OpenUCT guides: Introductory resources on scholarly communication
Academics all over the world face new challenges in terms of professionalizing their scholarly communication activity. Researchers and educators are increasingly required to adopt a strategic approach towards communications activity and promote the visibility of their work in order to encourage citation, foster collaboration, contribute towards development, demonstrate responsible scholarly conduct, attract students, and obtain funding in a highly competitive grant-funding environment.
This challenge is particularly acute for academics on the African continent who typically publish less prolifically than their Northern counterparts and do not have access to the same level of content-sharing infrastructure and support services. Open Access mandates enacted at regional and national level in the global North, combined with the imperative for developing-country scholars to address real-world issues in their work, intensifies the imperative for local scholars to take conscious steps in drawing more attention to their outputs and to present them in a way that facilitates engagement and re-use.
The OpenUCT Initiative was a three-year (2011–2014) research and implementation project at the University of Cape Town (UCT) aimed at supporting local scholars in the utilization of innovative scholarly communication approaches. Within this context, content curation and communication activities formed a central focus. Partnering with institutional support structures such as UCT Libraries, the Research Office, and Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS), the Initiative worked with individual academics as well as research units and academic departments to promote scholarly communication activity. The Initiative also undertook numerous training and advocacy activities beyond the institution in broader academic forums.
Funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Initiative built upon the work of a number of “open-focused” research and implementation initiatives that have taken place in UCT’s Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) since the early 2000s. The association resulted in a strong focus in both open education and open research activities, as is evident in the OpenUCT repository, a principal output of the Initiative now owned and managed by UCT Libraries. It also contributed to the innovative approach towards open education demonstrated in UCT’s Open Access Policy, to which the OpenUCT Initiative was a significant contributing partner.
One of the sub-projects of the OpenUCT Initiative was the Discoverability of African Scholarship Online (DASO) project, aimed at collaboration with African network partners to promote the discoverability of locally produced scholarship. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, this project aimed to excite participants around the importance and affordances of engaging with online visibility, provide specialist expertise, and introduce participants to the wide range of free online tools and databases that can be employed in boosting online visibility.
The work of the OpenUCT Initiative, and the DASO project in particular, is captured in new series of guides aimed at introducing academics to four key areas of scholarly communication activity:
- Measuring impact: A five-step guide for scholarly units
- Open content licensing: A three-step guide for academics
- Academics’ online presence: A four-step guide to taking control of your visibility
- Curation for participation: An eight-step guide to curating open scholarly content
Accessible and easy to use, it is hoped that these guides will provide a useful resource to those academics and institutional departments who wish to start engaging with these pillars of scholarly communication activity. While generated within the UCT context, the information contained therein is applicable to scholars anywhere in the world and can be adapted for local context. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licenses the work is free for re-use and appropriation.