This editorial from Heila Pienaar was originally published on Frontiers on 14 June 2023.
Open science in Africa: The ongoing transition toward Open Science (OS) is increasing transparency and collaboration in the research enterprise. This Research Topic aims to investigate the transition to OS in Africa, including the concerns and advantages of OS for researchers and stakeholders. It also explores the role of new technologies and infrastructure in implementing OA and bridging the knowledge divide between countries. In this editorial, we provide an overview of eight articles that shed light on various aspects of open science, data sharing, and the challenges and opportunities they present in the African context. These articles highlight the importance of policymakers, institutions, and researchers working together to foster a culture of open science and to address the existing barriers to data accessibility on the African continent.
The article by Okafor et al. focuses on the adoption of open science (OS) practices in Africa, considering the limitations and prospects for its institutionalization. The authors emphasize the significance of science access for the advancement of scientific research and the development of the next generation of scientists in Africa. They highlight the global resurgence of discussions around open science due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in resource-poor settings like Africa where OS practices are currently limited. Overall, the review article serves as an advocacy strategy and informative guide for policymakers and stakeholders involved in promoting and integrating open science practices in Africa. It highlights the importance of overcoming barriers and fostering a supportive environment for open science to thrive on the continent (Okafor et al.).
The next article, “Rethinking the a in FAIR data: issues of data access and accessibility in research” by Shanahan and Bezuidenhout, raises concerns about the assumptions of accessibility in FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) data principles. The authors emphasize that access to FAIR data resources can be influenced by geopolitical factors, exacerbating existing access inequities. They stress the need for increased awareness and consideration of these issues in FAIR implementation (Shanahan and Bezuidenhout).
The article, “Open science in Africa: what policymakers should consider” by Chiware and Skelly, underlines the importance of African governments and institutions embracing open science principles and building research infrastructures that align with the global open science movement. The authors highlight the significance of OS policy frameworks and provide insights for policymakers, aiming to guide similar initiatives in Africa (Skelly and Chiware).
“African researchers do not think differently about open data” by Skelly and Chiware, explores African researchers’ attitudes toward open data and demonstrates that their perspectives are not significantly different from their international counterparts. This finding emphasizes the need for policymakers and institutions to understand and address researchers’ concerns and expectations regarding data sharing and the open data ecosystem (Skelly and Chiware).
In “Open access and its potential impact on public health—a South African perspective”, Strydom et al. examine the impact of open access on public health in South Africa. They highlight the benefits of open science and discuss financial implications and potential solutions for reducing publication costs for researchers and institutions. The authors also address privacy concerns and the role of data protection legislation in medical research and data reuse (Strydom et al.).
Hey’s article, “Open science and big data in South Africa”, focuses on the challenges and opportunities presented by “Big Scientific Data” in South Africa, particularly in the context of the Square Kilometer Array project and the Multi-Purpose Reactor. The author highlights the importance of open science policies and the FAIR principles in managing and making such data accessible, proposing the use of semantic markup and emphasizing the role of interdisciplinary teams in research data management (Hey).
Chigwada’s “Feasibility of a national open data policy in Zimbabwe” explores the potential for implementing a national open data policy in Zimbabwe. The study assesses the readiness of the country in terms of open data activities, highlighting the need for advocacy, awareness creation, and collaboration among stakeholders to craft and enact a national open data policy. The author emphasizes the value of government and research data for driving research and innovation (Chigwada).
“Building awareness and capacity of bioinformatics and open science skills in Kenya: a sensitize, train, hack, and collaborate model” by Karega et al., presents a framework for promoting bioinformatics and open science skills in Kenya. The authors showcase the Sensitize-Train-Hack-Collaborate/Community model, which combines awareness-building, training, collaborative projects, and community engagement to empower researchers with the necessary skills and tools in open science and bioinformatics (Karega et al.).
These articles collectively underscore the importance of open science, data accessibility, and policy development in Africa. They highlight the need for increased awareness, capacity building, and interdisciplinary collaborations to overcome challenges and leverage the potential of open science.
