Visit from the Parliamentary Information Centre

Twelve staff from the Parliamentary Information Centre (PIC) visited the Stellenbosch University Library on Thursday 10 October 2019. The purpose of their visit was to benchmark their reference and information service and the implementation of an institutional repository against SU’s services. PIC librarians met with faculty librarians, our SUNScholar experts, and our E-resources Librarian. Thereafter, the guests were given a tour of the SU Library, focusing on our Special Collections.

Pictured above are ten of the PIC visitors with four SU Library staff after enjoying a cup of tea together.

SU Sports Day

Some eighteen Library staff took part in the SU Annual Sports Day on Friday 1 November 2019 at Coetzenburg. The warm-up session was fun and most staff participated in the fun walk of either four or two kilometres. The walk was scenic with mountains and fynbos to be enjoyed, and even the few hills were manageable. The sunshine, fresh air and company of colleagues from our branch libraries lifted everyone’s spirits. Pictured are some of the staff who took part in Sports Day.

Library Senior Director panellist at UN Open Science Conference

Ms Ellen Tise, Senior Director of the Library and Information Service, was an invited panellist in the Open Science and Library Infrastructures panel discussion at the first United Nations Open Science Conference held on 18-19 November 2019 at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York.

The theme of the event was “Towards Global Open Science: Core Enabler of the UN 2030 Agenda”. The conference aimed to elevate discussion about open science and open research to the global level. A further objective was to consider the role open science plays in advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ms Tise’s presentation, entitled Open Science for Sustainable Development: a Library perspective, highlighted the drivers of open science, drew attention to the facets of open science and emphasised the need for advocacy of open access. The other panellists in the Open Science and Library Infrastructures panel were Mr Gerald Beasley (Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, Cornell University), Dr Wolfram Horstmann (LIBER Special Advisor, Göttingen State and University Library), Dr Catriona MacCallum (Director of Open Science, Hindawi Ltd) and Dr Chris Bourg (Director of Libraries, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Dr Bourg’s presentation envisioned “a world where enduring, abundant, equitable, and meaningful access to information serves to empower and inspire humanity.”

The UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library organized the conference in collaboration with the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). Conference participants were representatives of open science initiatives, researchers, library directors and policymakers. The keynote speakers were Dr Natalia Manola (Managing Director, OpenAIRE) and Juan Pablo Alperin (Public Knowledge Project, Simon Fraser University).

Ms Tise is congratulated on being invited to participate at this global level.

Participants in the United Nations Open Science Conference held on 18-19 November 2019 at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York. Ms Ellen Tise is ninth from right (standing). Photo: UN Library

Visit to Lund University

Together with 10 other Stellenbosch University (SU) support staff and Lidia du Plessis of the SU International Office, I set off for one week on a journey to Lund in Sweden, via Copenhagen in Denmark. We were hosted by Lund University (LU) International Office. The first day was spent being introduced to LU and taking a walk through the historical town. The two International Offices had organised a job shadowing programme for each of the support staff.

The group of Stellenbosch University support staff at Lund University, Sweden, in October 2019. Judy Williams is in the front row on the left.

I was hosted by the Lund University School of Economics and Management Library (LUSEM). The librarians at LUSEM are preparing to move their library to a new facility and are in the process of weeding their print journals. Instantly I found similarities in what we at USBL (Stellenbosch University Bellville Park Campus Library) went through in preparing for our renovations. There were further similarities regarding many aspects of my work as a faculty librarian as well as in what the SU Library and Information Service is working towards in terms of postgraduate research support, open access and research data management. Central to LU’s success in driving open access and research data management is that LU Library forms part of a network (internally, faculty-wide and nationally) that actively works towards achieving its shared goals. The network combines resources and shares knowledge to find solutions.

Lund University Main Library

I enjoyed getting to know and travelling with my colleagues from the SU main campus. We used the daylight hours to wander around Copenhagen and Lund. At night the temperature dropped as low as 5°C and we spent our evenings around the table sharing experiences. One of the experiences shared was how unsafe it felt walking on the pavement. Speeding cyclists and pedestrians share the pavement. I had an issue with going through doors in Sweden. I was never sure if the doors would open automatically or if I should push or pull.  And keeping excited South Africans quiet on their first train ride in a dedicated quiet area was a challenge.

