Academic publishing system is extorting emerging researchers

“In an era of digitisation, one should be asking: why are researchers still burdened with exorbitant publication fees? Especially when considering neither the submitting scientists nor reviewing experts receive payment for their hard work. Unfortunately, the answer seems to lie somewhere between profiteering and extortion.

The justification for these high fees remains a subject of debate. While open-access journals argue that the charges are necessary to ensure sustainability and cover the expenses involved in the publication process (such as editing, formatting and online hosting), critics question whether the current fee structures are reasonable and transparent.

The lack of transparency in understanding how these costs are allocated and the absence of standardised pricing across journals raises some serious concerns and has even led to boycotting by some of the world’s leading scientists.

It is widely recognised that a high journal impact factor doesn’t guarantee quality, and the obsession with publishing in what are considered “glamour mags” in certain scientific fields is harmful and ethically compromising. Unfortunately, the reality of this unfair system of “pay and publish or perish”, creates an extremely unlevel playing field for researchers from emerging countries….”

Publication in open access journals at a university of technology in South Africa | South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science

Abstract:  Researchers in South Africa publish in journals that have a high impact factor and are accredited by the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as this will bring financial support to the researcher and the affiliated Institution for continuous publication. Moreover, these researchers do so for possible ranking of their universities and to seek collaboration with international and national researchers. However, publishers make it difficult for researchers to publish because of the Article Processing Charges that increase annually. Therefore, the study’s main objective is to propose general benefit guidelines for the use of open access by researchers. The unit of analysis was the university’s Institutional Repository (IR) and Scopus, a database which the university subscribes to. The IR has a collection of research outputs that include peer-reviewed articles, conference proceedings, and datasets. Hence, a quantitative and qualitative research approach was selected, where content analysis was used to collect data whereby research output from 2016 to 2020 was identified from both the IR and Scopus. The study examined, investigated, and explored the hindrances and challenges faced by researchers when publishing in open access journals (OAJ) with specific reference to South Africa. The study drew from a few organised threads of confirmation which make up the current dialogue on OAJ, comprising of peer-reviewed literature, grey literature, and other forms of communication. A manual Systematic Literature Review (SLR) method was applied to collect data from Scopus and the IR. The ethical considerations for conducting the study included permission to use the university’s IR and to collect primary data from academics in the selected university. The results show that publishers are making it difficult for researchers to publish in open access, because of the outrageous publishing costs involved.


What we are working on: 2023-06-09 | Invest in Open Infrastructure

“We are now accepting proposal submissions for the IOI Open Infrastructure Fund. The fund aims to strengthen sustainability, resilience and increase the adoption of open infrastructure that underpins research and knowledge creation. 60% of the total fund amount of $130,000 has been ring-fenced for initiatives from Low and Middle-Income Economies (LMIEs). Read our English and Spanish blog posts for more application process and eligibility information. We also have set up office hours (bilingual) in June and July to provide a dedicated space for the IOI team to field any questions about the fund. The application deadline is July 31, 2023.

We are now less than a week away from our workshop in South Africa that will focus on how Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) can enhance the sustainability of research infrastructure in Africa. The workshop will happen on June 12, 2023, adjacent to the 2023 Open Repositories Conference in Somerset, South Africa….”

Frontiers | Toward an open access genomics database of South Africans: ethical considerations

Abstract:  Genomics research holds the potential to improve healthcare. Yet, a very low percentage of the genomic data used in genomics research internationally relates to persons of African origin. Establishing a large-scale, open access genomics database of South Africans may contribute to solving this problem. However, this raises various ethics concerns, including privacy expectations and informed consent. The concept of open consent offers a potential solution to these concerns by (a) being explicit about the research participant’s data being in the public domain and the associated privacy risks, and (b) setting a higher-than-usual benchmark for informed consent by making use of the objective assessment of prospective research participants’ understanding. Furthermore, in the South African context—where local culture is infused with Ubuntu and its relational view of personhood—community engagement is vital for establishing and maintaining an open access genomics database of South Africans. The South African National Health Research Ethics Council is called upon to provide guidelines for genomics researchers—based on open consent and community engagement—on how to plan and implement open access genomics projects.


IOP Publishing and SANLiC partner to minimise OA publishing barriers in South Africa    – IOP Publishing

“IOP Publishing, and the South African National Library and Information Consortium (SANLiC) have finalised a three-year transformative agreement as they work towards breaking down open access (OA) publishing barriers for researchers in the global south. The agreement, which is IOP Publishing’s first in South Africa, enables researchers at participating member institutions to publish their research openly with no costs at the point of submission. The agreement also provides reading access to IOP Publishing’s entire journal portfolio and most of its partner journals….”

