Sunday, 20 March 2011

Survey on Open Access and publication habits for researchers from Faculty of Science, University of Khartoum

In order to adapt the upcoming OASCIR Open Access advocacy campaign to present degree of Open Access implementation within the FSci/UofK researcher community, a survey on Open Access and publication habits is being now released for the UofK authors to reflect their knowledge about Open Access, how often they submit their papers to Open Access journals and whether or not they do usually deposit copies of their papers with international Open Access subject-based repositories such as arXiv or PubMed Central.

This is the first of a series of surveys that will be posted online along the OASCIR Project. A second survey will be circulated when we're approaching the end of the 10-month project as to gather information on how effective the OA advocacy campaign has been at the Faculty of Science, UofK.

The survey -which takes 10 min to complete- will remain available online both at this blog and at the news section of the Faculty of Science UofK site from today until April 14th, that is, one month since the OASCIR project was awarded funding. We are expecting to collect a sufficiently high number of answers as results to become significant. The survey results will be disseminated via an OA survey report that will be made available on this blog shortly after the final date for answering the survey is reached.

This survey on Open Access and publication habits was prepared by Prof. Alice Keefer from University of Barcelona, Spain. Although minor changes were made to it in order to adapt it to the UofK academic environment, it is basically the same survey that was circulated at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) at the beginning of their own projects for setting up their institutional repositories, Digital.CSIC and EPrints UCM. That means we will be able to compare the survey results at UofK with those previously obtained at CSIC and UCM as to examine similarities and differences between initial conditions for different projects.

A picture of the OA survey report for CSIC is shown below. This survey was carried out in May-June 2007, and 228 answers were received from CSIC researchers. The picture -in Spanish- shows the publisher where most recent papers by CSIC authors had been published, a very relevant information for dealing with copyright issues when uploading full-text papers into an institutional repository.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The OASCIR project for setting up an IR for the Faculty of Science, UofK is now officially LIVE

  On the afternoon of Mar 14th the authors of the OASCIR project proposal have received e-mail notification from Iryna Kuchma, EIFL, that their proposal "Open Access awareness-raising campaign among researchers at the Faculty of Science, University of Khartoum (UofK)" has been selected for funding by the EIFL Call for proposals for open access advocacy campaigns.

The project is therefore live now, and upcoming initiatives with regard to its implementation will be disseminated from this blog. According to the proposal, the Open Access awareness-rising campaign at Faculty of Science, UofK will take ten months, and an Institutional Repository should be available for researchers to deposit their work into from Month II in the project timeline.

Other four proposals from African countries were selected at this call. We expect to be able to cooperate with them in order to enhance global visibility of research done in Africa.

SABER multi-institutional repository in Mozambique: a role model for OASCIR

  Examples of former IR implementations are worth taking a look at when trying to set up and develop a pioneer institutional repository such as OASCIR. The accretion model was previously mentioned in this blog as a way of promoting development of Open Access infrastructure in countries where none existed previously, and SABER multi-institutional open access repository in Mozambique was cited there as a good example for setting up a first repository that will arise interest and estimulate participation in the open access movement by institutions other than those initially taking part in the project.

SABER open access repository was created in November 2009 for collecting, disseminating and preserving the intellectual output of three academic and research institutions in Mozambique, where no previous open access repository existed. These institutions were: Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Universidade Politécnica and Centro de Formação Jurídica e Judiciária. Later on, Universidade Pedagógica and Universidade São Tomás de Moçambique have joined the project. Currently, SABER repository hosts around 2,500 full-text documents of different types –research papers, conference papers, dissertations, licenciatura works- and provides a picture of research and academic work being carried out at participating institutions.

First steps for SABER project were taken when an short training course was held in Maputo, Mozambique for librarians from different institutions. The training course was delivered by Eloy Rodrigues, Universidade do Minho, Portugal, an institution that would later take part as technical consultant in the project for establishing the repository. The funding for setting up and developing SABER came from the World Bank through a grant from the Quality Enhancement and Innovation Facility (QIF) fund for providimg financial support to investments in capacity building and inovation in higher education in Mozambique.

Last August 2010, Aissa Mitha Issak, Universidade Pedagógica Librarian and Open Access and country coordinator in Mozambique presented a paper on SABER repository at the 76th IFLA General Conference and Assembly in Gothenburg, Sweden. “The creation of an information repository: a perspective from Mozambican higher education sector” aims “to describe the project of establishing an information repository in Mozambique, the implications of having a joint project, the challenges for getting contents, bearing in mind all the issues related to copyright, and also the inclusion of other institutions in the project. Also, it looks at the impact of the repository in the academic and research community within the country and some strategies that have to be defined in order to increase the readership on the repository contents, either by Mozambican users, or from other parts of the world”.

