Assessing the Landscape of Open Access to Scholarly Publications in Ethiopia – A Consultative Workshop

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EAS, in collaboration with Education Strategy Center and the Ethiopian Education and Research Network, organized a consultative workshop on “Assessing the Landscape of Open Access to Scholarly Publications in Ethiopia”. The Workshop, which was held on 04 August 2017, brought together key stakeholders to explore the status of open access publishing in Ethiopia with a view to inspiring a collaborative action towards creating/maintaining a sustainable open access platform.

Open access platforms that center Ethiopians can be valuable in spotlighting and promoting scholarship among Ethiopians and making scientific knowledge accessible to the public. Prof. Masresha Fetene, Executive Director of EAS, noted that despite the increasing consensus on the benefits of open access, Ethiopia has yet to fully tap into the global open access movement. Prof. Masresha further noted that while various institutions in Ethiopia have open access initiatives, most efforts remain fragmented. Therefore, assessing the landscape of open access publications in consultation with a wide-range of stakeholders is a critical step in identifying what has been done so far in Ethiopia, the challenges under and promoting an efficient and collaborative approach towards creating and sustaining an open access platform.

Participants flagged the lack of national policy on open access as a major challenge in promoting open access in Ethiopia. Ato Teklemichael Tefera, U.S Embassy American Spaces Director, noted lack of technical and financial resources to ensure continuity of open access initiatives as a serious challenge. Little/no awareness about the meaning and benefits of open access publishing and the absence a legally mandated institution to initiate and coordinate open access initiatives were cited as mutually reinforcing issues that contribute to the lack of continuity in various open access endeavors in Ethiopia. Prof. Asfawossen Asrat, a Professor of Geology and EAS Fellow, noted that although open access has clear benefits, the landscape of scholarly publishing is heavily tilted towards traditional means of publishing which are subscription-based. An evidence-based advocacy work that rationalizes the benefits of going open access and incentivizes researchers is critical to inspire a sustainable shift to open access.

The workshop called for the designing of a national policy on open access which articulates directions for soliciting content for open access platforms and incentivizing institutions and individuals to promote open access. The Workshop suggested that a steering committee — composed of key stakeholders such as Education Strategy Center, Ethiopian Education Research Network, Ministry of Science and Technology, Consortium of Ethiopian Academic and Research Libraries, and Network for Electronic Information for Libraries among others—be formed to guide and oversee the development of a national policy on open access. Furthermore, it was suggested that EAS, as an institution mandated with providing evidence-based advice on issues deemed to be nationally important, should lead the drafting of the national policy and present it to a wider stakeholders meeting.