Science and innovation are key to sustainable development in Africa. Access to, and maximum visibility of, research underpin this. Open access allows free access to and distribution of published articles meaning that individuals aren’t limited to just seeing content from the journals they have subscribed to. Authors retain copyright of their work through a Creative Commons attribution license. They or anyone else can distribute it and reuse it as needed. The resulting increased prominence of published work plays a role in the development of research culture. Open access also provides international visibility, which raises the profile of African research and enables researchers to participate more fully in the international community. African journals which focus on regionally relevant results are vital, and need support. Enabling them to be open access brings the all of the benefits just described.
Discussions at the Open Access Africa conference, held in Kumasi in October 2011 highlighted the need for a conversation to be started to discuss how to ensure that open access research and journals published from Africa could be supported and be made sustainable. There are many parties discussing ways to create long term solutions for funding open access research in Africa, including governmental and non-governmental bodies, universities, research funders and editors and publishers of journals of importance to African researchers. On 17th May, the key actors from these groups came together at a meeting, hosted by the Wellcome Trust and BioMed Central, to share experience and knowledge with the aim of coming up with some ideas for long-term solutions for open access research funding within Africa. Topics discussed included what sustainability actually means for open access research and journals in Africa, capacity building for researchers wanting to publish their research and for those wishing to run open access journals in Africa, how to build commitment and buy in from funders, institutions and key influencers in African research, and how to ensure effective communication and advocacy for OA in Africa. The meeting concluded by agreeing a set of actions concerning sustainability, capacity building and advocacy that we will take forward in anticipation of a second meeting to be held in Cape Town, in early November.
Participants included representatives from AJOL, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bioline International, BioMed Central, Carnegie Corporation, DFID, INASP/ Publishers for Development, KNUST, Medicins Sans Frontiers, Pan African Medical Journal, Public Library of Science, Shuttleworth Foundation, Stellenbosch University, The Association of Commonwealth Universities, UNECA , Wellcome Trust, WHO, World Bank.