Some selected paragraphs from this paper follow:

"Open Access Repositories are seen as an opportunity for knowledge exchange and scholarly communication, especially in a country like Mozambique, where the spread and access to information is still very poor and there are few journals where the researchers and academic staff can publish the results of their work. Due to this situation, the common sense is that there is not research activity in the country, even in the higher education institutions. In order to change this vision and taking advantage of the technology available, a group of university librarians has decided that, even if they are few, it is possible to present the research results which have been still hidden within the walls of each university, by establishing a joint Open Access information repository."

"The motivation behind the idea of establishing a repository was the fact that, for once, Mozambique should stop to be only a consumer of information, and become also a contributor in terms of production and access to information."

"According to Chan, Kirsop, Costa and Arunachalam (2005), almost 85% of the scientific publications of the world come from only eight countries and the productivity from developing world accounts for only 2.5%. However, this percentage can also come from the fact that what is produced in the less developed countries is still hidden within, particularly, the higher education and research institutions. According to Chisenga (2006), the products of research taken in a continent such as Africa are not visible for the world and even for the users in the continent, due to financial restrictions which, in fact, affects the publication and distribution of these research products".

"In terms of contents, what can be seen in the repository SABER are, basically, conference paper, thesis, dissertations and what are called licenciatura works, since most of the research literature in Africa, and Mozambique is not an exception for that, is in the format of grey literature, which means not published elsewhere and produced in a very limited number of copies".

"By having a product that is Mozambican, in a situation where it was almost impossible to have access to the Mozambican literature, users can take this opportunity to be aware of what are the research results within the country. To quote Chisenga (2006), information repositories are very relevant to the African environment and they will provide a better image on Africa´s scientific and technological outputs and specialization, increase the accessibility and impact of research both in Africa and at global setting and also contribute to preserve and maintain the research outputs from Africa and, in this case, from Mozambique".

SABER repository's goals are:
• To collect, archive and index academic and research contents from higher education and research institutions in Mozambique that may be offered Open Access.
• To enable single-point search, discovery, localization and access to academic and research documents produced in Mozambique or about Mozambique.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

UNESCO supports Open Access in the Global South

  "UNESCO supports Open Access for the benefit of the global flow of knowledge, innovation and equitable socio-economic development".

This is the first conclusion of the report 'A Global Perspective on Open Access' the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO released last Jan 20th, 2011 after an expert meeting on the issue was held in Amsterdam. The meeting objective was to broaden the discussing in the Netherlands with experiences and opinions of academics and librarians from Africa, Asia and Latin-America.
A few paragraphs from the report follow:

"Open Access has become a passionately discussed topic all over the world. (...) Yet the issues at stake demand a global perspective. The voice of the Global South is not sufficiently heard in these discussions".

"In this document a comprehensive definition of Open Access is used, comprising both peer reviewed scientific publications and research data, and including access via institutional repositories. Long term preservation (‘Permanent Access’) is an essential part of Open Access".

"Open Access should not be seen as an end in itself, but as an instrument for enhancing access to scientific knowledge. As such, Open Access can be defined as a 'global public good': an instrument to stimulate the growth and quality of global science, as well as an instrument for realizing the rights to share in scientific advancement and its benefits, to education and to information (articles 27, 27 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights respectively). So UNESCO can use Open Access to advance, among other things, the quality of education, public health and economic progress".

"When discussing the position of the Global South in the worldwide promotion of access to knowledge it should be noted that this region is all but monolithic. The most vigorously developing countries in the world are situated in this region, and science is definitely included in their general dynamism. So there is a mutual interest for North and South to share research findings and data through two-sided linking of scientific information and promoting the internationalisation of science. Open Access facilitates the communication of research findings worldwide. Awareness raising among scientists and other stakeholders on the possibilities and advantages still needs to be enhanced.

But awareness raising is not enough. There are several practical obstacles to sharing scientific information in large parts of the world: the lack of access to expensive scientific journals, publishing models that charge authors for the article process costs, poor or unreliable access to internet, the lack of local databases for research data. As sustainable Open Access to scientific publications and data is one of the most promising tools for the progress of science in the global South, the specific problems of researchers in this part of the world should receive more attention of all policy makers".

