Cameroon is located in Central Africa. It has 20,000 inhabitants, eight public universities, 99 private institutes of higher education and 700 laboratories. Faculty and students are involved in research intense projects at the universities. At the end of each academic year there are at least 1,200 scientific papers and theses produced. But the main problem is that all this scientific production is not known to the researchers and students, because there is no national policy on public dissemination of research results. The university authorities in Cameroon are aware of the usefulness of Open Access. Open Access has enabled academic libraries to support researchers by offering them access to new resources. To support Open Access, the Ministry of Higher Education created the Inter-University Centre for Information Resources (IDRC) and the Inter University Centre for Information Technology (CITI). Both services have the mission to promote the sharing of online resources between Cameroonian universities to support scientific research activities. They encourage university libraries to digitize theses and publications and make them available for researchers, students and general public.
Researchers from Cameroon publish articles in Open Access journals, for example 155 articles have been published with BioMed Central – an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the Open Access publishing model – and among them are highly accessed (most viewed) articles published by researchers from Banso Baptist Hospital, Bonassama Hospital, Care International in Cameroon, Cameroon Psychology Forum, Fondation Chantal Biya, CNPS Hospital, Centre Pasteur du Cameroun, Douala General Hospital, Holy Trinity Foundation Hospital, Institut National de Cartographie, Institute de Recherche pour le Développement, Institute of Medicinal Plants Studies, Organisation de Coordination pour la lutte contre les Endémies en Afrique Centrale, Protestant Hospital, Research Foundation for Tropical Diseases and the Environment, St. Mary Soledad Catholic Hospital, Tropical Medicine Research Station, University of Buea, University of Douala, University of Dschang, University of Ngaoundere, University of Yaoundé I, University Hospital Center and Virology Laboratory CRESAR/IMPM/IR. The Open Access movement progresses in Cameroon, but slowly.
51 articles have been published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) international Open Access journals: PLoS ONE, PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine, PLoS Genetics, PLoS Computational Biology and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
The academic environment in Cameroon is very favourable to publishing in Open Access journals and setting up Open Access repositories. The visibility of research in Cameroon is especially important to young researchers. Cameroonian universities produce very important research results but most of them have been captured on paper, kept in the library premises and have not been sufficiently exploited by researchers. Libraries started digitizing and putting online non-digitally born research outputs to provide access to research outputs. Consortium of Cameroon University and Research Libraries (COCUREL) have been promoting Open Access among researchers, students and policy makers.
Potential Barriers for Further Adoption:
The bandwidth is expensive in Cameroon and absorbs half the budget of university libraries. So, even if the resources are openly available they will be inaccessible to researchers (due to the low bandwidth). IT equipment (servers, computers, scanners) are expensive because they are not manufactured locally and libraries usually do not have the budget to buy them. Lack of trained staff is also a big handicap for academic libraries.
Consortium of Cameroon University and Research Libraries (COCUREL) plans the following Open Access awareness raising and training activities in 2011:
- A National Workshop on Open Access for librarians, ICT specialists and researchers;
- A National Week on Open Access during International Open Access Week (October 24-30, 2011);
- A National Seminar on Digital Libraries using Invenio software (a free, open-source software to run a digital library or document repository on the web that has been originally developed at CERN) for building digital libraries.
International Open Access Week is organized to raise awareness, celebrate the progress, share experiences and inspire wider participation in Open Access movement. Open Access is the free, immediate, online access to the results of research, coupled with the right to use those results in new and innovative ways. And this year's focus is on how does Open Access facilitate and enhance the conduct and communication of science and scholarship. The Open Access Week organisers encouraged exploring Open Access impact on generation of results, generation/sharing of articles (and/or books and other text/packets), generation of nontraditional outputs/cultural heritage objects, translation into the teaching/learning process, the communication of the above material/information to the public, the interaction of the public with this material and the creation of innovative opportunities for new science, scholarship and new businesses.
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