Open Access Week

October 25 -31, 2021 | Everywhere

At first I thought boyfriends would let their girlfriends read through their texts. Then I thought of husbands handing over their weekly after work schedules to their stay-at-home
wives. I especially laughed at this first two. They represented fiction. Then I
considered the United States Government publishing ‘real’ reports on the
situation in the Middle East. The top scientific brains passing on their
research papers and models. Surely, the Open
Access week was going to be founded on ‘achievable’ and ‘comfortable’ goals.
Not on these lofty, fictitious prospects. I was wrong.

Open access is a growing international movement that uses the Internet to throw open the locked doors that once hid knowledge. Open access is free, immediate, permanent online
access to the full text of research articles for anyone, across the web. It is
generally thought that there are two roads to Open Access. An idea backed by
Open Access itself. The so-called Golden road of OA journal publishing where
journals and publications provide OA to their articles. This can be done by
either charging the author-institution for refereeing or publishing outgoing
articles instead of charging the user-institution for accessing incoming
articles, or by simply making their online editions free of charge and, for
all. The second is the Green road of OA self archiving. Here authors provide OA
to their own published articles by producing their own e-prints free, of charge
and, for all. Needless to say, the green road is the quickest and most
convenient for all parties involved but even this road has to be seen as a
feeder road to the Golden road.

It is perhaps a matter of grave concern that humans are willing to share everything else but knowledge and information. It is not easy to see
why people are not willing to share information since almost all world
religions-and even the ‘neutrals’-teach and emphasize good neighbourliness. Opening
access to learning material may be frowned upon by some and even condemned by
others because they see it as a gate for plagiarism and plummeting of economic
benefits derived from such works. Yet the works from which people intend to
earn royalty and eke a livelihood from are not necessarily going to be thrown
to the public without proper and due compensation to the owners of such works.
Neither should we encourage such ‘intellectual fraud.’

Self archiving targets peer-reviewed research that is written majorly for research impact rather than for economic gain. It is hoped that this will be of benefit to the whole
society and that learning, research and meaningful critique of these works can
be done. Universities like Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and
Technology benefit from increased impact of their research and also attract
funding from both governmental and non-governmental organizations that then
facilitate deeper research. Professors, lecturers and teachers are not limited
in the content and material that they can refer hungry minds to. The students
of course just love the convenience of harvesting huge chunks of credible
information without having to auction their souls. Publishers similarly get
wider reach and attract a bigger audience meaning greater visibility and higher
journal citation impact factor of the articles so marked as OA.

The way forward then is to encourage institutions of research and learning to provide Open Access and they ought to be told how to go about it. OA self archiving policy for filing
Institutional Open Access Repositories with their target content must be
encouraged and implemented with zeal and
zest. Software such as Eprints provides web-based Open Access compliant
Institutional Repository for free.

Open Access is something that maybe should preoccupy our minds more than the transitory things that dominate world headlines. It is an open secret that people will reach an
academic cul-de-sac if we are going to continue ‘hoarding’ information and
confining it to our graves-themselves oblivious of the treasures that they hold
and hide.

-Ngala Maxwell-


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