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Study of Open Access Publishing: The SOAP project and results from its survey in partner countries

  Last Jan 13th, 2011 a Symposium was held at the Harnack-House in Berlin, Germany by the European SOAP project to present the final results of the widest survey on Open Access publishing ever carried out to date. Over 40,000 researchers worldwide working in all disciplines were surveyed by SOAP from Mar 2009 to Feb 2011, aiming to study the OA publishing landscape, the beliefs and attitudes of researchers with regard to OA publishing and the drivers and the barriers for the submission of articles to OA journals.

The main conclusions of the result analysis were:

- The number of OA articles published in “full” or “hybrid” OA journals was around 120,000 in 2009, some 8-10% of the estimated yearly global scientific output,

- OA journals in several disciplines (including Life Sciences, Medicine, and Earth Sciences) are of outstanding quality, and have Impact Factors in the top 1-2% of their disciplines,

- Approximately 90% of the over 40,000 published scholars who answered the survey are convinced that OA journals are or would be beneficial for their field,

- The main barriers encountered by 5,000 scientists who would like to publish in OA journals but did not manage to do so are funding (for 39% of them) and the lack of journals of sufficient quality in their field (for 30%).

The raw survey data were also released by the SOAP project to allow the maximal re-use of the collected information through further analysis by libraries, publishers, institutions and funding agencies. EIFL made the first overview of the SOAP survey results, tailored to the situation in 11 EIFL partner countries: Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Thailand and Ukraine. The resulting report, "Results of the SOAP Survey: A Preliminary Overview of the Situation in EIFL Partner Countries", is available online.

Though worth being disseminated here, all this has been published elsewhere before. However, the following paragraph in the EIFL report is particularly relevant for the Faculty of Science/UofK project:

"The SOAP survey also contains responses from 34 other EIFL Partner countries: Albania (34 respondents), Armenia (29 respondents), Azerbaijan (11 respondents), Belarus (35 respondents), Bosnia and Herzegovina (36 respondents), Botswana (9 respondents), Cambodia (4 respondents), Cameroon (17 respondents), Estonia (71 respondents), Ethiopia (47 responses), Georgia (29 respondents), Ghana (35 respondents), Kenya (66 respondents), Kyrgyzstan (2 respondents), Laos (1 respondent), Latvia (42 respondents), Lesotho (2 respondents), Lithuania (69 responses), Macedonia (17 respondents), Malawi (9 responses), Mali (4 respondents), Moldova (7 respondents), Mongolia (1 respondent), Mozambique (12 respondents), Nepal (41 respondents), Senegal (12 respondents), Sudan (31 respondents), Swaziland (1 respondent), Syria (12 respondents), Tajikistan (2 respondents), Tanzania (31 respondents), Uzbekistan (9 respondents), Zambia (14 respondents) and Zimbabwe (21 respondents). But data for the countries with less than 80 answers are aggregated in “Others” and “Others EU” and it is not possible to analyse them for the purpose of our overview".

So 31 Sudanese researchers answered the SOAP survey, but it's not possible for OASCIR either to process their answers due to the aggregation procedure carried out to ensure anonimity of the survey respondents. As it is important to have an overview on attitudes and beliefs of institutional researchers with regard to Open Access, a similar survey to the SOAP one will be carried out at the University of Khartoum by the OASCIR project before the project actually starts. And we will this time ensure the results are able to be processed and a specific report on them is published at this blog.

Monday, 7 March 2011 Call for proposals: Open access advocacy campaigns

  An call for proposals for organising national or institutional open access advocacy campaigns to reach out to research communities was released as of Feb 14th, 2011 within the EIFL-OA programme.

Working in collaboration with libraries in more than 45 developing and transition countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, enables access to knowledge for education, learning, research and sustainable community development. is a worldwide-known advocate for open access to promote knowledge sharing.

EIFL Open Access (OA) programme in particular is working along the following lines:

• Building capacity to launch open access repositories and to ensure their long-term sustainability

• Offering training, supporting knowledge sharing, and providing expertise on open access policies and practices (open access journals, open access repositories, open access books, open data and open educational resources)

• Empowering library professionals, scholars, educators and students to become open access advocates

• Advocating nationally and internationally for the adoption of open access policies and mandates

This call seems a good chance for carrying out a thorough awareness-rising campaign on Open Access at UofK, while at the same time establishing an Open Access Institutional Repository for the Faculty of Science, University of Khartoum. As previous discussions on how this should be achieved had already been held last November at the Open Access Africa conference, it took Rania Baleela, University of Khartoum, and Pablo de Castro, Carlos III University Madrid just a few days to jointly assemble a proposal for having an IR set and a wide Open Access advocacy campaign carried out at the Faculty of Science/UofK.

