One of the cornerstones of universities, differentiating them from other levels of education institutions, is the focus on research-based teaching. Research-based teaching necessitates teachers being able to access, and contribute to, the scholarly research literature in a given subject. Though there is large heterogeneity among countries in the Global South, there have been some common key tensions in creating an equitable environment for access and participation in global research. One key barrier is language, where English has become established as the default language for global scholarly publishing, adding a threshold for academics in non-English speaking countries to participate. Another key barrier relates to business models of international journal publishing that create financial thresholds for participation, both through subscription-fees or article processing charges (APCs) for publishing in open access (OA) journals.
In the Global North scholarly publishing has grown and been shaped over centuries together with the gradual establishment and expansion of university education and research in the surrounding societies. How this relationship has developed around the world differs, as many countries and regions have been struggling with poverty, political unrest, and even war that has slowed down or hindered the capability to develop a strong local HEI sector. There is a lack of knowledge on how countries that have more recently been building or rebuilding higher education and research sectors are interfacing with scholarly journal publishing. OA has become a central concept to scholarly publishing and offers many new ways that individuals and institutions can interact with a global audience, but at the same time there is concern that some of the ways that OA is funded creates new barriers to equal participation (e.g. Gray, 2020; Raju & Claassen, 2022; Siler et al., 2018).
Raju et al. (2020, p. 55) state that “[…] open access is viewed as a means for social justice because it gives opportunities to everybody to acquire knowledge through growing opportunities for equal access to information”. The authors combine the concept of social justice through OA with Ubuntu, which is a South African ethical rule focused on the loyalty of people and the relationships between them, talking about OA as a form of improve this process. The authors argue that the OA movement must recapture its social justice and inclusivity imperatives in support of the equitable dissemination of Global South scholarship, including African scholarship.
In this study we investigate how and to what degree HEIs in Angola have come to interact with the concept of OA to journal publications through their policies and practices. The country has been strengthening its HEI sector since the end of the civil war in 2002 and as such provides a unique opportunity to study what role OA has for local institutions as well as on the aggregate national level.
In the next section we will briefly review key research and developments concerning Africa in the relation to scholarly journal publishing and OA, going from a broad continental context towards the more specific of sub-Saharan Africa, and at towards the end focusing only on Angola. The section that follows provides a brief historical and current review of higher education in Angola, ending with a listing of the key research questions guiding the study documented in this paper. This next section presents the methods used in the investigation, outlining the design of the institutional survey and its data collection approach. This is followed by a results section, and a discussion section where the findings are reflected against existing research on the topic. Finally, the paper ends with a brief statement of conclusions concerning the main takeaways of the study.
Open access development in Africa
OA offers African scholarship unprecedented opportunities to reach previously inaccessible audiences—nationally, regionally, and internationally. Thus, failing to embrace OA would mean missing a great opportunity to improve the dissemination, visibility, and impact of research findings from the African continent (Hervé & Nkoudou, 2020, p. 35).
According to Raju et al. (2020, p. 54) colonialization, post-colonial inequality and deprivation in Africa has “[…] relegated Africa to the periphery of the world’s knowledge production”. Africa has been building up capacity for more intensive engagement in research, with varying degrees of intensity between the countries. A recent investigation found that there has been an 700% increase in peer-reviewed publications by Africa-based researchers over the past 20 years when looking at the research field of education, and this is only considering what is indexed in the Scopus database (NORRAG, 2017). That investigation as well as other outputs from the NORRAG project also shed light on the diversity in academic development levels between African countries. A common distinction in the literature is consideration for sub-Saharan Africa a separate entity, but even so there are large discrepancies between the many countries included in the sub-Saharan region. For example, South Africa is considerably more advanced than Angola, as is also Namibia which is Angola's nearest neighbor.
However, the continental context should also not be neglected since there are many initiatives that span multiple African countries, such as African Union and their Agenda 2063 that has set a common aspiration where “Well educated and skilled citizens, underpinned by science, technology and innovation for a knowledge society is the norm […]” (African Union, 2015, p. 2). One of the most notable achievements for disseminating journals published in Africa to the world is African Journals OnLine (AJOL), which is a journal portal that has been running since 1998 and was in June 2021 hosting 527 journals of which 270 were OA (ajol.info, n.d). Such regional portals that provide a common technical infrastructure for multiple journals have been and continue to be a key infrastructure for enabling OA publishing globally (Björk, 2017). There are plans to develop Open Science practices more broadly in Africa as well through the “African Open Science Platform” which could be also be used for purposes of scholarly publishing (Soodyall & Smith, 2019). The platform aims to link researchers, innovators, and funders with the goal to scale up their work. Among the projects eight priorities, one concerns improving knowledge production, and another intra-African research collaboration (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2019). In this sense, is clear the advances of African countries trying to be engaged with OA procedures that have been adopted in other continents, but it is important to remark the slow way they had been done because they need to develop infrastructure and related services, and they need resources and commitment to succeed. This is a long-term engagement that has only just started, and every African country must face it in their own way under their own circumstances.
