Scholarly Publishing in South Africa

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Contents

1. INTRODUCTION3
2. BACKGROUND3
2.1. Access to knowledge and the Development of SA3
2.2. The Universities:4
2.3. Commercial Publishers:5
2.4. The South African accreditation system – the heart of the problem:6
3. POSSIBLE POLICY IMPLEMENTATION:7
4. CONCLUSION:9
5. REFERENCES:9

SCHOLARLY JOURNAL PUBLISHING IN SOUTH AFRICA

1. INTRODUCTION

This paper deals with the scholarly publishing industry, which is one of the backbones of the research and innovation infrastructure in South Africa. It is specifically focused on academic journal publishing. Being an Academic Librarian this is a topic closely linked with the purpose of my profession, that is, to facilitate access to relevant knowledge and information that is of a high quality.

Academic journal publishing is a complex issue and its growth and development over the years have had many implications for universities, academic libraries, researchers and students. One of the major problems that this paper will discuss is how the South African (SA) scholarly publications system encourages SA authors to publish their research in overseas journals, thereby locking away our research heritage in commercial publisher repositories, to which institutions have to pay exorbitant prices to access. Even within the current economic climate commercial publishers continue to increase the prices of journals each year, putting extreme pressure on the funding requirements of academic institutions, academic libraries and researchers. On the surface of it, this may seem to be a narrow problem that could be dealt with by individual journal subscribers or institutions. However this issue is a systemic and pervasive one that is linked with and has implications for the competitiveness of SA as a country and equity issues around access to information and knowledge. The current scholarly publishing infrastructure has hindered, rather than supported, national R&D and information dissemination goals.

Due to my location within the academic library sector, I am writing mainly from the perspective of a person located within this arena, however this problem touches most areas of civil society where access to information should be more freely available. I am also specifically focusing on journal publishing however this issue is pertinent to all forms of scholarly publishing (books, research reports, conference proceedings etc.).

2. BACKGROUND
2.1. Access to knowledge and the Development of SA

“The ability to maximize the use of information is now considered to be the single most important factor in deciding the competitiveness of countries as well as their ability to empower their citizens through the enhanced access to information (Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST), 1996: 9).

The above quote from the White Paper on Science and Technology encapsulates the basic premise that in order for South Africa to develop and compete on a global scale, citizens need access to information. The white paper goes on to say that research and scientific activity are very closely linked to economic factors. This is iterated in South Africa’s National Research and Development (R&D) Strategy which states that modern economies require a strong information and R&D infrastructure. Two major outcomes from R&D and innovation are increased wealth and quality of life of citizens and improved business performance though new products and processes. (Government of the RSA, 2002: 28)

The concept of South Africa as an information society is integral to South African R&D policy. The DACST whitepaper talks of bridging the information gap between information rich and poor, creating an “…equitable information...
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