Despite an appreciation of the Open Access (OA) concept by most Zimbabwean institutions of higher learning, there is a paucity of OA repositories in Zimbabwe on the web. The following report gives an analysis of OA activities in Zimbabwe with particular emphasis on institutional repositories.
In Zimbabwe OA initiatives have to a large extent been driven by university libraries through the Zimbabwe University Libraries Consortium (ZULC) with support from the International Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) and EIFL. Zimbabwe has 13 universities namely Africa University(AU), Bindura University of Science Education(BUSE), Catholic University(CU), Chinhoyi University of Technology(CUT), Great Zimbabwe University(GZU), Harare Institute of Technology(HIT), Lupane State University(LSU), Midlands State University(MSU), National University of Science and Technology(NUST), Solusi University, University of Zimbabwe(UZ) Women’s University in Africa(WUA) and Zimbabwe Open University(ZOU). All university libraries except the Catholic University Library are members of ZULC.
The predominant form of OA expression is the Institutional Repository (IR), trailed by the OA journal. Nyambi (2010) gives an overview of the state of IRs in Zimbabwe. Her report which is still as valid now as it was in 2010, forms the basis of this report which gives a brief outline of the state of IRs in Zimbabwe, the enabling environment and barriers to setting up IRs. It further outlines major projects, national or institutional policies and details of key organisations involved in OA.
All universities with the exception of the Catholic University, Great Zimbabwe University, Lupane State University and Solusi University have IRs at various stages of development. The major content of these repositories are journal articles, published conference papers, projects and dissertations, digital collections and past examination papers whose full texts are accessible on the universities’ local Intranets. Most collections are mounted on the Greenstone and/or DSpace platform. The University of Zimbabwe also provides book chapters, working papers, research reports and seminar papers. The repository is listed in the Directory of OA Repositories (OpenDOAR) and it is accessible on the internet.
Researchers from Zimbabwe publish articles in international OA journals, for example 74 articles have been published with BioMed Central – an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the OA publishing model – and among them are highly accessed (most viewed) articles published by researchers from Biomedical Research and Training Institute, Chitungwiza Health Department, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Global Aids Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, National University of Science and Technology, SADC Drought Monitoring Centre, University of Zimbabwe and WHO. 33 articles have been published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) Open Access journals: PLoS ONE, PLoS Medicine and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
A number of factors are responsible for the existence of institutional repositories at most universities albeit on the local Intranet.
The role of international organizations
INASP and EIFL have engaged ZULC in capacity building workshops, focusing on the criticality of Open Access repositories to scholarly communication. Between 2006 and the present, INASP and EIFL have between them sponsored six workshops covering Open Access aspects such as the construction of digital libraries using DSpace and Greenstone software respectively, developing Open Access policies, content harvesting, metadata issues and management of institutional repositories including sensitization to and marketing of the institutional repositories. INASP has also offered bandwidth optimisation workshops to ICT personnel in universities and writing workshops through the Author Aid Project at INASP to early career researchers to enable them to contribute to their institutional repositories. EIFL facilitated the installation of the free and open source software (FOSS) Greenstone digital library suite from the Southern Africa Greenstone Support Network (SAGSN) and the training of Zimbabwean librarians between 2007 and 2008 in the EIFL Greenstone pilot project.
The role of ZULC
Through collaboration with INASP and EIFL, ZULC has assisted university libraries in setting up institutional repositories through training workshops. ZULC members share their experiences and best practices in the marketing and management of institutional repositories at scheduled meetings.
Despite the presence of institutional repositories (IRs) at most institutions, IRs from Zimbabwe are conspicuous by their absence on the web. UZ is the only university with an IR accessible on the Internet. NUST and AU have digital collections incorporating local intellectual output and electronic content from the web. Nyambi (2010) concludes that the slow up–take of IRs in Zimbabwe is due to a number of factors which include funding, brain drain, lack of IR policies, power outages and technological challenges.
Funding and technological challenges
Limited funding to universities is a major constraint with a ripple effect on the implementation of IRs. Due to financial constraints most universities cannot provide adequate bandwidth which facilitates the hosting of IRs on the Internet. Sometimes universities can go for months without Internet connectivity. Universities are unable to acquire the necessary hardware to support IRs.
The Brain drain
Librarians trained in setting up IRs left institutions due to the prevailing harsh economic and political situation in Zimbabwe in the last decade which saw the country experiencing severe brain drain as professionals left in search of better economic prospects. This slowed down the progress of setting up IRs. Experienced researchers with a potential to contribute to IRs also left the country making it a challenge to populate IRs.