Since economic circumstances for academic institutions vary greatly across the globe there are several initiatives that focus on facilitating access to subscription-based journal content at low or no cost to the eligible institutions. Research4Life, which has been running since 2002, manages five different programs that collectively provide access to the tens of thousands of subscription-based journals for local non-profit institutions in low-and middle-income countries. Angola and most Sub-Saharan countries, excluding South Africa, are eligible to get free access (research4life.org, n.d.). In addition to such access being valuable for supporting teaching at institutions, research has shown that access provided through such programs to developing countries has an impact in facilitating published research conducted in the region (Mueller-Langer et al., 2020). However, barriers for interacting with the global scholarly literature are not only related to costs and subscriptions, but poor access to the internet, frequent blackouts, poor information technology infrastructure, and lack of skills (Raju et al., 2020).
It is over ten years since Rotich (2011) called out for increased African involvement in scholarly publishing, involvement that would reach outside of regional audiences through the help of OA, either by journals publications or development of institutional repositories (IR). Hervé and Nkoudou (2020) argue that since the formal beginning of the broader movement towards OA, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in 2002, African countries have persistently been reliant on western initiatives to achieve progress. Hervé and Nkoudou (2020) describe how African researchers do not have the same possibilities to self-archive and contribute themselves to the circulation of their work even through green OA, exposing a difficulty for the adoption of OA in African universities. In the same way, the authors state that “[…] the fact that African policy makers do not always prioritize research funding in their countries makes them dependent on the scientific agendas of donors, most of whom are from the North.” (Hervé & Nkoudou, 2020, p. 32).
Ezema and Onyancha (2017) provide an overview of IRs on the African continent. The overview based on data from 2014 showed that Africa represented 3.4% (136) of the 4055 repositories in the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), where over 60% of the African repositories were based in South Africa, Egypt, or Nigeria with no repositories in Angola. The situation is similar in 2021 where 3.9% (179 of 4598) of ROAR-registered repositories were in Africa, with none in Angola. Kakai et al. (2018) investigated the use of IRs for East African counties in particular (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda). The study found that 40 out of 145 universities had an IR, and that most repositories held less than 1000 items each. The authors proposed that one explanation for the low use being lacking researcher awareness, and the lack of mandates supporting more strict use of them.
At the start of 2021 there were 194 active African OA journals included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), publishing a total of 7897 articles in 2020. In terms of global shares in the DOAJ this is 1.4% of journals (14,175 active journals total) and 0.75% of article output (1,061,256 articles total in 2020) (Crawford, 2021). Based on the study over half of all African journals are published by universities. The only three African countries with over ten journals were South Africa (109), Morocco (27), and Algeria (25). Three journals were based in Angola, all being free from APCs and publishing a total of 71 articles in 2020; SAPIENTIAE, Revista Órbita Pedagógica, and Revista Angolana de Ciências. All three journals publish in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. Two of the journals are within the broader research field of Social Sciences, and one is focused on Education and Pedagogy. Artigas and Gungula (2020) provide a closer inspection of the history and publication activities of SAPIENTIAE.
Chisita and Chiparausha (2019) conducted interviews with academic library staff and faculty members from universities in Zimbabwe in order to establish the current status and support for OA. In February 2019, 6 out of the 19 universities in Zimbabwe were found to have IRs. Only two universities had slightly over 1000 items in their IR, while the rest had considerably less. Most interviewed library representatives reported support for publishing in OA journals, however, stating that researchers still need support and resources to get rid of misconceptions regarding the quality of OA journals. One university had been tracking web access to repository items since 2015 and could observe the impact of OA through tens of thousands of accesses to items coming from users in the USA, China and South Africa. Technical challenges and preservation concerns were also raised by library representatives, but also that open-source software can mitigate some issues.
The topic of OA has recently been on the surface in Angola. During July and August 2020 Óscar Ribas University in Luanda, Angola in cooperation with UNESCO, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESCTI) in Angola, and Redalyc/AmeliCA of the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de México arranged a series of webinars on the role of OA and how journals can be created, potential platforms they can be managed on, indexed, and how to establish accreditation for national scientific journals. The webinars assessed capacity building needs in OA so that the Angolan representatives of scientific journals and technical-scientific book publishers can play an active role in publishing openly licensed research (unesco.org, 2020). Through this it can be perceived that there is interest by the government and the institutions for OA, but they are in the initial stages establishing OA as a reality in the country.
Higher education development in Angola
The status of higher education in Angola is deeply intertwined with the unique history of the country where in particular Portuguese occupation and the civil war have impacted the development. As such higher education in Angola is in a completely different position when compared with e.g. European countries where higher education has grown over centuries in tandem with a scholarly publishing system that has evolved together with the environment. This section can only provide a brief summary of the central events of relevance to Angolan higher education development, more extensive histories and reviews about it are provided by Kempner and Jurema (2012) and Almeida Patatas (2016) on which this section is also heavily based.
