“Restrictive access policies drastically reduces readership of electronic research journal articles. Open Access (OA) provides an environment within which literature and scholarly research articles are made freely accessible online without license restrictions and without charging users subscription or access fees. OA is a vital means of dissemination of information which is crucial for national development and in achieving Millennium Development Goals, given the crucial role that information plays in achieving social, economic, cultural and political development.” Professor Frank Youngman, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Botswana.
Botswana is working to promote OA to research output and information to reach out to all members of the society. Botswana Libraries Consortium (BLC) and the University of Botswana have become active in the promotion of OA through a number of activities, which include running OA advocacy workshops for researchers in universities and research institutes, librarians and ICT specialists, research managers and policy makers, journal editors and publishers; starting OA digital repositories, and training of library professionals to understand the concept of OA, OA and policy environment, OA repositories and journals platforms/software, digital repositories workflows, with specific examples from the University of Botswana Research Innovation and Scholarly Archive (UBRISA). Initiatives on OA in Botswana were based on experiences demonstrated by lack of or little knowledge about concepts of OA and institutional repositories, hence the need for advocacy workshops and other initiatives to sensitize researchers in universities and research institutes, librarians and ICT specialists, research managers and policy makers, journal editors and publishers on the benefits and strategies of OA. The first OA workshop was organized in Botswana from 1st to 2nd September 2010, followed by another workshop in July 2011 and a planned OA Week coming in October 2011 from 24 to 30.
Researchers from Botswana publish articles in OA journals, for example 28 articles have been published with BioMed Central – an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the Open Access publishing model – by researchers from African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership; Department of Public Health, National AIDS Coordinating Agency; Tshepo Clinic, Botswana Harvard Partnership; Tau Consultants; and University of Botswana, Department of Chemistry and Department of Population Studies. PLoS ONE – an international, peer-reviewed, OA journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) - published 5 articles by researchers from the Center for AIDS Research and Botswana-University of Pennsylvania Partnership.
Botswana has enabling environment for OA to research output and information. This has been realised through the formulation of the National ICT Policy for Botswana, referred to as Maitlamo ICT Policy, to “create an enabling environment for the growth of an ICT industry in the country and provide access to information and communication facilities in the country”. Through the National ICT policy Botswana plans to provide free access to information and knowledge that will help improve socio-economic development of Botswana. Development of ICT is seen by the government as enhancing access to e-governance and local information relevant to communities. Areas of need for ICT include, among others, ICT usage in homes and communities; a national HIV/AIDS awareness, public education and basic education to enable citizens to actively participate in the information economy.
Botswana has a well developed modern telecommunications infrastructure, which remain underutilized (Sesigo Project, 2011). The fixed line and fibre optic infrastructure is adequate to provide wired telephone lines, mobile telephone, radio, television and internet to communities in Botswana. Development of ICT build public libraries through a collaborative partnership between the Sesigo Project, Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture (MYSC), the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation (Sesigo Project, 2011) is meant to provide free internet access to increase access to information as well as e-government services in communities in Botswana.
The use of Open Access journals within the Ministry of Health, even though currently not well established, there exists the opportunity for individuals to use OA journals, with internet access being available in many of the facilities. However, there is currently no repository or system in place for authorsto archive their published articles for public consumption. The Ministry does not currently subscribe to any OA journals.
The University of Botswana (UB) has developed an e-learning environment to enhance research, learning and teaching. UB developed its Information Technology policy in 2003 “to provide state-of-the-art infrastructure and quality support for research, scholarship, teaching, learning, and administration and management, seamless access to datasets, information and information resources (Information Technology policy, 2003). In addition UB has developed a Research Strategy to intensify its research performance. “One of the key pillars of the University of Botswana new strategic plan “Strategy for excellence” is “Research Intensification”. OA will help the University of Botswana, Government, and research institutions to achieve this pillar by ensuring online accessibility to public funded research output that can be freely shared by everyone, enhance research quality, and improve visibility of the institution and the nation globally.” Professor Frank Youngman, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Botswana.
Despite enabling the environment, there are still some potential barriers to OA. Amongst them include:
Fear of plagiarism
There is fear, by authors, of copyright infringement; fear of ‘loss of copyright’ (not realising that in the meantime they have already ‘lost’ or signed off their copyright to publishers); and fear of plagiarism of papers. Therefore, in the mindset of authors, OA is viewed as encouraging plagiarism.
Although the Botswana government has embarked on efforts to improve ICT infrastructure connectivity through the EASSY (The Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) the reality on the ground is different. Many academic and other institutions are still faced with access and connectivity challenges resulting in low usage of Internet resources that are essential for OA activities. The ICT facilities and infrastructure remain a big challenge with most libraries still not computerised. Of all the Botswana Library Consortium members, only two members, the Botswana College of Agriculture and University of Botswana have relatively developed ICT facilities. Funding for ICT projects is limited and the number of computers available for use by the students and learners is low.
The libraries must have good ICT infrastructures at local level to be able to develop related projects. Those that are computerised experience periodic breakdown caused by the poor ICT infrastructures.
The infrastructural issues also have to do with low bandwidth which limits institutions on embarking on ICT projects and OA.
Lack of Leadership in Libraries
Libraries are anchors that should embrace and lead the OA activities. Therefore there is a need for a strong and sound leadership that will be able to drive these initiatives. However, Botswana has a big library leadership vacuum that needs to be urgently addressed. The National Library that has been mandated to lead and direct the library growth in the country has no capacity to do so resulting in loss of opportunities that could have improved the sector. This is seen by the traditional library service that continues to dominate most of the libraries in the country; save for the Sesigo project that had to be outsourced.
