Opened21: Plenary Keynote Reggie Raju

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OpenEd21 is happening this week and instead of tweeting I am blogging from selected sessions I am attending. These notes may be rough as the intent is to try to follow the flow of the talk and publish as soon as possible.

Session Description

Keynote title: Openness: the transition from hope to alienation

Keynote speaker Reggie Raju is the Director of Research & Learning at the University of Cape Town Libraries. He has been in academic libraries for more than 30 years. He holds a PhD in Information Studies. Reggie is currently the Chair of SPARC Africa and is driving the social justice agenda of open access for Africa and a leader in Open Access. (full abstract)

Session Notes

Nicole Allen contextualizes the keynote in her intro by talking about the relationship between Open Access and Open Education and how they are siblings and on similar arcs of acceptance with OA being slightly ahead of the curve compared to Open Education and that we can learn much from the Open Access movement.

Reggie begins with an overview of the history of Open Access movement referencing the Budapest Declaration and highlights that the Budapest Declaration states explicitly that there is a “…willingness of scientists and scholars to publish their research in scholarly journals without payment.

Open Access in Africa was originally seen as “something of a saviour” in terms of making information more freely available. However, that hope was dashed by the very founders of the movement when it transitioned from a social justice movement to a publishing process and with the introduction of O publishing fees. The movement to a process contributes to making OA elitism, colonialism. It is moving away from making open for all to making open for the elite.

The OA movement needs to capture the philanthropic underpinnings to return to a movement with a purpose guided by social justice principles and truly make open for all.

Reggie moves onto to speak of his African and South African perspective and notes that OA has now become an “economic system” for the dissemination of peer-reviewed outputs. Unfortunately, the focus on financial issues of OA publishing has detached it from its original purpose and continues to favour research from the Global North at the expense of the Global South.

The OA system was supposed to make it easier for researchers in Africa to share their research globally, not just have access to, but also contribute to, a global knowledge base. Instead, the economics of OA have now prejudiced Global North research at the expense of the Global South.

In an uneven scholarly ecosystem, this version of “equality” consolidates marginalization, exclusion and disenfranchisement.

Reggie moves on to discuss the difference and inequalities inherent in the South Africa education system and outlines the differences between Township, Model C, and Private schools in SA with a striking photo.

Moves on to talk about differences between inclusion and exclusion in scholarly publishing and the importance of promoting inclusion and removing barriers to participation in the research process to promote participation. The lack of forums for the dissemination of research leads to a lack of participation, and when participation is denied, rights and dignity are compromised leading to feelings of inferiority.

Exclusion is both an outcome and a process.

Making a connection between research and pedagogy with quote from Stanford president “research is part and parcel of the traditional University functions of teaching and learning”. There is an explicit connection between research and teaching & learning practice. Research informs teaching.

OER are an “empowerment tool” promoting and contributing to the redistribution of knowledge.

Quote from Leslie Chan “Openness, when decontectualized from its historical and political roots, could become as exploitive and oppressive as the legacy system it seeks to displace”

There is a prejudice from reading to publishing with APC models of academic publishing. Yes, you can read Open Access articles, but you cannot publish without paying access fees. We have substituted paywalls with publication fees and this disenfranchised researchers that cannot afford to publish.

Numerous exclusionary publishing practices have led to prominent African researchers not being able to publish. In addition to financial barriers, there are other barriers. He shares a story of a prominent horticultural researcher who could not get her important research on crops because the editors of prominent academic journals considered the “crops” the researcher was writing about as weeds and not crops, whereas these are important crops in Africa. A bias against what constitutes “legitimate knowledge” and who gets to decide?

Raju speaks of important roles that libraries have in providing not only access to published research but providing avenues for true open access publishing (Diamond OA – free to reader, free to publish) avenues for researchers.

What a truly OA publication/OER book developed with equity and inclusion would look like using an example of an open access constitutional law open textbook created by UCT library

This text has been downloaded over 57,000 times and Reggie notes that 1/3 of the downloads have come from the Global North.

My Takeaway

I have always wondered how the evolution of OA publishing fees have impacted the OA movement and now I hear from someone directly affected by OA publishing fees. It is clear that these fees as another form of knowledge colonialism that biases research from the Global North (where finances are often available to publish) at the expense of research from the Global South. While OA fees can help offset some of the real costs of publishing and ensure the final results are openly available to read, they are a barrier to publishing. OA fees heavily prejudice researchers who cannot afford to pay the OA fees, therefore, the only knowledge that gets published is from the Global North, silencing important research from the Global South.

There is also a real call to action in this keynote for academic libraries to provide those kinds of Diamond OA publishing methods, and to provide infrastructure (not just technical, but processes) for publishing.

Reggies Slides

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