Publishing Research Quarterly

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 227–246 | Cite as

Open Research Data in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Bibliometric Study Using the Data Citation Index

  • Omwoyo Bosire Onyancha


The purpose of the study was to explore the status of research data sharing among researchers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and internationally. Relevant data was extracted from the Data Citation Index (DCI) using an advanced search strategy, which was limited to the publication years between 2009 and 2014. Data was analysed to obtain the number of data records by country, institution, subject category, year of publication, and document type as well as the number of citations. A Spearman’s correlation analysis was conducted to gauge the relationship between the data records and research articles. Findings indicate that only 20 (out of 50) countries in sub-Saharan Africa produced at least one data record in the DCI, with South Africa leading the pack with 539 (61.39 %) records followed by Kenya, Cameroon and Ghana. SSA contributes a mere 0.03 % of the world’s research data as compared to 1.4 % of the world’s research articles. Research institutions and universities are the major contributors of research data, which largely focuses on Genetics and Heredity (61.3 %), Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (61.3 %), Agriculture (29.2 %) and Forestry (27.3 %). Citation-wise, the research data has attracted fewer average citations than the articles. A correlational analysis of the data reveals that there is a significant correlation between the publication of data and research articles.


Research Data Research Data Management Open Access Scholarly publishing Sub-Saharan Africa Electronic publishing 



A version of this paper was presented at the Fourth CODESRIA Conference on Electronic Publishing under the theme “The Open Access Movement and the Future of Africa’s Knowledge Economy”, Dakar, Senegal, 30 March–1 April 2016. The author further acknowledges the conference grant received from CODESRIA to attend and present the paper.


