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2 November 2021
Open Access At UWC - Setting Information Free

COVID-19 has disrupted the way universities perform and share research - leading to a situation where many universities can’t afford scholarly access to the very research they produce. Open Access provides a way around this, and can even the global scholarly playing field.

“As we as a collective engage in knowledge creation and knowledge translation, open access can be seen as a vehicle where researchers from different backgrounds such as science, humanities, philosophy etc. can share their work as they address common societal problems,” said Professor José Frantz, DVC: Research and Innovation. 

But that collaboration is only possible if researchers have access to the research findings of others – access that is not blocked by restricted access to academic journals that may be too expensive, too obscure or too sensitive for a particular researcher, institution or nation.

For this reason UWC is joining the movement to help scholars and institutions make research and knowledge accessible to all, regardless of their location or academic standing - or ability to pay. The university celebrated International Open Access Week from 25 October 2021 to 29 October 2021 under the theme: “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity”. 

Open Access is achieved through deposit of peer-reviewed research papers in repositories or through publication in open access journals – the research is thus free for all to view and use, not just those who've paid for journal subscriptions or whose libraries have allowed them access. 

In this way, researchers have their work read and discussed by many more people. Industry can use academic work they might otherwise never have seen, and the public can see where their funds go. 

“Libraries must look at Open Access as a new norm - a way to transition our positioning of Higher Education,” said Dr Shirlene Neerputh, Director of the University of the Western Cape Library. Thus, the library as a publisher, to invite open, accessible knowledge transmission. “We as libraries must develop quality repositories to house research that can be used to strengthen our research agendas, as well as learning and teaching, and that can contribute to collaborating and partnering with other institutions. Libraries are also driving the Open Educational resources agenda to invite Open Access transitions in places and cultures across the global context in light of promoting equity, social justice and aspiring to the UN sustainable goals.

So how does Open Access Work at UWC?
 

1.     UWC Library hosts two open access digital repositories: the ETD Repository for student master's and doctoral theses (launched in 2005); and the Research Repository, where researchers can post their papers and rest assured that they're available to anybody in the world. The repository hosts well over 2 000 papers, representing a vast amount of knowledge in a wide variety of fields.

2.     UWC Declared for Open Access: UWC has committed itself to supporting the principles of open access and working to achieve openness in publicly funded projects. In October 2013, UWC signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access in the Sciences and Humanities, joining hundreds of institutions around the world dedicated to supporting the principles of open access and working to achieve openness in publicly funded projects. This is further embedded in UWC Research policy 2020. Find out more about the Declaration here.

3.     UWC hosts Open Access Journals: Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning (http://cristal.epubs.ac.za) will publish scholarly articles and essays that describe, theorise and reflect on teaching and learning in higher education. And the student-run Writing Three Sixty (https://epubs.ac.za/index.php/w360) journal welcomes creative writing, literary research and reviews.

Of course, there's more to open access than just signatures, journals and repositories. 

Without access to the latest research, it becomes more difficult to achieve progress on the matters that matter to societies - and that’s especially true when it comes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)....or, for that matter, the global pandemic that has disrupted all our lives.

These obstacles can be addressed by bringing a new set of e-skills to academic libraries, embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and ensuring they play a larger role in curating knowledge. And, most importantly, by embracing Open Access.

“COVID-19 has opened our eyes to how dependent we are on access to scholarship,” said Prof Frantz. “It can literally be a life or death issue. We need to give ourselves the best chance of solving humanity’s greatest challenges. We need many minds working on it, wherever they may be. And we need to give those minds the best information available - accessible anywhere, anytime, and by all.”

Interested in knowing more about UWC's open policies? Visit the UWC Library Blog. And don’t forget to check out International Open Access Week from 25 to 29 October 2021. Find out more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqFnri81wNQ