20.11.2012 - Communication & Information Sector

UNESCO at the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference

In a world increasingly influenced by digital technologies, building national information policies or knowledge strategies requires increasing connectivity to the global information space, building capacities and information literacy of people in accessing and using information, and creating content which is relevant to local needs.

Scientific information is both a researcher’s greatest output and technological innovation’s most important resource. UNESCO promotes and supports Open Access - the online availability of scholarly information to everyone, free of most licensing and copyright barriers - for the benefit of global knowledge flow, innovation and socio-economic development.

As part of UNESCO’s Open Access strategy, which supports initiatives that further nurture the concept of Open Access and also put the concept in to practice, UNESCO gave patronage to Berlin 10, which was organized in Stellenbosch University in Western Cape, South Africa from 6 to 9 November 2012.

In addition to sponsoring several participants from Africa to participate at the Conference, UNESCO was a part of several pre-conference workshops.

With generous funding support to UNESCO in the form of a Japanese-Funds-In-Trust, UNESCO organized a pre-conference training workshop on Open Access publishing using Open Journal Systems (OJS). The training was attended by some 34 individuals from 12 African countries and several other countries around the world. It was based on the rationale that a new paradigm in the publishing arena influences the activities of research institutions to publish scholarly literature via open access forums.

Such a publishing paradigm enhances the sharing of scholarly output to the largest possible audience. In this new paradigm, institutions become active partners in the dissemination of scholarly literature through publishing and hosting institutional content in repositories and actively engaging in open access publishing.

Libraries in some of the leading research institutions have taken the bold and proactive step of becoming open access publishers and in the process assist researchers to publish their research output using, among other tools, the open source software Open Journal Systems (OJS). This open source software was developed by Public Knowledge Project (PKP) and is being used by academic institutions to publish scholarly content with no costs to the end user. 

The workshop’s first objective was to introduce authors/researchers, editors, editors-in-chief, reviewers, librarians and other interested parties to the principles of open access and the various open access options of publishing. It also aimed to develop participants’ expertise in the use of OJS to publish Open Journals.

Another pre-conference workshop, “Open Access Advocacy through Academies of Science and other National Scientific Organisations”, specifically explored the role of UNESCO in the changing context of Open Access. The workshop discussed the experiences of and possibilities for Academies of Science and other national scientific organizations to influence researchers and policy makers in their countries to further the case of optimal sharing of scientific information and enhancing worldwide participation in the scientific endeavour.

Experts, such as Professor Wieland Gevers from the Academy of Science of South Africa, Dr Kay Raseroka from the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) and Dr Takalani Rambau of the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) gave their views on the state of scientific publishing in the continent.

In their discussions, participants formulated recommendations to UNESCO for the effective implementation of the UNESCO Open Access Strategy. Recommendations included closer cooperation in the delivery of the different parts of UNESCO's Open Suite Policy, Open Educational Resources, and Free and Open Source Software and the Organization’s signing of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.

Furthermore, it was proposed that Open Access be put on the agenda of the European Union-African Union joint meeting in 2014. Participants cited the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), which recently ruled that all research it finances should be made available under an Open Access license, as an example that should be followed by other development organizations.

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