Power outages are characteristic of Zimbabwean society today. This affects communication and Internet connectivity which are essential to IRs availability both on the Intranet and the Internet. Few universities can afford power substitutes in the form of generators.
Lack of Open Access and IRs policies
Zimbabwe lacks a national Open Access policy. Few people are aware of the concept. Those that are knowledgeable feel they are not empowered enough to initiate dialogue on the issue. Only two universities, namely UZ and HIT have working IRs policies in place. The rest are at various stages of developing their IRs policies. The lack of IRs policies has negatively impacted the progress of IRs. Without any roadmap there is nothing to guide institutions on how to develop their IRs.
The institutional repository was established in 2008. It runs on Greenstone and contains past exam papers, dissertations, the archives and digital collections containing e-books, e-journals and journal articles accessible on the web.
National University of Science and Technology (NUST)
NUST established a digital collection in 2007. The collection which runs on the Greenstone software contains e-books, information on gender issues, Zimbabwean health and other health related issues, old Zimbabwean currency, agriculture on the crossroads, digitization, digital libraries and disability issues in Zimbabwe and other collections. An institutional repository containing past exam papers, NUST forms, research publications, regulations and theses and dissertations was also established in 2007. It runs on Greenstone and it is available on the Intranet. NUST is in the process of migrating its institutional repository from Greenstone to DSpace. An institutional repository policy is in the final stages of construction and an IP address is being awaited for the institutional repository to be accessible through the web.
University of Zimbabwe( UZ)
The institutional repository was established in 2005 using DSpace software. It contains past exam papers, conference papers, staff publications, DATAD: abstracts of theses and dissertations, EDT–db: full text of electronic theses, book chapters, working papers, research reports and seminar papers. It is available through the internet. The UZ has the most successful institutional repository. It is well populated and it is accessible on the web. This is due to a number of factors. The UZ is the mother of all universities with a well documented research culture which attracts funding from donor organisations. It has a publishing house with a decent output. The UZ library personnel were the first to receive institutional repository training which they are now cascading to other libraries. It has a bandwidth of 27mb which is the envy of other universities. Its long history and location in the capital city makes it a favourite destination for the best librarians. The above factors have created a conducive environment for the implementation of a successful institutional repository at the UZ.
Past and Future OA Related Activities:
The University of Zimbabwe (UZ) library with financial support from EIFL has embarked on a campus wide Open Access (OA) Advocacy Campaign which will target the UZ management and administrative personnel and Deans of Faculties. The ultimate purpose is to advocate for the adoption of a campus wide OA policy. A one day workshop will be held for 20 UZ management staff (Executives i.e. Vice Chancellor, Pro Vice Chancellor, Registrar, and Deans of Faculties) in an endeavour to achieve management buy in on the concept of OA, with the hope of advocating for OA policy formulation and implementation in the near future. A series of workshops and presentations targeting teaching staff (chairpersons of departments and lectures) in all 10 faculties will be held by faculty librarians with the sole purpose of marketing and publicising of both the concept of OA and OA resources relevant to individual faculties. An advocacy video will be documented which will contain testimonies of local academics who have so far benefited from exposure on IR platform and other success stories. Overall the library is looking forward to the adoption of a University OA Policy, which will enable access to knowledge in support of teaching, learning and research at the UZ, and as such this prospective advocacy campaign will be a conducive platform to this vision.
Only the UZ’s IR is listed in the OpenDOAR. The rest are only available on Intranets for a number of reasons. Firstly, institutions are reluctant to mount their IRs on the Internet due to very limited bandwidth which limits connectivity. Secondly institutions are afraid of infringing intellectual property rights on some of the works in their IRs. At some institutions submission to the IR is done through the Research and Scholarship Committee to ensure compliance with intellectual property rights and to enhance submission.
Zimbabwean institutions are at an advanced stage of developing IRs. Most institutions have IRs running on their Intranets. Uploading IRs onto the net is only a matter of time for most institutions. The major constraint is fear of copyright infringement and lack of IR policies. Further training in these aspects would ensure expedited uploading onto the web and availability of Zimbabwean research to a wider global audience.
- Esther Nyambi (2011). “The Zimbabwean Institutional Repositories: Facilitators and barriers to implementation,” (accessed August 16,2011).
- Esther Nyambi (2010). “An investigation of the Zimbabwean institutional repositories: Facilitators and barriers to implementation,” Loughborough: Loughborough University.