Some interesting facts:

Lund University Stellenbosch University
Established in 1666 Established 1918
2nd Oldest university in Sweden 2nd Oldest university in South Africa
Independent government university Independent government university
7 600 employees of which 1 000 support staff 3 454 employees of which 2 363 support staff
8 faculties 10 faculties
26 libraries 6 libraries
40 000 students 31 765 students
87 000 population of Lund 176 523 population of Stellenbosch
LU School of Economics and Management has 6 departments Stellenbosch University Business School has 3 departments
Research areas: innovation & entrepreneurship USB Research areas: leadership, equality, futures and business in society

Thank you to Ms Ellen Tise and Ms Henriëtte Swart of the SU Library and Information Service for nominating me to participate in this Staff Development Programme. I enjoyed the international exposure and came back with renewed energy and insight to make the most of my role in the Library.

Thank you to the SU International Office for this opportunity to visit Denmark and Sweden. Thank you to Lidia du Plessis from the SU International Office and Par Svenson of the LU International Office for organising our stay and job shadowing programme. Thank you to LUSEM Library for organising the job shadowing programme and sharing your expertise. Thank you to the SU support staff for the camaraderie during our travels. It was a joy travelling with you!

Judy Williams

Photographs: Judy Williams

Plan S – How scholarship is under threat


South African researchers could be priced out of the mainstream of global scholarship under new, expensive plans for open access publishing being considered by the government in Pretoria.

The new framework would require authors rather than readers to pay for publication, and only those with deep pockets would be able to pay the article processing charges (APCs) levied by many of the most widely read journals.

The framework, called Plan S, which was launched last year by the European Union (EU) with the goal of making scholarly reports freely available to all, is being seriously considered by South Africa’s National Research Foundation and the government, according to Tandi Matsha, founder and lead researcher at the Cardiometabolic Health Research Unit at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

The author-pays model for open access proposed by the plan is already limiting the publishing prospects for South African scholars, according to Professor Robin Crewe, senior research fellow in the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria.

“Even now individual scholars are not able to publish in their preferred journals because they can’t afford the article processing charges,” Crewe told a roundtable convened by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) at Stellenbosch University in October.

“So, they are being forced to publish in journals they can afford. One of the effects of this is the marginalisation of authors from the [Global] South.”

Against local interests

Panellists at the roundtable, which was held to discuss the question: “Is scholarly publishing becoming unaffordable?”, expressed the fear that South Africa was sleepwalking into an arrangement between publishers and research institutions and funders, which it was unprepared to manage or properly fund, and which may harm the interests of its own scholars and learned societies.

“We are not concerned about Plan S because we don’t think it is going to affect us. Our heads are in the sand,” said Keyan Tomaselli, distinguished professor in the faculty of humanities at the University of Johannesburg.

However, the impacts of Plan S would be very real. For example, the new funding model proved more expensive when it was tested by Stellenbosch University library against current deals with two major journal publishers: Wiley and Taylor & Francis.

“For research-intensive universities, these new agreements are not going to be beneficial. We are going to pay more for the current subscriptions,” said Ellen Tise, senior director of library and information services at Stellenbosch University.

In addition, Tise argued, although institutions with low research outputs may benefit from the kinds of open access deals being promoted by Plan S, “it will not address the deep knowledge gap between developed and developing nations; and, at the end of the day, the big commercial publishers will continue to benefit”.

The problem, it was broadly agreed at the roundtable, was not the actual principle of open access, which is largely accepted by the academy in South Africa. The potential benefits of openness to scientific integrity and innovation in the public interest, as well as to the democratisation of the research cycle and regional development, have been widely acknowledged, including by the United Nations.

“The issue is not that we disagree that we want to do this, but rather the how-we-do-it issue,” said Tise.

Lack of support for open access

A lack of financial and policy-making commitment to the principle of open access from the national government in South Africa constitutes a major challenge in this regard.

“The Department of Higher Education and Training, which is the main funding agency for supporting research activities, encourages open access for research publications and the archiving of results. But it doesn’t put its money where its mouth is and support open access financially,” said Crewe.

Indeed, the National Research Foundation in South Africa announced a similar plan to that proposed by Europe’s Plan S several years ago, according to Tise. “But there was no system in place. It was not even a policy, just a statement.

“We are still waiting for the policy to mandate and force researchers to at least deposit their research in the institutional repositories.”

Such depositing constitutes a minimal form of open access, known as ‘green open access’ and falls far short of the kind of access envisaged as the standard under Plan S, which would require research to be made freely available in its published form immediately and in perpetuity.

