This article is a follow up to the article “A Map to the Maze of Open-Access Publishing.” The articles help to set up the discussion for an event on open access at American University in Cairo, April 27-28, for which readers can sign up here.
Open access has special significance for those of us here in the Arab world.
We feel the argument for open-access publishing stems from both an orientation towards the public good and an objection to injustice. We hope that researchers’ main aim in conducting research is to benefit others and so they should want to reach as wide an audience as possible when publishing. Second, there is an extreme injustice in the financial model of academic publishing—for electronic versions of journal articles, at least. As Curtis Rice correctly points out in “Open Access Will Make Research Better,” publishers get the money from subscription-based journals, but the publishers pay nothing to the authors of those articles or the peer reviewers who ensure their quality—the people at the heart of academic publishing.
Why should Arab researchers (or any researcher, really) care?
1. Open Access means reaching a wider audience: Research becomes easier to find and more people can access, read and cite your work. Critics of open access sometimes cast doubt on the link between it and citation, but many studies have confirmed that open access does increase visibility and may increase citation counts. Open access will not necessarily result in wider readership if your readers recognize a low-quality open access journal, so choose journals wisely. Open Access has revolutionized the way in which research is being conducted in some disciplines. One open access repository— ArXiv—is now at the heart of research in physics. In some fields, there may be a need to embargo some details of research to ensure getting a patent, and for those fields, maybe a “green” route (previously described in the earlier article) is more appropriate. Academic and public libraries in Europe and the United States have funds to subscribe to packages of expensive journals and databases. Although some providers offer preferential agreements for libraries in less wealthy countries, libraries in the Middle East may still not have access to the same range of journals.
As a result, work by Arab researchers may not be visible to their immediate colleagues and peers in their own country and in the region. Open-access publishing and archiving research in a public manner can help solve these problems.
2. Some open-access journals (particularly in the field of educational technology) do not require authors to pay for publication. Other journals do. Paying for research to be published can be tricky. It automatically privileges authors who have money or who work at well-funded institutions and disadvantages younger scholars and those affiliated with poorer institutions. And those scholars were already at a disadvantage in getting any important research done—reproducing a cycle of disadvantage.
3. Maintaining digital repositories is a route institutions could explore, if they have not done so already. This would allow its members to publish in a range of journals (including closed-access), while retaining the option to make their work public when the exclusivity restrictions of the journal they publish in expire. Note, however, that this requires authors to be aware of the restrictions that the publishing contract imposes and to take an active role in managing their rights as an author.
4. Rather than depend on publishers in Europe and the United States, some institutions in the Arab region have created their own open-access journals, either locally, or in cooperation with universities abroad (such as EJARS). Indeed, there are some sophisticated open-source tools available that enable institutions to set up and run their own journals professionally. The most widely-used tool is OJS, which is being used at several Egyptian universities (see example).
5. The move to self-publishing immediately raises the question of quality. For Arabic-language publications, we should be asking ourselves whether we want to create more open-access versions, and how we plan to maintain quality if we do. Peer review is important a central issue here and my way of contributing to improved quality in open access publishing is to accept peer review requests from good quality, credible, open access journals as much as I possibly can.
6. There is also a need for institutional support at the policy level. Many institutions in Europe and the United States that provide funding for research require that the research results be published in an open-access manner. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, have even required the provision of open access to all government-funded research. I am unsure of the status of such funding and of open-access mandates in our region.
If you really want to delve into the (often controversial, and polemic) debates on Open Access, Peter Suber’s page is a good starting point.
To find a listing (and search) open access journals in all fields, visit DOAJ ( Directory of Open Access Journals), which you can also search by country.
The Directory of Open Access Repositories— OpenDOAR— lists several digital repositories in Egypt such as AUC’s DAR .
Click here for help finding Open Educational Resources.
Links to Arab Open-Access Programs
All 237 academic journals in Iraqi Academic Scientific Journals are peer-reviewed and open access.
The Directory of Open Access Repositories – OpenDOAR – lists several digital repositories in Egypt such as American University in Cairo’s DAR.
Individual, locally hosted open-access journals:
International Arab Journal of e-Technology (Arab Open University)
International Arab Journal of Information Technology(Zarqa University, Jordan)