  1. 1.
    Agorist M. CDC scientist admits they destroyed data that showed vaccines caused autism in children. 2015. Accessed 06 Jan 2015.
  2. 2.
    Australian National Data Service. Data journals. 2013. Accessed 1 June 2015.
  3. 3.
    Australian National Data Service. Open data. 2013. Accessed 11 Sept 2015.
  4. 4.
    Belter C. Global-level data sets may be more highly cited than most journal articles. 2014. Accessed 9 June 2015.
  5. 5.
    Bishop D. Data sharing may lead to some embarrassment but will ultimately improve scientific transparency and accuracy. 2014. Accessed 9 June 2015.
  6. 6.
    Blom A, Lan G, Adil M. Sub-Saharan African science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research: a decade of development. Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank; 2016.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bornmann L. Do altmetrics point to the broader impact of research? An overview of benefits and disadvantages of altmetrics. J Inform. 2014;8(4):895–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Budapest Open Access Initiative. Read the Budapest Open Access Initiative. 2002. Accessed 10 Sept 2015.
  9. 9.
    Chilimo W. Bibliometric analysis of open access research publications. 2014. Paper presented at the 15th Department of Information Studies Conference, University of Zululand, South Africa, 3rd–5th September 2014. Accessed 12 Jan 2016.
  10. 10.
    Cohen L, Manion L, Morrison K. Research methods in education. New York: Routledge; 2013.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Corti L, Van den Eynden V, Bishop L, Woollard M. Managing and sharing research data: a guide to good practice. Los Angeles: Sage; 2014.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Crane D. Invisible colleges: diffusion of knowledge in scientific communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1972.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Diodato VP. Dictionary of Bibliometrics. New York: Haworth; 1994.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Directory of Open Access Journals. 2015. Accessed 11 Sept 2015.
  15. 15.
    Guston DH. Encyclopedia of nanoscience and society. Los Angeles: Sage; 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Harzing AW. Citation analysis across disciplines: the impact of different data sources and citation metrics. 2010. Accessed 18 June 2015.
  17. 17.
    Jacobs D. Growth and development of knowledge management research: A bibliometric study. In: Bothma TJD, Kaniki, A. 2004. ProLISSA 2004. Proceedings of the 3rd biennialDISSAnet Conference, Pretoria, 28–29 October 2004. Pretoria: Infuse: 211–220.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Krier L, Strasser CA. Data management for libraries: a LITA guide. Chicago: American Library Association; 2014.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Lortie C. The citation revolution will not be televised: the end of papers and the rise of data. 2014. Accessed 9 June 2015.
  20. 20.
    Luwel M. Is the science citation index US-biased? Scientometrics. 1999;46(3):549–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Narváez-Berthelemot N, Russell JM, Arvanitis R, Waast R, Gaillard J. Science in Africa: an overview of mainstream scientific output. Scientometrics. 2002;54(2):229–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    National Research Foundation (NRF). Statement on open access to research publications from National Research Foundation (NRF)-funded research. 2015. Accessed 16 Oct 2015.
  23. 23.
    Nelson B. Data sharing: empty archives. Nature. 2009;461:160–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Neuroth H, Strathmann S, Oswald A, Ludwig J. Digital curation of research data: experiences of a baseline study in Germany. Gottingen: Verlag Werner Hulsbusch; 2013.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Nwagwu WE. Cyberneting the academe: centralized scholarly ranking and visibility of scholars in the developing world. J Inf Sci. 2010;36(2):228–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Circular A-110: Uniform administrative requirements for grants and agreements with institutions of higher education, hospitals, and other non-profit organizations. 2013. 2 C.F.R. 215.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Onyancha OB. Authorship patterns of the literature on HIV/AIDS in Eastern and Southern Africa: an exposition of the responsible authors, institutions and countries, 1980–2005. S Afr J Libr Inf Sci. 2008;74(1):9–22.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Onyancha OB, Ngoepe M, Maluleka JR. Trends, patterns, challenges and types of archival research in sub-Saharan Africa. Afr J Arch Libr Inf Sci. 2015;25(2):145–59.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Onyancha OB, Ocholla DN. Country-wise collaborations in HIV/AIDS research in Kenya and South Africa, 1980–2005. LIBRI. 2007;57(4):239–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Open Data Handbook. 2015. Accessed 16 Dec 2015.
  31. 31.
  32. 32.
    Organisation for Economic Co-Operation Development. OECD principles and guidelines for access to research data from public funding. Massachusetts: OECD. 2007. Accessed 16 July 2015.
  33. 33.
    Piwowar H. Value all research products. Nature. 2013;493:159.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Pouris A. An assessment of the impact and visibility of South African journals. Scientometrics. 2005;62(2):213–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Pouris A, Richter L. Investigation into state-funded research journals in South Africa. S Afr J Sci. 2000;96:98–104.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Robinson N. The data citation index and datacite. 2014. Accessed 10 June 2015.
  37. 37.
    San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). Contestation of Impact Factor as a measure of journal quality. 2012. Accessed 23 July 2015.
  38. 38.
    Sooryamoorthy R. Collaboration and publication: how collaborative are scientists in South Africa? Scientometrics. 2009;80(2):419–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Suber P. Timeline of the opne access movement. 2009. Accessed 25 Sept 2015.
  40. 40.
    Swoger B. Thomson Reuters data citation index. Libr J. 2012;137(20):110.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Torres-Salinas D, Martin-Martin A, Fuente-Gutierrez E. Analysis of the coverage of the Data Citation Index—Thomson Reuters: Disciplines, document types, and repositories. Revista Española de DocumentaciónCientífica. 2014. 37(1): 1–6. Accessed 22 Dec 2015.
  42. 42.
    UNESCO Institute for Statistics. What do bibliometric indicators tell us about world scientific output? UIS Bull Sci Technol Stat. 2005;2:1–6.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Vetterli M. Open access, open data, open science. 2014. Accessed 12 Dec 2015.
  44. 44.
    Victoria University, Melbourne. Research data management: data deposit requirements of selected science journals. 2015. Accessed 7 Dec 2015.
  45. 45.
    Whyte A. Opportunities for ‘data intensive’ social research are growing but funding for data management remains a challenge. 2014. Accessed 9 June 2015.
  46. 46.
    Wicherts J. Data sharing not only helps facilitate the process of psychology research, it is also a reflection of rigour. 2013. Accessed 9 June 2015.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Information ScienceUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations