The University Library decided to use the International Open Access Week – 24 to 30 October 2022 to highlight the limitations of having to pay for research publications.
Andisiwe Magocoba, Information Librarian: E-resources at MUT Library, gave an academic explanation of Open Access. She said Open Access (OA) addressed the limited access to scholarly outputs caused by high journal subscription rates.
Magocoba said that the week’s events homed in on improving off-campus and offline access to resources. She said that most students and some staff members did not know that they could access Library resources off-campus and offline via the Library website, using their MUT login credentials. Using both MUT academic staff (Dr Joseph Bwapwa and Dr Tobius Poswa), along with representatives of various research publishing platforms, Magocoba explained that OA was the practice of providing online access to scientific information (articles, monographs, research data and other research outputs) free of charge to the reader, and licensed by the publisher so that they can be further used and exploited by researchers, the industry, and the general public. The idea is supported by the Open Science movement. This is a broad international movement that seeks to grant free and open online access to academic information, such as publications and data, and to utilise open-source software to manage the publishing, access and archiving process.
“A publication is defined as open access when there are no financial, legal or technical barriers to accessing it – that is to say, when anyone can read, download, copy, distribute, print, search for and search within the information or use it in education or in any other way within the legal agreements,” said Magocoba.
Explaining how MUT staff and students benefited from Open Access Week, Magocoba said the events were an invaluable chance to connect the global momentum toward the open sharing of knowledge with the advancement of policy changes and the importance of social issues affecting people around the world.
“One of the most important benefits of attending Open Access Week is the exposure to resources that assist and support academic excellence, and increase visibility of open access resources,” she said.
Magocoba further added that OA benefitted researchers and/or authors as well as readers. Authors and/or researchers want access to readers at least as much as readers want access to authors. All authors want to cultivate a larger audience and greater impact. She said that studies have shown that open-access articles are viewed and cited more often than articles behind paywalls.
“They have a greater public engagement, and content is available to those who cannot access subscription content. Open access journals that cross multiple disciplines help researchers connect more easily and provide greater visibility of their research,” said Magocoba. She added that open-access publications and data enable researchers to carry out collaborative research on a global scale.
Magocoba said the Library was hoping that MUT authors and/or researchers would be cognisant of their research output appearing in open-access-supporting journals to ensure equitable access to information for the greater good of society.
“This could be done by electing to publish on open access journals which appear on the DHET journals list, as well as on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Recently the MUT Library announced through the Research Office that Wiley and Emerald, to which MUT Library subscribes, have signed transformational agreements to allow some of their journals to publish via the open-access route. MUT staff can enjoy perpetual access to their own researchers’ scholarly output that could be found on the Library’s Institutional Repository Hungu,” said Magocoba.