Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) influencing the direction of open science in SA

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) represents South Africa in the international community of science academies, and part of its mission is to proactively and reactively embark on a programme of systematic studies of evidence-based issues of national importance. As a signatory to the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, together with other organisations worldwide, it aims to – among others – find ways and solutions to further support the development of policy frameworks in order to facilitate optimal use and access to publicly funded research, of interest to the SA community in general. ASSAf will further be partnering with the SA Dept. of Science and Technology in starting the dialogue on an Open Science Policy Framework, with the first of a series of workshops diarised for 12 and 13 December 2016. 

The Scholarly Publishing Unit (SPU) within ASSAf plays a leading role in actively promoting access to publicly funded research. Some of its initiatives include: 

  • Open access to high quality SA scholarly journals through SciELO SA
  • Open Access journal publishing using Open Journal Systems
  • Publishing peer review reports on journal and book evaluations
  • Publishing the South African Journal of Science, the flagship scholarly journal of the country
  • Publishing Quest: Science for South Africa Magazine, aimed at young scientists
  • Promote transparency and openness through the National Scholarly Editors Forum and the National Scholarly Publishers Book Forum
  • Sharing knowledge on scholarly publishing via the ASSAf Scholarly Publishing Wiki and Blog
  • Managing the African Open Science Platform project
  • Managing DATAD (Directory of African Theses & Dissertations, in collaboration with the Association of African Universities)
  • Participating in Open Science initiatives, policy formulation
  • Ina Smith representing southern Africa as an ambassador for the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
  • Conducting training on Open Access best practice and software available
  • And many more 

The ASSAf Research Repository was launched recently in support of international Open Access Week, celebrated from 24-30 October 2016. This repository will in future be used to disseminate the results from publicly funded research conducted as widely possible. The dissemination of data sets supporting the research output will also be explored, as well as making the data available in an open format for reuse.  A highlight this past couple of weeks was making the South Africa’s technical readiness to support the shale gas industry report available via the ASSAf Research Repository, which immediately attracted quite a bit of attention from the media and business sectors. This report – of huge importance for environmentalists and business entrepreneurs alike, influencing trends and national policy – concluded that much needs to be done to put in place a clear legislative environment and a rigorous regulatory and monitoring structure which will ensure that operators, in using their exploration and production licenses, apply best-practice technologies that are fully compliant with the rules and regulations governing the industry. This an excellent example of how research should be openly accessible for the public to be informed about decision making on national level, about issues related to their daily life and activities.