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MCO - SARUA Leadership Dialogue on Open Access and African Research

Cape Town, South Africa - 3 May 2016

In Cape Town, South Africa on May 3rd Magna Charta Observatory and SARUA (Southern Africa Universities Association) co-hosted a Leadership Dialogue on Open Science and Values driving Research.

The event drew high-level participation from universities and higher education agencies.


Publishing scholarly results in international journals increasingly has become an issue in Southern Africa, partly because of rising cost, partly because of limited access and relevance. Although most Southern African universities are committed to contribute to local and regional development, many international publications do not reach audiences in their direct context. At the same time international publishers operate on global terms for a worldwide readership.


Magna Charta President Sijbolt Noorda talked on values driving research. Universities find themselves at a crossroads of many diverse stakeholders and interests. Usually this situation is superficially diagnosed as “complex” and the prescription given “be flexible and live with it”. He suggested a deeper diagnosis (“a crisis of values”) and a related prescription (“know which values you want to go by, what is driving the wheels of your research”). For universities committed to contribute to their direct context it is essential to make sure the shared values of the research community are reflecting this commitment. Communicating research outcome should accordingly be accessible to users and partners in this context. It is in fact platforms of open science that can invite and reach out to wide communities of users and participants, thereby clearly demonstrating a university’s mission towards its direct context.

At the same time assessment of researchers on the basis of their open science practices should replace the commercial values produced by “high-impact journals” by the positive values of a wide dissemination of and open access to individual contributions.


This analysis was widely supported by the audience and seen as a clear incentive to making open access to scholarly publications a reality in Southern Africa. At the event a call to concerted action to this effect was agreed upon. Good practices from Europe and Latin America were discussed and appreciated as a model to follow.