies, languages and ideas from the Global South.

Let me conclude with a sad paradox: many critics of hegemonic science, whether from a decolonial, feminist or constructivist standpoint, do not care whether their own work is available in open access or not, and therefore accessible or not to the people suffering from cognitive injustices… The road is long!

References Continue reading