As the government improves and makes available ICT infrastructures, it seems that the leadership is unable to align these improvements to introduce innovative library services. The national ICT policy naturally lacks direction concerning how libraries will benefit and use the new technologies.
Lack of leadership in libraries have negatively affected growth of library professional associations, library policy formulation, budget and financing of libraries, skills and capacity building of librarians, new ideas for innovative library services etc.
And there is not enough engagement of policy makers who are always willing to embrace new developments.
Research Libraries and Building of Knowledge Base
Research activities are related to good libraries that house the research output. There is a need for researchers and librarians to work together to create a good knowledge base. However at national level the libraries have no relationship with the research community.
Research culture in most institutions is not well developed. Most research activities are carried out by outside consultants and the research output is seldom shared, only to be shelved and collect dust.
With the economic meltdown most libraries faced insufficient budgets to fund some of the new projects. At institutional or departmental level decision makers do not appreciate the need to budget for library services. The difficulty also lies in the fact that departmental libraries are headed by junior staff who are not involved in decision making especially with regard to budgeting.
Botswana has responded to the call through the formulation of the National ICT Policy for Botswana to “create an enabling environment for the growth of an ICT industry in the country and provide access to information and communication facilities in the country”. Through the National ICT policy Botswana plans to provide information and knowledge that will help improve livelihoods of Botswana society in terms of socio-economic development. Development of ICT will enhance access to e-governance and local information relevant to communities.
The University of Botswana Digital Repository Policy referred to as University of Botswana Research, Innovation and Scholarship Archive (UBRISA) in alignment with the research policies and the Research Strategy of the University of Botswana. UBRISA is used to capture, store, preserve and provide OA to institutional research output. It is meant to “promote and encourage the dissemination of research findings and increase the visibility of the University of Botswana nationally and internationally in scholarship and knowledge creation, application and exchange” (Digital Repository Policy, 2008). The content of the repository covers various forms that include: peer reviewed published articles, pre-prints, monographs, electronic books, book chapters, vetted conference papers, theses and dissertations, other research outputs that are not necessarily meant for publication, computer programmes, and artistic works. The policy encourages self archiving by university staff, students and their collaborating researchers. Contact details regarding development of UBRISA include botlhole(at)mopipi.ub.bw; UBRISA(at)mopipi.ub.bw; and sekhwela(at)mopipi.ub.bw.
Further, the University of Botswana has developed guidelines on implementation of e-theses to increase the visibility of its research essays, theses, dissertations for masters’ and PhD degree programmes through UBRISA. The guidelines cover issues of intellectual property produced by a student during studies at UB, OA initiative, and roles and responsibilities for submission of the electronic thesis/ dissertation, as well as instructions on submission.
The Office of Research and Development (ORD) has implemented a Research Management System (RMS) as a tool to electronically monitor research from proposal to submission of completed papers. The workflows enable easy monitoring of every stage of research including the Library being able to identify completed research for collecting and providing access through the digital repository.
Events and Programs
1. Open Access Week Botswana
Time: October 23, 2017 at 7:30am to October 27, 2017 at 4pm.
We are introducing programming to people using an open tool called "Scratch 2" . We hope to get volunteers who can help increase the number of participants, every is welcome to join in.
Botswana Libraries Consortium (BLC) is currently implementing the projects that include promoting OA, implementing Free and Open Software Systems for digital repositories such as DSpace, and advocating for balanced approachers to Intellectual Property Rights focusing on copyright. The contact person for BLC is Mrs Naniki Maphakwane nmaphakwane(at)bocodol.ac.bw.
Office of Research and Development (ORD), in line with the University of Botswana Research strategy, has a mandate for coordinating and implementing the Research Strategy. ORD coordinates research across Faculties and Centres of Study as well as building research capacity and ensuring quality of research. The contact person for ORD is Dr Mogodisheng SEKHWELA sekhwela(at)mopipi.ub.bw.
The University of Botswana Library (UBL) is a Learning Resource Center (LRC) providing an integrated learning environment where print and electronic information resources are easily accessible. UBL is responsible for the overall management of UBRISA: populating; metadata quality and adherence to proper copyright standards. UBL mandate is to preserve and provide enhanced access to research output through UBRISA. The contact person for UB Library is Ms Molly Botlhole botlhole(at)mopipi.ub.bw and Ms Oarabile Rakgamanyane rakgamanyane(at)mopipi.ub.bw.
The University of Botswana, through UB Library and Office of Research and Development, is currently planning digitization and publishing of its journals as Open Access. The journals include:
- Botswana Journal of Applied Linguistics
- Botswana Journal of Business
- Botswana Journal of Earth Sciences
- Botswana Journal of Economics
- Botswana Journal of Technology
- Boleswa: Journal of Theology, religion and philosophy
- Marang: Journal of Language and Literature
- University of Botswana Law Journal.
Three of these journals are currently available through AJOL for visibility purposes. Access to full text of articles is through purchasing or subscription. The journals include:
- Bashorun, M. T., I. S. Lawal, and I. Abdulmumin. 2014. Emerging Issues in Open Access Initiatives in Africa. Vols. 4–4.
- Bashorun, M. T., L. I. Sani, and A. Isah. 2013. Emerging Issues in Open Access Initiatives in Africa.
- Jain, P. 2012. “Promoting Open Access to Research in Academic Libraries.” Library Philosophy and Practice 2012(MAY).
- Thurtle, N., C. Banks, M. Cox, T. Pain, and J. Furyk. 2016. “Free Open Access Medical Education Resource Knowledge and Utilisation amongst Emergency Medicine Trainees: A Survey in Four Countries.” African Journal of Emergency Medicine 6(1):12–17. doi: 10.1016/j.afjem.2015.10.005.