Open Repositories 2023

“We are excited that the 18th International Conference on Open Repositories 2023 will take place close to Stellenbosch, South Africa, from 12-15 June. The conference will be hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service. The venue of the conference will be the Lord Charles Hotel, Somerset West.”

Oxford University Press secures first transformative agreement in South Africa | STM Publishing News

“Oxford University Press (OUP) and non-profit organization the South African National Library and Information Consortium (SANLIC) have reached a three-year nationwide read and publish agreement. Coming into immediate effect, the agreement will support researchers at SANLIC’s member institutions with publishing their work open access and provide those affiliated with complete access to OUP’s high-quality journals collection.

The agreement with SANLIC is OUP’s first read and publish agreement in Africa and the 35th globally. This reflects the organization’s continued drive to increase open access publishing, in line with its mission to further Oxford University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide….”

The Cape Town Statement on fairness, equity and diversity in research

“Even the push towards openness and transparency in science publishing — which many have argued is a way to foster greater integrity in research — has created more barriers for investigators in low-resource environments.

Sharing data, for example, requires having enough institutional infrastructure and resources to first curate, manage, store and (in the case of data relating to people) encrypt the data — and to deal with requests to access them. Also, the pressure placed on researchers of LMICs by high-income-country funders to share their data as quickly as possible frequently relegates them to the role of data collectors for better-resourced teams. With enough time, all sorts of locally relevant questions that were not part of the original project could be investigated by local researchers. But, well-resourced investigators in high-income countries — who were not part of the original project — are often better placed to conduct secondary analyses.

Unforeseen difficulties are arising around publishing, too. Currently, the costs to publish an article in gold open-access journals (which typically range from US$500–$3,000) are prohibitive for most researchers and institutions in LMICs. The University of Cape Town, for example, which produces around 3,300 articles each year, has an annual budget of $180,000 for article-processing costs. This covers only about 120 articles per year.

Because of this, researchers in these countries frequently publish their papers in subscription-based journals. But scientists working in similar contexts can’t access such journals because the libraries in their institutions are unable to finance subscriptions to a wide range of journals. All this makes it even harder for researchers to build on locally relevant science….”


The Cape Town Statement on Fostering Research Integrity through Fairness and Equity advocates for fair practice from conception to implementation of research and provides 20 recommendations aimed at all involved stakeholders.

“The 7th World Conference on Research Integrity (7thWCRI) was held in Cape Town in May 2022 with the conference theme “Fostering Research Integrity in an unequal world”. Participants at this conference recognised that unfair and inequitable research practices remain prevalent at all stages of research from proposal development to funding application, data collection, analysis, sharing and access, reporting and translation. These practices can impact the integrity of research in many ways, including skewing research priorities and agendas with research questions that are irrelevant for local needs, power imbalances that undermine fair recognition of knowledge contributions within collaborations, including unfair acknowledgement of contributions to published work, lack of diversity and inclusivity in collaborations, and unfair data management practices that disadvantage researchers in low resource environments. Furthermore, a drive towards open science as a pillar of research integrity fails to recognise the financial burden placed on under-resourced researchers and institutions, and the reality that highly trained and well-resourced researchers in HIC may disproportionately benefit from reanalysing openly shared data by LMIC researchers. In response to these challenges the following statement of goals, values and recommendations aims to contribute to the growing global recognition that fairness and equity are essential requirements of integrity in all research contexts.

This statement advocates for fair practice from conception to implementation of research and provides 20 recommendations aimed at all involved stakeholders. These recommendations are grouped under values that were identified as important underpinning considerations in discussion groups at the 7th WCRI. These values include diversity, inclusivity, mutual respect, shared accountability, indigenous knowledge recognition and epistemic justice (ensuring that the value of knowledge is not based on biases related to gender, race, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status etcetera)….”

Registration now open! – Open Repositories 2023

“We are pleased to announce that registration for the 18th International Open Repositories Conference (OR2023) is now open. The conference will be held from 12-15 June 2023 at the Lord Charles Hotel, Somerset West, close to Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The theme for the conference is Repositories unlocked for discovery and interoperability and will focus on the practices of the international repositories community to develop and implement the standards, frameworks, architectures, and methodologies for open repositories to serve as knowledge representation databases for the structured web of data….”