The proposal was submitted to within the application deadline of Feb 28th, 2011. Veredict on selected proposals is due by approximately Mar 14th. Results of the call –either positive or negative for Faculty of Science/UofK purposes- will be announced at this blog, so stay tuned!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Is an Institutional Repository required to publish Open Access papers?

  Having an Institutional Repository in operation at home university makes it very easy to publish one’s work Open Access: the university staff managing the IR may even take care of depositing one’s works along the effort for having the whole institutional research output filed in the repository. But what if there is no IR available at the institution of affiliation? Does that prevent articles to be disseminated Open Access?

Wide-known answer to that question is certainly not. There are several ways to make a piece of research available Open Access without an IR being involved in them:

Subject repositories. There are plenty of discipline-based Open Access repositories available worldwide covering most research areas. When searching these SRs for contributions from UofK, some research papers may be found in physics Open Access repositories as arXiv or biology-based ones such as PubMed Central, where full-text versions of the papers are available.

Open Access Journals. When a paper is submitted for publication to an Open Access journal it becomes available full-text from the very moment it gets published. A paper may thus enjoy the same enhanced visibility it would get from being filed in an institutional repository, specially if the Open Access journal is featured in international directories of OA journals such as African Journals Online (AJOL) or the Directory of International Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

General-purpose Open Access repositories: Specific Open Access repositories have been created by the Open Access community to serve those authors worldwide whose institution has no institutional repository. Such is the case of, a general-purpose Open Access repository hosted at EDINA-University of Edinburgh. OpenDepot will first try to locate repositories for the author’s institution and, when non-existent, allow for direct article deposit into it.

So there are several ways for getting research output available Open Access when no institutional repository is available. However, a home-based institutional repository will provide some extra benefits for both the author and the university other than just easening deposit of Open Access papers:

Having an IR in operation will result in policies for promoting systematic deposit. Once an institutional repository project starts, an institutionally-backed dissemination campaign follows in order to make authors aware of the advantages of archiving their papers in it. Institutional policies for promotion of Open Access deposit of institutional research output may range from a mere recommendation to an Open Access mandate – a growing number of which are already in place.

An institutional repository will provide a wider coverage of institutional publications than any of the abovementioned procedures. Only a handful of authors make use of the already mentioned tools (subject repositories, open access journals or general-purpose open access repositories) for publishing their papers Open Access. However, when having an IR available, every single author in the institution becomes aware of this option for Open Access publishing.

Having an IR in operation will result in the institutional research output getting organized, archived and preserved. Systematic filing of both recent and legacy research works into the IR will allow to gather the whole institutional output (thus diminishing rates of ‘lost science’), and to expose this output in an organized way (grouped by faculties, departments or research institutes). Having an IR will also enable long-term preservation of institutional research output (such as dissertations and thesis).

Thursday, 3 March 2011

World university rankings and institutional repositories

  There are several well-established worldwide university rankings: Times Higher Education (THE) in the UK, Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) in China, Leiden University ranking in The Netherlands and Webometrics ranking by CCHS-Cybermetrics Lab in Spain - incidentally the only one featuring specific rankings for Top African Universities -where University of Khartoum features in place 24 and the Sudan University of Science & Technology in place 36- and Arab World universities. Ever improving assessment formulas are designed - partly due to competition among them- based on a growing number of indicators aiming to cover different aspects of university performance.

These rankings are very popular in the media, and often deeply relied upon by university chancellors and managers as well. But when listening to the main argument used for ranking promotion -namely the growing numer of Asian, mainly Chinese students using them to make up their minds about what foreign university to travel into for their university debut- it becomes apparent the issue is mainly about institution web visibility rather than quality. And that's where repositories can play a key role as very valuable institutional assets for both showcasing the institution's research output and pushing their visibility on the Internet into higher standards.

There are paradigmatic cases within the Open Access community where a rather small, in principle unimpressive university in terms of number of students, nr of degrees offered or budget will achieve a high position in the national university rankings due to its solidly-established institutional repository. Universidade do Minho, based in Braga, Portugal, may be the most paradigmatic case of such repository impact in Southern Europe, with their RepositóriUM being one of the first worldwide to be established and populated -due to an institutional mandate issued by an Open Access-supportive chancellor. The result is everyone in the OA community has heard about UMinho and the Repositórium evolution is an example of a whole country's Open Access strategy being built around the success of a single very sound repository project (see 'the accretion model' for development of Open Access infrastructure).

