Twelve Years Later: Second ASSAf Report on Research Publishing In and From South Africa
Cite: Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), (2019). Twelve Years Later: Second ASSAf Report on Research Publishing In and From South Africa (2018). [Online] Available at: DOI:10.17159/assaf.2018/0030
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) released its second major Consensus Report on a commissioned study of Research Publishing in South Africa in 2006, with detailed data analysis and a 360-degree view of the topic, including the impact of new technologies on the dissemination of research results and the world-wide open access movement. A second Consensus Report on scholarly books followed in 2009. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) endorsed the two reports and requested the Academy itself to oversee the implementation of the recommendations, and has funded the Academy’s Scholarly Publishing Programme (SPP) ever since. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has supported the projects of the SPP in various relevant areas. Much has been achieved even though much remains to be done. In 2016, the Academy commissioned Professor Johann Mouton and his colleagues of the Centre for Research on Evaluation of Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University to do a thorough, largely bibliometric study of scholarly publishing in and from South Africa (SA) in the period 2005 – 2014, with all forms of peer-reviewed scholarly publications included, whether in journals, books or conference proceedings. The group has become extremely well versed in the appropriate methodologies, using reliably indexed databases and cooperating with partners who have developed special techniques for sharpening the focus of standard parameters such as citation counts and rates over time, demographic shifts in authorships and indicators of collaboration. The study was completed in 2017, and submitted to the Academy. Amongst a large number of interesting and relevant findings were disturbing indications of predatory publishing and questionable editorial practices. As the period studied by the CREST team coincided almost exactly with the period that has elapsed since the data-gathering for ASSAf’s above-mentioned first report, the Academy has decided to publish a second report on scholarly publishing in SA, to include concise but essential summaries of the two earlier ASSAf reports (Chapters 1 and 2); a review of the work of the SPP in the research publishing system over the past 12 years (Chapter 3); an analysis of the problems of access on the part of South African researchers to the problematic international commercial research literature (Chapter 4); the concise version of the new CREST report (Chapter 5); a consideration of the threat posed by predatory publishing and questionable editorial and authorship practices (Chapter 6); a discussion of the main issues and unresolved problems still remaining in the system despite its generally good progress (Chapter 7); and a set of headline recommendations for the future (Chapter 8). The Academy believes that the formation of public policy should involve a longitudinal understanding of how systems behave over time periods that are sufficiently long to reveal both the trends and the underlying causes. We see no reason in this new analysis to depart from our original conclusion, that the highest possible quality of scholarly publishing within a country is important, but that only open access publishing of local journals will ensure the wide dissemination of their important content, with all the benefits that that will bring. This standpoint is not at variance with the other conclusion that South African researchers should also actively contribute to the international literature and participate as fully as possible in the world’s knowledge system.