Plan S, which is due to come into effect in 2021, was forged by a number of major international research funders, including from the philanthropic and international governance sectors, which came together with national research councils and the EU to create pressure to dismantle the paywalls erected by the main academic publishing houses.


However, instead of reducing costs, the approach that has been adopted by Plan S is liable to further enrich the big five academic publishers which dominate the industry – Reed-Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer and SAGE – by enabling ‘double-dipping’ practices under which big journals can both levy APCs and charge for reader subscriptions.

“In South Africa, we don’t qualify for the waivers available for researchers from low-income countries,” said Matsha. Given the uncertainty over the extent to which the APC costs of authors from countries outside Europe joining Plan S may be defrayed, the open access obligation imposed by the scheme could, Matsha calculated, cost the Department of Higher Education and Training billions of rands in publishing fees.

The proposed publishing regime was further criticised at the ASSAf roundtable for eroding academic freedoms; further dividing an already fractured global scholarly publishing community; and undermining scholarly societies and their high-quality journals.

“Plan S, which has been criticised for being forged without any consultation with researchers, scholarly societies or publishers, will disqualify 85% of existing society journals and divide the world into different research coalitions, effectively banning European authors from publishing in non-approved journals outside Europe,” said Tomaselli.

A ‘race to the bottom’

With paid-for ‘gold open access’ publication likely to become the norm under the plan, he gave warning of a race to the bottom, as rigorous quality-control standards for material will be sacrificed in the interests of profit.

“By smashing the traditional publishers with their added values of peer-review, libel checks, cross-referencing, copy editing, legal protections, ethical regimes, marketing, etc, further opportunities will be made available to the predators,” he said.

Tomaselli further predicted a hollowing out of the market for quality scholarship under the plan. “The cost of publishing, rather than the quality of the research, will decide where the research is published. Plan S may also lead to the demise of scholarly societies, especially those which rely heavily on their journals to produce income through their permissions, royalties and re-publication charges.”

For researchers, particularly those chasing limited funds, the creative commons form of copyright offered by Plan S, which affords no material recompense, may lead them to publish later rather than sooner, allowing them to exploit their intellectual property more exhaustively and also preventing other better-resourced peers from jumping on their intellectual bandwagon, said Matsha.

“The authors [always] want to join a club that is more impactful than the one they are currently in,” said Tise, noting that the new publishing models being proposed as part of the open access debate “had left authors and researchers confused”.

New models

“The model for Plan S is already in decline and there are moves to new models that are starting to appear,” Tise said, advocating the value of so-called “transformative” agreements, such as read-and-publish and publish-and-read deals which are being promoted by the South African National Library and Information Consortium as a sustainable solution in its negotiations with major commercial publishers.

“If we don’t look for a model that will fit our situation and the things we need to address, it is going to put at risk the global visibility of research for researchers from the South who cannot afford to participate,” she said.

ASSAf President Professor Jonathan Jansen reinforced the point. “Unless you understand that this intellectual, financial complex is embedded in a system of power and money, it is hard to come up with a fair and equitable solution,” he said.

In this regard, ASSAf has sought to promote ‘diamond’ open access, which means free-to-publish and free-to-read, through its in-house journal, the South African Journal of Science; its support for national scholarly editors’ and publishers’ forums; and its establishment and management of the open access SciELO SA database of journals.

The initiatives may be viewed as part of larger efforts to establish a collaborative, non-commercial, sustainable, non-subordinated system, which would take publishing out of the hands of the international firms and return it to the academy in the form of diamond open access – as has been advocated by the Latin American AmeliCA consortium.

Under such a system, Tomaselli said, the Department of Higher Education and Training would be obliged to require universities to invest in infrastructure and technology such as journals and editorial teams, or fund the journals directly itself. A more democratic model could also see researchers being paid for peer reviews, according to Matsha.

Mark Paterson is a senior journalist and communications consultant with a wide range of non-governmental, government and academic organisations. Read the original article here.

Copyright: University World News

At the ASSAf Presidential Roundtable held at Stellenbosch University on 24 October 2019 were: Ms Susan Veldsman, Prof Robin Crewe, Dr Tandi Matsha, Prof Keyan Tomaselli, Ms Ellen Tise, Prof Jonathan Jansen and Prof Himla Soodyall.

Photograph: Library and Information Service, Stellenbosch University