In Spain, Universidad de Alicante plays a similar underdog role in terms of affiliated staff, number of students and several other indicators, but obtains very good results in university rankings, far better than much bigger Spanish universities thanks to its RUA open access institutional repository. Again, as a result of a vicechancellor's effort for promoting the Open Access (and, more generally speaking, the digital) paradigm, the University of Alicante is perceived in the Open Access community and beyond as a modern, appealing university for students to attend and professors to work at.

University of Southampton could be a comparable example in the UK, featured as it is before Oxford University in the Cybermetrics Lab university ranking thanks to a very solid institutional repository project - whole analysis depending nevertheless on indicators used by different assessment schemas.

By looking into a particular methodology for defining a world university ranking we may see how the setting up of an institutional repository highlights a university's research output on the web. For this purpose we'll focus on the web repository world ranking, published twice a year by researchers at the Spanish Cybermetrics Lab, Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, Spanish National Research Council (CCHS-CSIC). The analysis of the methodology applied for establishing the ranking may also be useful when examining repository design requirements.

The publicly-available criteria for the Cybermetrics Lab ranking ellaboration is the following:

Open Access availability of an institution research output on the Internet via an Institutional Repository particularly enhances the institution's performance for indicators 2, 3 and 4, resulting in a higher place in rankings.

There are also world institutional repository rankings available on the Internet, Cybermetrics Lab's, being possibly the most popular one. Assessment criteria are very similar to the ones used for university ranking. As a result, big international subject-based repositories such as arXiv or SSRN in the world repository ranking are regularly featured in the ranking's first places.

However, as the most recent version (Jan 2011) covers 1120 repositories worldwide, even small, very recently established repositories get featured in this ranking. This means if a project for building a Faculty of Science/UofK Institutional Repository started now, the IR could probably feature in the next edition of this ranking due July 2011.

A strategy for developing repositories in OA-less countries: the Accretion Model

  A national Open Access implementation strategy designed from a National Information and Research Centre would ideally be the right approach when trying to establish a network of Open Access repositories from scratch. However, Open Access -and even ICT- do often have a low priority in the list of pending developments to be faced (1), so alternative ways of capacity building are to be found. One of this alternative means, namely what we call ‘the accretion model’ for building Open Access insfrastructure, is briefly introduced in the following paragraph.

The accretion model is the physical process that explains ice-crystal formation within a cloud. The process consists of crystal embryo formation on fine particle nuclei followed by growth by accretion as ice crystals capture cloud drops freezing upon contact. In order to get the crystal formed, all that’s needed is the nuclei to be there and a wet enough environment for the accretion process to take place.

In the same way, if a pilot OA repository managed to succeed at a given university or research centre via the proper institutional supporting policies and a carefully documented set of procedures for setting up, disseminating and populating the repository, it could very well serve as a model for further implementation at other institutions once the mentioned documentation was shared at –for instance- a repository presentation session aimed to disseminate the model. The to-be DSpace-based UofK institutional repository could work as a fine particle around which further development of OA infrastructure is expected to happen in the country like an ice crystal being formed.

For this model to work it is critical that the pilot repository is built along strict standards that may later be applied on a wider scope. Moreover, this initial repository should need no particular promotion campaign, as its very own existence and the services it provides to the scholarly community it serves –such as a wide visibility enhancement of research publications and activity at the host institution- should suffice to justify its replication in other universities. This is the accretion process, and it’s actually being tested –without being called that way- in some other African countries such as Mozambique, where the eIFL-supported SABER multi-institutional repository, may well act as the fine particle around which a national infrastructure will arise.

(1) “The Sudan is still in need of more physicians, general or specialized. A glance at the health indicators of the country shows that all done in the last century could not bridge the gap between this country and the rest of the world, the developing, let alone the developed” (National College Medical Program)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Celebrating the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) at the Faculty of Science, UofK

In celebration of the IYC 2011 and the water day, the Faculty of Science, University of Khartoum is organising several events during the graduation week.
The celebrations started by developing a IYC2011 devoted web page

IYC 2011 objectives are:

1. Increase public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs

2. Increase interest in chemistry among young people

3. Generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry

4. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mme. Curie Nobel Prize and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Association of Chemical Societies

The Faculty of Science is aiming at improving science and public participation of scientists in Sudan. In addition, the Faculty aims to serve all the community by joining the OA movement to bridge this technological gap.