Dr Heila Pienaar served as the Deputy Director: Strategic Innovation at the University of Pretoria Library till the end of 2018. Her research interests include strategic management, creativity and innovation in academic libraries, e-Research and Research Data Management. She initiated the first academic Library Makerspace in Africa and conceptualised the Digital Scholarship Centre for the University of Pretoria.
Big stories in Open Science
EU Ministers Urge ‘No Pay’ Academic-Publishing Model, Sparking Debate Over Feasibility and Funding
- The European Union’s Council of Ministers has proposed a ‘no pay’ academic-publishing model, advocating for cost-free access to scholarly publications for both authors and readers. Despite strong support from academic institutions, such as the German Research Federation (DFG), representatives from the publishing industry have expressed concerns over the viability of this model and the lack of clarity on its financing. The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) an organization for the academic publishing industry, fears implementing such a model could abolish independent European publishing companies.
Plan S Will Remove 68% of the “Transformative Journals”
- More than two-thirds, 1,589 out of 2,326 journals (68%), of the ‘Transformative Journals’ eligible for funding within the Plan S open-access initiative will be expelled from the scheme for failing to meet their requirements. Plan S, which mandates immediate open access for research papers supported by international funders, requires hybrid journals to commit to transitioning to full open access. The decision signifies a shift in focus from subscription-based scholarly publishing to full and immediate- open access, with the removal of support for transformative journals from 2024 onwards.
Plan S Seeks Alternative Business Models to Article Processing Charges in Scholarly Publishing
- Under Plan S, the Coalition S group of funders is soliciting the research sector’s suggestions for alternative business models to article processing charges (APCs), aiming to reshape the open-access approach in scholarly publishing. As APCs, typically paid by research funders or institutions, become increasingly expensive and unsustainable, the Council of the EU member state governments has emphasized the necessity of developing publishing models that don’t rely on per-unit charges. In partnership with Jisc and Plos, Coalition S has launched a working group to explore equitable payment models and utilize research funding to support a non-APC publishing ecosystem.
Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative’s Open Access Dashboard: Major Update and Expanded Coverage
- The Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative recently announced a significant update to their Open Access dashboard, completed migration from Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) to OpenAlex, and released data for research outputs published in 2022. The upgraded dashboard offers improved tracking of open access outputs, now covering a total of 14,477 institutions, nearly double the previous coverage.
Soaring Academic Journal Costs Drive Illicit Downloads in Japan
- In the wake of academic journal subscription fees skyrocketing, the use of Sci-Hub to download academic papers has surged in Japan, hitting 7.2 million in 2022. This has cast doubt on the ethics of scholars but also highlights the increased pressure of academic publishing costs. Amidst the controversy, Japanese researchers express their distress over the situation, pushing for a collective negotiation at a national level and sparking a discussion on restructuring the academic publishing system.
Wiley Signs 22 Open Access Agreements in North America
- In a significant move towards open-access publishing, Wiley, a global leader in scientific publishing, has announced the signing or renewal of 22 transformative agreements with partners across the United States and Mexico. These agreements, set to begin in 2023, provide participating institutions access to Wiley’s extensive portfolio of hybrid and subscription journals. Researchers will now have the opportunity to publish their accepted articles open access, significantly increasing the availability of research. This development covers 117 institutions and is estimated to make around 3,600 articles open-access, driving the momentum of author-pay open-access publishing in North America.
Aspen Institute and Omidyar Network Partner to Foster an Equitable Data Economy
- In a bid to envision a fair data economy, the Aspen Institute, in collaboration with the Omidyar Network, has assembled a diverse team of experts for a project known as the Council for a Fair Data Future. This council, constituting academics, technologists, corporations, policymakers, and civil society representatives, aims to identify recommendations to make the data economy more equitable and beneficial for individuals and communities. This initiative will culminate in actionable suggestions for transforming the data economy, addressing , and implementing direct interventions.
