Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Challenges to Open Access and Institutional Repositories in Africa Highlighted

Participants at SCECSAL 2012
Research outputs from Africa should be available, accessible and applicable. This is the only way research can have an impact on the lives of the millions of Africans, and contribute to the global innovation systems. One of the pathways being used to enhance the visibility and accessibility of content from Africa is through open access to information resources stored in digital institutional repositories. Several initiatives are under way on the continent, especially in universities and research institutes. However, individuals involved in the initiatives face several challenges, some of which have been highlighted by speakers at the 2012 Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and South Africa of Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL, in Nairobi, Kenya, 4 – 8 June. The key challenges include the following:
  • lack of motivation and incentives for researchers/academicians to submit their works to the institutional repositories;
  • absence of institutional policies and strategies to support open sharing of information resources;
  • inadequate bandwidth in institutions;
  • fear of the un-known resulting in resistance to open access initiatives by researchers, academicians and librarians;
  • conflicts/differences between information technology specialists and information/library professionals in the institutions regarding the approaches and software tools to be used;
  • unstable power supply in some countries impact on 24/7 provision of access to institutional repositories;
  • open access and institutional repository initiatives are seen as additional responsibilities to normal library duties and do not receive the attention required;
  • absence of appropriate skills, especially IT skills, in libraries and documentation centres;
  • absence of clear copyright and guidelines for licensing digital content;
  • lack of knowledge about publishers policies on open access and self-archiving.

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