Grace Mutsvunguma, Zanele Hadebe
Universities worldwide are investing in open access publishing by submitting scholarly communication that has been produced by their university communities into institutional repositories (IR). Open Access Institutional Repositories (OAIR) have removed barriers to accessing important research which was previously inaccessible, mainly due to high subscription costs demanded by publishers and the unavailability of affordable publishing platforms. Through institutional repositories, universities are now able to offer free online access to theses and dissertations, journal articles, books and book chapters, conference and workshop papers, unpublished reports and working papers, bibliographic references, multi-media and audio-visual materials, patents, datasets and other learning objects. IRs have been very remarkable in developed countries while Africa and the rest of the developing nations are struggling to set-up viable IRs with diversified content types. Predominantly, universities in South Africa have articles, theses and dissertations published on their IRs. The complexity of the situation is that developing nations, including South Africa, which, for a long time, have been struggling to access research scholarship, seem to be failing to embrace open access irrespective of the benefits it has presented. At University of Zululand, only theses and dissertations have been loaded on the IR. However, open access has been an important discussion topic within the institution lately, following the mandate to submit NRF funded research work on the university’s IR. As an institution that continues to benefit from NRF funding, compliance to the mandate is a prerequisite. A preliminary analysis to assess academics’ perceptions on open access publishing was conducted at UNIZULU with the viewpoint that informed decisions can be taken for a smoother rollout. Participants of this study were academics who had either supervised Masters/PhD students or published research articles. These were identified through the research office. Academics are the main users of the IR in terms of its development (loading or making research available for loading on the IR). The study sought to investigate academics’ awareness and acceptance of open access. The study also sought academics’ opinion on the usefulness of making research papers available on open access and whether they perceive it as an easy task; their attitude towards accessing and disseminating scholarly information using the IR; and what challenges they foresee as academics in submitting their research articles to the university’s IR. Questionnaires were hand-delivered and collected to increase the response rate by the researchers who are employees of the institution. The results presented an array of insights on open access, with a majority of the academics showing an appreciation of open access publishing.