Minister Of Science And Technology Supports Open Access [South Africa]

Press Release | Stellenbosch University | November 8, 2012

Without open access young scientists in Africa will be disadvantaged in their collaboration with their European counterparts, Mr Derek Hanekom, Minister of Science and Technology, said at the gala dinner of the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference on Wednesday evening, 7 November 2012. (Read his speech here).

“We need to unite to ensure that the playing field is levelled through access to new knowledge without financial and infrastructural barriers,” he said.

To address access to scientific knowledge in general, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has requested the Academy of Science of South Africa to investigate the electronic information needs of academic staff, postgraduate students and researchers within universities and research councils in the country.

Key to the dissemination of knowledge is that it should be made available to as many people as possible.

“Access to knowledge should not be the preserve of one group or individual,” Hanekom said.

He added that the DST, together with the Department of Higher Education, is exploring ways in which institutions can access scholarly journals in commercially funded databases through a system of nationally centralised subscriptions to e-publications.

Hanekom said that the DST – through its partner, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) – invests significantly in the nurturing of a culture of research production. It supports the Scientific Electronic Library Online South Africa (SciELO), an open-source software-based system that ensures that scientifically accredited work published in local journals becomes more visible through search engines and bibliometric tools.

A number of speakers at the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference referred to the necessity of knowledge repositories that are managed well. Stellenbosch University’s Library and Information Service boasts two open-access platforms: SUNJournals and SUNScholar. SUNScholar is an open access electronic archive for the collection, preservation and distribution of digital materials, while open-access journals are published on SUNJournals.

“It is key that knowledge to be used for research should be credible,” Hanekom said, referring to the deluge of unaccredited information that is available to anybody searching the internet.

“With established commercial publications comes a systematic peer review system. This essential contribution to quality assurance of scientific output must be maintained as a cornerstone of the global science system.

“The move to open-access publishing will need to ensure this highly systematised and valued function is not undermined.”

The Conference concludes on Thursday, 8 November 2012.

For further information on the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference visit On Twitter, search #Berlin10SA and @Berlin10SA for tweets.