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South Africa’s draft open science policy promises shake-up


Proposal for all publicly funded research to be published open-access

All publicly-funded research conducted in South Africa will have to be published in open access journals under a draft national open science policy released this week.

The draft was published on 15 February by the Academy of Science of South Africa, ahead of a workshop to discuss it on 22 February. It was drawn up under the leadership of Ahmed Bawa, the chief executive of Universities South Africa.

The draft policy’s open-access mandate would apply to all “publicly funded research processes and outputs”, meaning all research backed by government funds. It would also cover all data acquired or generated by public funds.

Noting open access publishing as a global trend, the draft policy states: “It is essential that South Africa follows suit to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from all publicly funded research.”

It adds that the aim of the policy is to change scientific culture and practice to increase the reach of publicly-funded research and allow it to benefit more people.

Checks and balances

The draft policy suggests the establishment of a “national forum” to promote best practice in open science. Researchers will also be offered as-yet unspecified incentives to encourage them to publish in open-access journals.

The policy recommends that a national agency be established to curate publicly-funded research data. Also on the cards is a “federated open science infrastructure” which will make it easier for everyone to access research outputs.

The policy seeks to create a Centre for Citizen Science to provide funding for collaborations between researchers and the public, and to “embed open science in society”.

The Department of Science and Innovation should create a South African Open Science Observatory to monitor the move towards open science in the country, the policy adds.