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Unpacking Open Access at Stellenbosch University

On 20 October 2010, Stellenbosch University (SU) became the first university in Africa to sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access. In signing the declaration, the then Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Russel Botman committed the university to “…firstly encourage… researchers to deposit their material in SUNScholar, our open access repository. And secondly, … to openly sharing our research output with the rest of the world”.  Open access (OA) refers to the practice of making research outputs immediately available online without any access restrictions.

OA is applicable to all research outputs including journal articles, conference papers and books. The OA vision was necessitated by several factors including the prohibitive costs of journal subscriptions and the need for universities to share information. In South Africa, OA can also serve to ensure equal access to information irrespective of a university’s financial status and background hence its support by the National Research Foundation (NRF). That way OA in South Africa also plays a social redress and justice role. The NRF mandates that all research outputs produced from research funded partially or in full by NRF be deposited to institutional repositories with an embargo period of no more than 12 months.

In this article, a month after the 13th anniversary of the signing of the Berlin Declaration by SU, we attempt to unpack OA as well as indicate how the Library supports the journey towards OA at SU. Firstly, however, it is important to provide a greater understanding of the types of OA as well as the benefits that the University can accrue from OA publishing.

What are some of the open access publishing models for researchers?

When librarians conduct OA webinars, they often encounter a question about one publishing model of open access or the other. OA has 6 models:

  • Gold open access – this is considered the golden standard of OA. Articles published in this format are made freely and permanently available online.
  • Green open access – final version of the accepted manuscript is deposited in an institutional repository with specific information about how the article may be used.
  • Diamond open access – this refers to journals that provide free access for authors to publish without a requirement to pay Article Processing Charges (APCs). These journals are supported by institutions and may be published through institutional repositories.
  • Hybrid open access – this is a type of open access where subscription journals offer open access option provided authors pays APCs.
  • Bronze open access – in this type, the article will be freely available, but the journal does not have open license which means they retain all the rights to the article including the possibility that they may decide to change it in future.
  • Black open access – this is an illegal open access model, where non-openly licensed articles are illegally and illicitly shared among researchers (e.g., Sci-Hub, ResearchGate etc.).

What are the benefits of OA publishing?

  • OA exposes your research to a wider audience, thereby making it more visible.
  • This visibility increases its impact in terms of reach and depth.
  • This increases the prospects of meeting potential collaborators nationally, internationally, interdisciplinary, intradisciplinary etc.
  • Ensures greater compliance with funder mandates.
  • May serve to decrease instances of academic dishonesty and fraud although the reverse may also be true.

How does the Library support open access publishing?

The Library supports open access in various ways.

  • Advocacy for OA – The Library is a staunch advocate of OA institutionally, nationally and internationally. OA is often one of the topics in our Library Research Week programme and it is included in our researcher empowerment programme, #SmartResearcher Workshops. Each year, the Library celebrates OA Week by hosting webinars and other events on open access. Our Senior Director, Ms Ellen Tise is a sought after speaker in national and international conferences on OA topics. The Library also hosts a LibGuide dedicated to open access resources at as well as an open access page at
  •  Hosting institutional repositories – The Library hosts a number of OA repositories.
    SUNScholar is a leading digital archive for the preservation and promotion of the research output of Stellenbosch University. The repository is meant to curate, preserve and facilitate the sharing of research outputs associated with SU.  It is a primary storage of all SU Theses and Dissertations. The repository also hosts OA journals, manuscripts, articles, conference papers etc. According to the NRF OA Statement referred to in the introduction, it is critical that not only research output be deposited in institutional repositories but also datasets used in research.
    SUNScholarData is an institutional research data repository which is used for the registration, archival storage, sharing and dissemination of research data produced or collected in relation to research conducted under the auspices of Stellenbosch University.
    Another repository of Stellenbosch University that seeks to showcase the University’s digital content from the Library’s unique digital collections and repositories is SUNDigital Collections. Collections in this repository include music, images, South African literature, finding aids for manuscript collections, African and Southern African archives and African and Southern African history.
  •  Negotiating transformational agreements – As part of the South African National Library and Information Consortium (SANLiC), the Library negotiates and promotes transformational agreements with publishers. These agreements are described as contracts negotiated between institutions and publishers that transform the business model underlying scholarly publishing towards a fully open access model. The full list of publishers with transformational agreements with South African university libraries can be found at:


