Working towards an accessible publishing landscape

26 October 2022 | Professor Sue Harrison

Dear colleagues and students

Central to the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Vision 2030 to “Unleash human potential to create a fair and just society” is a need to align our processes and practices within the university, the systems we participate in and our contribution to the research endeavour.

One system within our global academic community that has gone unchecked for too long is that of academic publishing. While open access publishing was intended to increase accessibility of all to new knowledge, the article publishing costs (APCs) have been instrumental in aggravating inequalities across the global publishing environment by limiting whose knowledge is accessible based on ability to pay the high costs.

Through the growing demand to align the publishing landscape with social justice principles, publishers are increasingly being held accountable to provide systems that are equitable. This includes equity to authors in the Global South, where currently many unintended consequences of inequitable practice are felt. Indeed, the whole landscape in which we publish in South Africa needs to be developed into an equitable environment. UCT Libraries, in partnership with the South African National Library and Information (SANLiC), are working on this.

As a member of SANLiC, UCT Libraries has over the years collaborated on negotiating the procurement of, and securing access to, information resources. It is through this organisation that UCT and other member institutions are now working to shift ownership of, and access to, our knowledge.

In June 2021, SANLiC members adopted principles with the intention of transforming the existing journal reading subscription agreements of the libraries within South African universities. South Africa, via SANLiC, has opted for a new model for negotiating with publishers. The transformational agreement uses the “read and publish” approach as a base with negotiation for greater investment by the publishers in the development of South Africa’s next generation of researchers and the country’s research agenda.

SANLiC’s adoption of the social justice driven transformational agreements gives us the leverage to rigorously negotiate “read and publish” agreements with various academic publishers as a South African block in an effort to relieve researchers from exorbitant article processing charges. To date, exciting progress has been made with six publishers.

One successful negotiation has been with Wiley publishers, who are offering – as part of the new agreement – a capped number of publications without basic article processing charges. Only where the publication requires additional features such as complex graphics and images, will the author have to pay additional costs.

Authors are encouraged to speak to their respective principal librarian or Jillian Clark to determine possibilities of publishing open access without paying article processing charges.

Another component of this agreement is author development. In 2023, Wiley will work with SANLiC to launch an Author Engagement Programme aimed at bringing greater equity and inclusion for South African researchers. Focusing on providing researchers with the skills and knowledge to succeed in publishing their work and enhancing their presence in the international research community, the programme will be designed to meet the needs of researchers in South Africa.

The UCT research community will be interested to know about five other current “read and publish” agreement opportunities available to us. These include agreements with the Association for Computing Machinery, Cambridge University Press, Emerald, Sage Publishing and The Royal Society. Each of these provides the list of journals or resources available.

The library has prepared a guide on how to publish without APCs.

I hope you will all join me in applauding the UCT Libraries team and SANLiC for their efforts in creating an accessible publishing landscape for UCT researchers and in transitioning increasingly to open access publishing.

All the best!

Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation

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