Open access and its potential impact on public health – A South African perspective

Authors : Adéle Strydom, Juanita Mellet, Jeanne Van Rensburg, Ignatius Viljoen, Anastasios Athanasiadis, Michael S. Pepper

Traditionally, access to research information has been restricted through journal subscriptions. This means that research entities and individuals who were unable to afford subscription costs did not have access to journal articles. There has however been a progressive shift toward electronic access to journal publications and subsequently growth in the number of journals available globally.

In the context of electronic journals, both open access and restricted access options exist. While the latter option is comparable to traditional, subscription-based paper journals, open access journal publications follow an “open science” publishing model allowing scholarly communications and outputs to be publicly available online at no cost to the reader.

However, for readers to enjoy open access, publication costs are shifted elsewhere, typically onto academic institutions and authors. SARS-CoV-2, and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the benefits of open science through accelerated research and unprecedented levels of collaboration and data sharing. South Africa is one of the leading open access countries on the African continent.

This paper focuses on open access in the South African higher education research context with an emphasis on our Institution and our own experiences. It also addresses the financial implications of open access and provides possible solutions for reducing the cost of publication for researchers and their institutions.

Privacy in open access and the role of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) in medical research and secondary use of data in South Africa will also be discussed.

URL : Open access and its potential impact on public health – A South African perspective