Voices of Silence: Experiences in Disseminating Scholarship as a Global South Researcher: Teaching and Learning in Medicine: Vol 0, No 0

Abstract:  Issue: There is an unspoken requirement that medical education researchers living in the Global South must disseminate their work using dominant frames constructed by individuals living in the Global North. As such, the published literature in our field is dominated by researchers whose work primarily benefits the Western world, casting the rest of what is published as localized and unhelpful knowledge. In this article, we use Audre Lorde’s conception of the Master’s house as a metaphor to narrate the experiences of two South African medical education researchers trying to disseminate their work into North American venues. In addition to narrating these stories, we describe the personal and professional consequences they experienced as a result of their efforts. Evidence: For researchers working outside of the Global North, entering the Master’s formidable house is daunting, and there is no clear pathway in. These narratives illustrate how reviewers and editorial staff act as gatekeepers, continuously shaping ideas about what it means to do acceptable research, and who is allowed to disseminate it within the field. These narratives also show that those who have been rejected by these gatekeepers are often conflicted about their position within the larger field of medical education. Implications: To begin to address this issue, we have made several suggestions for the research community to consider. First, medical education research journals need to create spaces for researchers publishing from the Global South. One suggestion is for journals to create a submission type that is dedicated to researchers working outside of North America. Second, journals should also include more Global South editors and reviewers to help with knowledge translation when articles are submitted from outside North America. If our collective goal is to improve the training of physicians and the health outcomes of humanity, then we need to renovate the Master’s house and begin to break down the barriers that separate us from truly building together.

Partners in Library Publishing: Florida State University, University of Cape Town | Feb 2023

“…we now launch a new blog post series, Library Publishing Through the IFLA Global Lens. This series will showcase the work of library publishers around the world, provide an opportunity to get to know the people who are working in this exciting field of librarianship, and highlight the diversity of perspectives on and approaches to library publishing globally. Our first two contributors are Jill Claassen [JC] and Devin Soper [DS].

Describe your work in library publishing?

JC: I work at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Libraries, in Cape Town, South Africa and oversee scholarly communication and publishing. Library publishing started in 2016, when the library didn’t have much skills in this area, but we were able to call on the assistance of the Public Knowledge Project initially.  At that time, we published our first open access journal, which was a student journal and then started publishing open monographs and textbooks. We now have six open access journals, and 23 open access monographs and textbooks, with a lot of the skills now self-taught amongst the staff, using Open Journal Systems (OJS) and Open Monograph Press (OMP). This diamond open access publishing service ensures that local publications are available, accessible and discoverable to an African audience, first and foremost, and then to the rest of the world. We have two full time staff in the scholarly communication and publishing section at UCT Libraries. However, as our Research and Learning’s (one of two divisions in UCT Libraries) structure is based on functional librarianship, library publishing is one of the services that form part of the job description of library staff. Thus, we are able to have a thriving library publishing service at UCT because we have a flexible staff structure.

DS: I work at Florida State University (FSU) Libraries in Tallahassee, Florida, where I lead a small team that supports our library publishing program, Florida State Open Publishing (FSOP)….”

The evolving role of research ethics committees in the era of open data | South African Journal of Bioethics and Law

Abstract:  While open science gains prominence in South Africa with the encouragement of open data sharing for research purposes, there are stricter laws and regulations around privacy – and specifically the use, management and transfer of personal information – to consider. The Protection of Personal Information Act No. 4 of 2013 (POPIA), which came into effect in 2021, established stringent requirements for the processing of personal information and has changed the regulatory landscape for the transfer of personal information across South African borders. At the same time, draft national policies on open science encourage wide accessibility to data and open data sharing in line with international best practice. As a result, the operation of research ethics committees (RECs) in South Africa is affected by the conflicting demands of the shift towards open science on the one hand, and the stricter laws protecting participants’ personal information and the transfer thereof, on the other. This article explores the continuing evolving role of RECs in the era of open data and recommends the development of a data transfer agreement (DTA) for the ethical management of personal health information, considering the challenges that RECs encounter, which centres predominantly on privacy, data sharing and access concerns following advances in genetic and genomic research and biobanking.


Frontiers | Open access and its potential impact on public health – A South African perspective

Abstract:  Traditionally, access to research information has been restricted through journal subscriptions. This means that research entities and individuals who were unable to afford subscription costs did not have access to journal articles. There has however been a progressive shift toward electronic access to journal publications and subsequently growth in the number of journals available globally. In the context of electronic journals, both open access and restricted access options exist. While the latter option is comparable to traditional, subscription-based paper journals, open access journal publications follow an “open science” publishing model allowing scholarly communications and outputs to be publicly available online at no cost to the reader. However, for readers to enjoy open access, publication costs are shifted elsewhere, typically onto academic institutions and authors. SARS-CoV-2, and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the benefits of open science through accelerated research and unprecedented levels of collaboration and data sharing. South Africa is one of the leading open access countries on the African continent. This paper focuses on open access in the South African higher education research context with an emphasis on our Institution and our own experiences. It also addresses the financial implications of open access and provides possible solutions for reducing the cost of publication for researchers and their institutions. Privacy in open access and the role of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) in medical research and secondary use of data in South Africa will also be discussed.