770x385-uk-library-booksAs a proponent of open education, I have scrutinized and criticized both the academic publishing process and the academic publishing industry.

I suggest that academic peer review—the process by which professional knowledge producers evaluate one another’s work (often anonymously)—become more transparent, so that readers can better understand how and why, for example, scientists have deemed a certain study suitable for publication in an academic journal, or deemed otherwise by spotting flaws in their methods or conclusions. Transparency in academic peer review ensures that reviewers’ motives are laid bare when evaluating research works. This would ensure that factors like sentiments and regional/institutional differences would neither pose as barriers for academic accomplishment nor stand as tools for approval of shallow research works.

Open education principles are also impacting the academic publishing industry through “open access” movements. Often, researchers have to relinquish the copyrights they hold on their work when they agree to let journals publish it. These Journal publishers then charge individual readers and libraries fees for access to these scholarly materials. These fees are typically very high and unaffordable for the average researchers and many researchers and librarians claim they have often had to limit access to important research to people capable of paying for it. Consequently, scientists and other university researchers cannot access the materials they need—to learn about new developments in their fields, or to read, replicate, and verify other people’s findings.

Dissatisfaction with limitations on access to research has therefore spurred various “open access” movements in higher education systems around the world.
A good example is Open Switch Africa, which i would talk about in another post. Nevertheless, some institutions have adopted open access policies to grant the public access to research materials. There are lots of open source publishing platforms like Creative Commons and the likes, which editorial teams can use to make referee and publish (largely open access) academic journals outside the traditional publishing system. In the United States for instance, states like California have proposed legislation requiring peer-reviewed research funded by taxpayer money to be made accessible to anyone who wishes to read it. The White House has also indicated that it supports open access to academic research. However, Open access still remains a vague reality in Africa (Nigeria) as many institutions still do not recognize the importance of self/institutional archiving and the Nigerian Government has not shown enough courage in adopting policies that aids openness in knowledge sharing.

I sincerely hope that soon enough, the academic and scholarly bodies in Nigeria would rise to the challenge of supporting the adoption of open policies in our academic research system which would in turn cause a huge impact on research and development in Africa.

Adisa Bolu.

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