A digital archive (repository) for pre-print publication in African studies
With AfricArXiv, African Studies researchers have access to a new online repository that serves as a digital archive for research papers and documents. Authors can present their research results to a broader public even before their print publication is released in order to discuss their findings with fellow specialists at an early stage.
The idea for AfricArXiv was only born in April 2018, initiated by participants of the open science summit in Kumasi, Ghana (Mallapaty 2018). Since June 2018, researchers now may upload their documents to AfricArXiv’s digital archive.
AfricArXiv addresses African scholars based on the African continent or elsewhere but also all other scholars whose research is of interest for African studies. Joint authorship with African colleagues is expressly welcomed (Submission Guidelines).
Why should researchers pre-publish their findings?
Pre-releases can have a number of advantages for scholars:
Authors can improve their articles by sharing with the community for feedback prior to publication. Also, post-publication, sharing manuscript versions of articles facilitates discovery and accessibility of research. With publication styles taking months to years, sharing preprints dramatically accelerates communication of the latest scholarly outputs.
(Brian Nosek, Center for Open Science, p. 17)
For researchers from the African continent, online preprints and manuscript publications of their work are also particularly important in overcoming global inequalities in terms of visibility and citability. It remains to be seen, however, whether preprint-formats generally will gain a similar scientific reputation as publications with publishers houses.
How does AfricArXiv work?
Interested scholars can assign the documents they post to the digital archive to one of the following categories: architecture, arts and humanities, business, education, engineering, law, life sciences, medicine and health sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, or social and behavioral sciences. AfricArXiv accepts papers, research articles, case studies, dataset description papers, as well as translations of documents from other languages (for which, of course, the author’s permission has to be obtained).
A special feature of AfricArXiv is the possibility to submit papers not only in English or French but also in African languages used by the scholarly community, such as Swahili, Zulu, Afrikaans, Igbo, or Akan. Manuscripts written in languages other than English or French are put on hold by the moderators until their content can be verified. Authors are advised to nominate colleagues who are fluent in the respective language and can attest to the content of the paper. In addition, all documents should be provided with a brief summary in English and French to facilitate exchanges between English-speaking and French-speaking professionals (see Submission Guidelines).
Those who would like to read papers written by other authors can find these in the digital archive of AfricArXiv. As the archiving project is still in its beginnings it depends on receiving as many submissions as possible from scholars and scientists to its collection.
Preprint and manuscript publications at AfricArXiv
By archiving preprint documents, AfricArXiv does not aim at replacing but supplementing conventional publications. The operators of the site therefore moderate the submissions, but do not conduct peer review processes.
Postprint documents, i.e. manuscripts that have already passed peer review and been accepted by a publisher for publication, also are welcome at AfricArXiv. If you are not sure whether the publisher, with whom you intend to publish or have already published with, allows self-publication on the internet, you can check on the website of the association SHERPA (SHERPA/RoMEO). Depending on the specific legal situation, you may even be allowed a secondary publication if the publisher does not provide for it (yet): a new legislation in Germany, the UrhWissG [link in German], which has been in effect since March 2018, makes provisions that allow self-archiving beyond the terms of the publisher in certain circumstances.
Who operates AfricArXiv?
AfricArXiv is supervised by a steering committee consisting of academic representatives from Bénin, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, the USA, the UK, Sweden and Germany (see committee members):
Website: https://osf.io/preprints/africarxiv. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Who hosts AfricArXiv?
The Center for Open Science (COS) was founded in 2013 and is based in Charlottesville, VA, USA. The COS describes itself as a “non-profit technology startup”, “with a mission to increase openness, integrity, and reproducibility of scientific research” (COS News, 25 June, 2018). Specifically, it has set itself the goal of creating communities of open source users, as well as conducting meta-science research and developing open source software tools. For users, the use of these software tools is free. In the longer term, however, also future financial participation by academic communities using these services is considered a way of financing the project (Nosek, COS Strategic Plan 2017-18, p. 24). So far, the financing of the COS largely is secured by sponsors and partners. Largest sponsor is the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Next to several other public and private foundations, also the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which develops US national security technologies, is a major sponsor of the Center for Open Science.
In September 2016, the Center for Open Science launched its project for a network of publicly available, web-based repositories (latin repositorium, “deposit”) of various academic subjects, where authors can present their research findings to a broader public before publishing them. Several pre-publication repositories are already represented in this network (OSF Preprints: The Open Preprint Repository Network), for example Arabixiv for the Arabic-speaking professional community, and SocArXiv, an open archive for the social sciences. In June 2018, AfricArXiv has joined this network.