Since the signing of the Berlin Declaration on OA by Stellenbosch University in 2010, great strides have been made towards OA. Open access has served to increase the global reach of the research completed at SU benefiting researchers and communities alike. However, more still needs to be done to ensure that most if not all of the university’s research is openly accessible. This goes a long way towards ensuring equal access by reducing the gap between the information poor and information rich. In addition, the University is yet to find ways of evaluating the impact of OA as well as rewarding open science and scholarship. Therefore, it is critical that open access is considered in rewarding scholarship and innovation to encourage researchers to publish in open access journals.

Author: Dr Siviwe Bangani

SUNDigital: Historical Stellenbosch University student publications

When researching social history, one of the interesting resources will be newspapers or magazines.  In the case of Stellenbosch University, the student publications are some of the most interesting and entertaining research material.  The philosophy, interest and reasoning of the students open a new window into social and cultural history. The publications we hold start from 1885 and focus on campus life, sport, politics, art and literature and other entertainment.

One of the earliest student publications in our collection is the Stellenbosch College Ramkie dating back to 1885.  Volume II no. 8 of 11 March 1885 starts with the words:

 “The voice of reason readily commands the ear of the student.”

These are handwritten documents, not always easily readable and only four pages long.  With the papers as brittle and damaged as it is, digitisation is a wonderful way of preserving them.  When scanning and uploading the documents to SUNDigital, the authenticity of the publications becomes more visible.

The Stellenbosch College Times followed the Ramkie and was published between August 1885 and September 1886 and the short-lived The Victorian in 1888. The digitisation of the printed Stellenbosch Students Annual  1892- 1897 and the Stellenbosch Students’ Quarterly, Vol 1-23  (1898 – 1920) is still ongoing.

“Die Matie” was the official student newspaper of Stellenbosch University since 1 August 1941. This collection spans editions up to October 2011.

The need to communicate with Alumni and Donors became more and more apparent. The “Die Stellenbosse Oudstudent was published until 1947 and in 1957 Matieland was established.  Matieland 1957-2020 is available on the University Archive web-page.

You can visit Special Collections or the University Archive and make an appointment to consult more of these sources and photo collections.

Author: Marieta Buys


Do you want to analyse your research towards the SDGs?

The Library can assist researchers in analysing their research and publications towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The easiest way will be with the assistance of the “Analyse results” option in Web of Science. You can find the results with a click of a button:

  • Do an author search in the database Web of Science
  • Click on the list of publications indexed by Web of Science
  • Click on Analyse results
  • A long list of analyses is available from the drop-down button
  • Choose Sustainable Development Goals at the bottom of the list
  • You can view the results in a TreeMap chart, Bar chart or table and you can download the visualisations.
  • There is also an option to download the results and visualise it in any other way.

SDG TreeMap chart in Web of Science

The Library can also assist you with the following methods:

  •  A Researcher Impact Report where a wide range of metrics is provided, including your contribution towards the different SDGs. This information will be sourced either from Web of Science or SciVal, depending on which database indexes your publications the best.

SDG section of a PowerBi report (Researcher Impact Report)

  • You are welcome to request only the SDG information if you are not interested in the other metrics.
  • A SciVal report per SDG is also available for the whole institution which could be analysed by author. The limitation is that the analyses will only be for a maximum of 10 years and will therefore not give a complete picture of a researcher’s research output if it exceeds the 10-year period.

Enquiries: Marié Roux

Research data collection tools: An RDM perspective

Data collection is an instrumental part of scientific research. Data collection is a systematic method of obtaining, observing, measuring, and analysing accurate information to support research findings. Collecting data is not limited to a single research field, and all researchers may from time to time collect data personally (primary data) and or use data that was collected by fellow researchers (secondary data) for a different research purpose. While research techniques and goals may vary, the general data collection methods used in the process are essentially the same. In other words, there are specific standards that need to be strictly followed and implemented to make sure that data is collected accurately. However, collecting accurate data is not enough if it will not be stored and secured safely. As way of ensuring good research data management (RDM) practice within Stellenbosch University (SU) researcher community, the university provides several SU pre-approved data collection tools (and support) to researchers. See a discussion below about some of the tools:

Stellenbosch University Microsoft Teams

All SU researchers are eligible to receive Microsoft Office365 software at no extra charge. This means that SU researchers can collect and share data using the pre-approved platforms to ensure that their research data is collected and stored safely and remains accessible any time. This helps minimise chances of data loss as the institutional Information Technology service desk controls this infrastructure.


SUNSurveys is an SU pre-approved web-based e-Survey service that is available to support SU researchers and may be used to conduct online surveys for their academic research. SUNSurveys is also regularly used for staff opinion polls, voting and service delivery surveys.

REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture)

REDCap is a secure web platform for building and managing online databases and surveys. This platform is available to all SU researchers at no extra charge. REDCap’s streamlined process for rapidly creating and designing projects offers a vast array of tools that can be tailored to virtually any data collection strategy. Moreover, REDCap provides automated export procedures for seamless data downloads to Excel and common statistical packages (SPSS, SAS, Stata, R), as well as a built-in project calendar, a scheduling module, ad hoc reporting tools, and advanced features, such as branching logic, file uploading, and calculated fields.

There are various other pre-approved data collection tools that are available to SU researchers. It is also worth noting that all SU pre-approved tools exist to ensure that researchers adhere to good data management practices throughout the research process. Please see the image below for a more detailed outlook on SU pre-approved research data collection tools.



Author: Sizwe Ngcobo

Tools for thought: Rayyan

Rayyan is a powerful, intelligent systematic review platform that allows you to do large scale analyses of thousands of records. It allows researchers to organise, manage and accelerate their collaborative systematic literature reviews. Rayyan understands language, learns from decisions, and helps research teams work quickly through even their largest sets of references reducing around 80% of your screening efforts. Rayyan is user-friendly and 93% of our members report learning to use Rayyan took them less than an hour or a day to master (Tryphosa, 2023). In the video below, we go over the Rayyan’s key features and introduce you to its potential benefits when using it for systematic (or other) reviews.


Update on EndNote implementation


With January nearing faster than some of us might hope, we are working hard to have everything in place so our users can download, install, and access EndNote in the first week of January 2024. The SU Harvard Style is ready for use and once we have the full license, our clients are welcome to make recommendations or request changes to the style. We have also identified six “super users” who will be responsible for providing EndNote support and training in their respective areas. They are:

Kirchner van Deventer, Manager: Carnegie Research Commons

Letlao Seloma, Librarian: Carnegie Research Commons

Sanda Nyoka, Law Librarian

Lucinda Raath, Arts and Social Sciences Librarian

Yusuf Ras, Head: Medicine and Health Sciences Library

Heila Mare, Theology Librarian

These six librarians have received advanced training in EndNote. The next phase in EndNote training will be in-house training for other library staff. This training will be more basic in nature, but will allow most of our staff members to assist in basic queries and troubleshooting. If advanced support is needed, you will be referred to one of the librarians listed above.

In addition to our in-house training, we will also provide monthly training to all SU staff and students who need it. This training will form part of our popular #SmartResearcher training sessions, so keep an eye out for the 2024 schedule! There will be two types of training. The first will be a session on how to migrate your existing Mendeley or Zotero Library to EndNote. During this training we will also take you through the process of downloading and installing EndNote on your device(s). The second type will be a practical training session where we will take you through all of EndNote’s features and capabilities. We will show you how to import references from databases, how to search some databases from within EndNote, how to navigate your library and how the MS Word plugin, Cite-while-you-write, works. Our EndNote Library Guide will also be up and running by January 2024 and it should prove a useful resource for FAQs, troubleshooting and other guides on how to use the tool.

We hope that you are as excited as us about this new reference management tool and may it contribute to the success of your research journey!


Evaluate your research impact with bibliometric reports

Did you know that the Library offers the following bibliometric reports to evaluate your research impact:

1. Basic metrics information

This report will include the H-Index from the different databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar, etc.
The information will be shared via e-mail or in Excel format.

 2. Full Researcher Impact Report

This full report will be in the format of a Microsoft PowerPoint slideshow which will include the following:

  • A summary page that includes all the important metrics, such as the H-Index from different databases, the M-Index, the G-Index and other indices. The total publications and citations per year, and per database. Your top article in Altmetrics. The top 2 highly cited articles in Scopus or Web of Science and a few other important metrics.
  • VosViewer visualisation  – Co-authorship analysis.
  • VosViewer visualisation  – Citations analysis.
  • PowerBi report which includes visualisations of all the important metrics related to your research output, from a specific database such as Scopus or Web of Science, depending on where most of your articles are indexed.
  • Guidance on the responsible use of metrics.
  • Methodology: Explanation of the tools used as well as links to your author profiles in the different databases.
  • Glossary: Explanation of all the important terms used in the report.

The information will be shared in a PowerPoint template, including the PowerBi report embedded in PowerPoint. A link to the PowerBi report will also be shared as well as an Excel document with underlying data, including your top 50 articles in Altmetrics.

3. SciVal Reports

A range of different reports could be created by means of SciVal which is based on Scopus data. A specific date range will be chosen, of which the longest period is 10 years. A wide range of metrics are available.

Request your report from your Faculty Librarian or contact Marié Roux to coordinate the request.

Visit our Research Impact library guide for more information.

Find help to submit your thesis/dissertation

Do you need to submit your thesis or dissertation? The Library’s help page on the thesis/dissertation submission procedure will help you to find all the relevant information you need.

SUNScholar repository

You will find valuable information on who does what, and when. There are specific processes to follow, and this page gives step-by-step guidance on how to complete these processes, for both supervisor and student.

There are various title page templates and declaration templates to download.  For the student using LaTeX, there is a link via TexLive or MikTeX, to download the software.

Please send your enquiries to

SUNScholarData repository

For students who need to submit their research data along with their thesis or dissertation, the following will give guidance on the process.

  1. How to Upload a Single File
  2. How to Upload Multiple Files
  3. How to Publish a File

Further guidance relating to the use of SUNScholarData can be found in the SUNScholarData Library Guide.


Please keep in mind, the deadline for the above is 30 November 2023.

Invitation: Open Access Week event

The theme for this year’s OA Week “Community over Commercialisation” encourages a candid conversation about approaches to open scholarship that prioritise the best interests of the public and academic community.  According to UNESCO, by prioritising the community we can prevent the “inequitable extraction of profit from publicly funded scientific activities”.  The theme can be applied to various case scenarios you might find within the research cycle.

Stellenbosch University Library will engage in an active panel discussion that will address the aspects of transformational agreements and their impact on the publisher, author, and research-intensive institution.  The research community is hereby invited to join and actively participate in this discussion and find out how these agreements work within the SU research community.

Venue: Stellenbosch University Library, Auditorium
Date: Monday, 23 October 2023
Time: 11h00 – 12h00

Bookings: In-person or online

Should you have any questions for the panel, please send it to
Please take note that the discussion will be streamed, and the recording will be available on YouTube after the event.

Enquiries: Songezo Mpikashe

Special Collections as research tool: The JJ Smith collection

The documents in the J. J. Smith Collection (Ms 333) were donated to the SU Library and Information Service in 2000. A record of the J.J. Smith Collection is available in the library catalogue to make it more accessible.  This collection holds documents dating from 1883 to 1949 and consists of 88 pamphlet boxes containing correspondence; articles; photographs; manuscripts; notebooks; radio talks; speeches; personalia; newspaper clippings and more. Some of the notebooks contain interesting contributions to the language of children, students, old people, regional language, names of places, names of trees, animals, etc.

The focus of the documents is on the history, orthography and spelling of the Afrikaans language.

“J. J. Smith (1883-1949) became the first editor of the Afrikaans dictionary, (Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal), in 1926. He was an exceptional linguist who left a lasting impression on the history of Stellenbosch University, as well as the press in South Africa (Nasionale Pers). He was also the first professor in Afrikaans and Dutch at Stellenbosch University in 1919 and the first editor of the Afrikaans magazine, Die Huisgenoot”.

The collection is completely described, catalogued and indexed, and available to researchers. To gain access to the collection please visit Special Collections.

See more information in this article: BibNews August 2007.

Authors: Marieta Buys and Busi Mofu

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