The Open Access (OA) Movement has been praised by proponents as a way to reverse the unsustainability of traditional scholarly publishing economic models and to aid in the equalization of the flow of information between industrialized and less industrialized nations. The OA Movement is thus also seen as a means of helping achieve both Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which jointly articulate the basic human rights to seek, receive and impart information, to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts, and to share in scientific advancement. Historically however, library and information development in much of colonial Sub-Saharan Africa was influenced by hegemonic structures that did not promote these ideals. This exploratory study uses data gathered during a forty day period to compare the OA journal usage of researchers in African countries with that of researchers in Latin American and Caribbean countries. Indexing and abstracting of African scholarly journals is also a key necessity if a more even flow of information from Southern to Northern countries is to be achieved and if the journals themselves are to be truly accessible to other scholars. Therefore, the study also examines the accessibility of indexing and abstracting coverage of African scholarly OA journals and compares the data with that of non-OA journals from the continent. I examine the relationship between current African OA usage and content production and the cultural rights expressed in Article 27 of the UDHR. The study data suggests that, in contrast to Latin American and Caribbean countries, African researchers are being less active consumers and more passive contributors to the OA model. OA is thus not yet contributing significantly to the reversal of North to South information flows in the African context nor is it yet making a significant impact on achieving the rights guaranteed in Articles 19 and 27 of the UDHR. The results also indicate that African OA publications are more accessible in the abstracting and indexing services than non-OA African publications, so an increased shift from non-OA to OA publications in African scholarly publishing may contribute to improving information flow reversal in the future.
Published in Library Philosophy and Practice, ed. Mary Bolin, 2011.
Bowdoin, N.T. (2011). Open access, African scholarly publishing, and cultural rights: An exploratory usage and accessibility study. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). Paper 619.
Originally published in the Library Philosophy and Practice Journal.