PeerJ Launches Open Advances Series for Equitable and Barrier-Free Scientific Communication
- PeerJ, a leading publisher, introduces its Open Advances series of journals, offering global access to scientific communication without financial barriers. These community-led journals prioritize research that addresses pressing world challenges and fosters collaboration among researchers. By removing obstacles like Article Processing Charges and empowering the scientific community to decide what to review and publish, PeerJ aims to enhance the dissemination of significant research and accelerate scientific progress.
DIAMAS Project Publishes Best Practices Report for Institutional Publishing Service Providers
- The Developing Institutional Open Access Publishing Models to Advance Scholarly Communication (DIAMAS) project, in collaboration with Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) has released a comprehensive report outlining quality evaluation criteria and assessment systems for Institutional Publishing Service Providers (IPSPs) in the context of Diamond Open Access publishing. The report provides valuable insights into existing practices, international standards, and research evaluation methods for IPSPs. It covers seven core categories: funding, ownership and governance, open science practices, editorial quality, technical service efficiency, visibility, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Open Science NL Announced Appointment of a Steering Group to Drive the Open Science Transition in the Netherlands
- Open Science NL, a newly launched organization in the Netherlands, has announced the appointment of its Steering Group. Comprised of members nominated by 15 knowledge institutions and appointed for a four-year term, the Steering Group brings extensive knowledge, vision, and an overview of the open science agenda. Open Science NL aims to accelerate the transition to open science by stimulating research initiatives and innovative funding programs aligned with the Open Science 2030 Ambition Document.
Release of 2023 Transparency Report for Mathematics Journals under Subscribe to Open (S2O) Initiative
- EDP Sciences and the Société de Mathématiques Industrielles et Appliquées (SMAI) have published their third Transparency Report for mathematics journals under the S2O program. The report offers comprehensive insights into subscription prices, renewals, costs, and usage data, showcasing the effectiveness of S2O. With a focus on transparency, the report empowers librarians and stakeholders to make informed decisions while emphasizing the ongoing support institutions need to sustain open-access publishing.
A Surge in Open Access Publishing: 58 More Institutions Join The Company of Biologists’ Read & Publish Initiative
- The Company of Biologists announced the addition of 58 more institutions to its cost-neutral Read & Publish Open Access initiative since January 2023, increasing participation to over 650 institutions across 41 countries. Two new library consortia, the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) and the Joint University Librarians Advisory Committee (JULAC) Consortium in Hong Kong, have also joined, bringing the total consortia count to 12. Nearly half of these participating libraries have opted to include fully Open Access journals in their cost-neutral Read & Publish agreements, driving significant growth in the proportion of OA research content in the company’s hybrid journals and contributing to a total of 71% of the Open Access articles published in 2022.
Open Science events and opportunities
- 2023 SSP Training Series on Open Access will be held on 19 and 20 July 2023. This workshop series will be of interest to both early-career professionals as well as those more experienced in scholarly communications.
- Open Science Sticker Contest: To celebrate 20 years of open science, Allen Institute is seeking creative answers in the form of artwork from youth ages 5-14. Enter the Open Science Sticker Contest by 12:00 pm (Pacific) on 1 August 2023.
- DIAMAS launches an open call to collate resources addressing key components of the Extensible Quality Standard for Institutional Publishing (EQSIP) to enhance Open Access Diamond and institutional publishing. Use this online form to identify resources for the DIAMAS registry.
- arXiv is hiring for the following positions- Software Developers, a Project Manager, and a Community Engagement Manager.
- Opendata.ch is looking for a Project Manager Open Innovation with project management talent starting in July or by agreement.
- MIT Libraries is hiring a Scholarly Communications Associate to work on key aspects of the libraries’ scholarly communications program. More details can be found here.
Our top ten Open Science reads
- The beginning of the end for academic publishers?
- Abolishing an “Industry”?
- Shifting Tides
- Moving Away from APCs
- The Case for PubPub
- Open Access: the Future is Diamond
- Our Right To Challenge Junk Patents Is Under Threat
- How Scientific Publishers’ Extreme Fees Put Profit Over Progress
- Diamond is for Everyone
- A Year of Jxiv – Warming the Preprints Stone
The information, opinions and recommendations presented by our guests are those of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the values and beliefs of the International Science Council.
Image by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash.