Experts give open access the green light

Rather publish your research in an open access repository or journal than going the traditional route of journals that are only available on subscription.

This was the advice by Stellenbosch University (SU) academics and other experts yesterday [20 Oct. 2010] to participants in the Open Access Seminar of the institution’s Library and Information Service (LIS). Open access is a relatively new distribution channel that involves publication on the internet. It allows users free access to material as well as the right to use it as they see fit, provided proper attribution takes place.

“Open access is the only way to reach people that need information but cannot afford it,” Professor Wolfgang Preisner, Head of Medical Virology in the Faculty of Health Sciences, said.

To illustrate his point, he referred to pathologists and laboratory technicians who do not necessarily subscribe to journals, but can easily stay informed via the internet on the latest findings about, for instance, the effectiveness of a particular test for HIV.

Professor Wim Gevers, Associate Director: Academic at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), said open access improves the quality of research.

“We let our MBA students deposit their research reports in SUNScholar, and because they and their study leader know the whole world can go and read it, we get better work.”

SU has established an open access repository, SUNScholar, which can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection at

Gevers said the wide exposure an academic can get for his or her expertise via open access is more valuable than the possible income from royalties along the traditional journal route.

“If you deposit a copy of your research in SUNScholar, you will find that it pops up easily when someone does an internet search, for instance with Google or Yahoo,” Ms Ina Smith, E-Research Repository Manager at the LIS, said.

In a pre-recorded video message, Mark Shuttleworth, an internet billionaire and proponent of open source software, said the fewer people know about your research the less it is worth.

“We’d like to think that the best ideas win, but the truth is that the best communicated ideas win. An author put it very clearly to me. He said, “My greatest risk is not piracy; the stealing of my content. My greatest risk is obscurity.”

Ms Ellen Tise, Senior Director of the LIS and President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, described the seminar, which was streamed live on the internet, as a “milestone”.

During the seminar, SU became the first African university to sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. The goal of this international convention is to make research freely and widely available to society.

Prof Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said SUNScholar is a valuable resource for promoting the development goals of the HOPE Project.

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Caption 1: Prof Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU), signs the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities while Ms Ellen Tise, Senior Director of SU’s Library and Information Service and President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, looks on. (Photo: Anton Jordaan, SCPS).

Caption 2: The open access commitment by SU. (Photo: Desmond Thompson)

Click on   for Mark Shuttleworth’s recorded message of congratulations to SU.

Click on  to access the digital archive of all the seminar material in SUNScholar.