There was no higher education in Angola until the second half of the twentieth century, when the Catholic Church opened institutions in 1958, in Luanda and Huambo. Before that the main option for the population was to obtain higher education through Portugal. In 1962 the Estudos Gerais Universitários 44 (EGU) was created with the Ultramar Ministery and Education Ministery in charge. In Luanda there was an institution focusing on medical, science and engineering, one in Huambo which focused on agronomy and veterinary, and one in Lubango focusing on literature, geography, and pedagogy. The two first years of education were performed in Angola with the rest in Portugal, which made higher education inaccessible to large parts of the Angolan people (Almeida Patatas, 2016).
The EGU became the Universidade de Luanda in 1968, and in 1969 the University Hospital was opened. When the civil war broke out after the independency in 1975 many teachers left the country and the development of higher education in Angola came to a halt. The government put effort into maintaining some activity in higher education during the war, but the circumstances were challenging with destroyed infrastructure, low pedagogical and economic resources, and a fundamental lack of security on the streets (Almeida Patatas, 2016). Overall, the investment in scientific research was low prior to 1997, leading to a lacking link between teaching and research (Kempner & Jurema, 2012).
The end of the civil war in 2002 marked a significant change for the circumstances of higher education in Angola. Post-war there emerged a need to improve the level of education in the population to increase skill and salary levels in the population. In many countries the growth of an education system is a natural process that evolves incrementally over time and geography of a country, but in the case of Angola the starting point was almost a clean slate. The government designed initiatives to improve the quantity and quality of the education system as part of country reconstruction. The Universidade Agostinho Neto (UAN) was the only public university up until 2009, when a reorganization of the higher education network took place. New public institutions similar to the UAN were created in different regions of the country (Almeida Patatas, 2016; Kempner & Jurema, 2012). After 2002 higher education grew rapidly e.g. by UAN increasing student numbers from 9000 in 2002 to more than 60,000 spread across 18 campuses by 2010 (Langa, 2014). As the number of HEI institutions has continued to grow during the last ten years, some challenges have been identified which relate to e.g. student dropout rates, insufficient number of courses in popular subjects, exclusion of applicants with financial or mobility difficulties, and low number of researchers (Almeida Patatas, 2016).
Increased emphasis on developing the higher education sector in Angola is demonstrated in many documents published by the government in the last three years, e.g. the National Development Program (2018–2022) presents the national steps and policies to develop the country in all areas, and specific in higher education they point on “[…] improving the quality of Higher Education and development of Scientific Research and Technology”(authors’ translation) (Angola National Development Program, 2018). OA is not mentioned in this national plan but an emphasis on increased research is clearly communicated.
In 2018 there was a reform to the academic career rules in the MESCTI where university teachers were encouraged to also publish as researchers. This is related to the Presidential Decree of 201/11issued on July 20, 2011 (pnfq.gov.ao, 2011) which established the implementation of Science, Technology and Innovation indicators by MESCTI. These indicators were designed to monitor investments, scientific and technological production, and the integration of the results obtained in society. One of these indicators is the share of GDP dedicated to research, where the goal is to work towards 1% rather than the 2018 level of 0.07% (Agencia Angola Press, 2018). One of the ways productivity is measured is through the creation and maintenance of scientific journals with compliance with international standards (Legal Regime of Avaliação e Acreditação da Qualidade das Instituições de Ensino Superior, 2018).
In 2019 Artigas and Gungula (2020) reviewed the current status of private universities in Angola’s capital Luanda and journals that they publish through information available in the Angola Formative portal (angolaformativa.com, n.d.). 19 private universities were listed with 4 of them having webpages that were not accessible at the time of the study. Two of the universities published journals, Instituto Superior Politécnico Metropolitano de Angola (IMETRO) and Universidade Óscar Ribas (UÓR).
As of 2020 there is a total of 44 HEIs in the country listed on the website of the MESCTI. These institutions are the main focus of the study documented in this paper. The primary aim of this multi-institutional study is to set out to explore how and to what degree HEIs in Angola have come to interact with the concept of OA to journal publications through their policies and practices.
More specifically the research questions concerning Angolan HEIs this study is aims to respond to are:
What is the size of the researcher population at institutions?
What is the volume of research output in terms of journal articles?
What kind of preferences are there for publishing in different languages? What about international indexing of journals?
What kind of strategies, if any, are used by institutions to stimulate and encourage research productivity?
Has training and education concerning OA been arranged for faculty?
What is the level of presence of institutional OA policies? What has motivated their creation? What kind of recommendations or requirements do existing policies include?
Do institutions have or make use of an institutional repository for OA? Are faculty encouraged to make use of the repository?
Is the phenomena of predatory journals somehow acknowledged at an institutional level?
For countries where the background factors have more readily available existing data and research available asking such questions would likely not be needed, however, in the case of Angola it is relatively unexplored territory so some additional information is needed to better understand the role of OA in the overall research dissemination activities of Angolan HEIs.