There are many articles and reports that note the information needs of scholars in Africa. The issues are many-layered and complicated. Some of the issues concern: the institutional cost of subscribing to scientific journals (Nwagwu and Ahmed (2009), Suber and Arunachalam, 2006); the electrical and telecommunications infrastructure including computers and the quality and speed of the Internet access (Krubu and Osawaru (2011); Issa, et al. 2011); and the skills and ability of library staff to take advantage of the available resources (Lor and Britz, 2010). It is also known that situations are different depending upon geographic location within Africa. Researchers in some African countries may have an easier time finding and using scholarly resources than those who live in less developed parts of Africa. (Gyamfi, 2005).
Because some researchers in Africa may have a hard time accessing the scientific scholarly literature from subscription journals, the authors wanted to determine how much Open Access literature was used and cited in the field of corrosion chemistry. It was assumed that if an article was cited, then it must have been read and used at some point.
Overview of Open Access
There are several definitions of Open Access. It is the "free and immediate online access to peer-reviewed journal literature" (Crow, 2009, p. 2). In 2001, the Open Letter to Scientific Publishers signed by tens of thousands of scholars worldwide called for "... the establishment of an online public library that would provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse in medicine and the life sciences in a freely accessible, fully searchable, interlinked form." (Public Library of Science (PLoS)). Dr. Peter Suber, Senior Researcher at the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and historian and researcher of the OA Movement, refers to these documents collectively as the BBB definition. This includes statements made about OA from the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI, 2002), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (Suber, 2003), and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (Berlin Declaration, 2003).
Suber (2007) defined OA literature as digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. OA publishing is compatible with copyright, peer review, revenue (commercial for-profit), print, preservation, prestige, career-advancement, indexing services, and other features and supportive services associated with conventional scholarly literature.
There are two primary locations where researchers will find OA articles. (Suber, 2004) Open Access articles can be found in subject archives or institutional repositories, and this is called green OA. Open Access journals also provide readers with free direct access to articles from the publisher; this is called gold OA.
Use of Scientific Resources by Chemists and Engineers
It is known that scientists and engineers employ a variety of methods to find and read full texts of articles. Scientists and engineers may or may not rely on library subscriptions or personal journal subscriptions for their information needs. Researchers in engineering often use a network of colleagues for sources of information. (Tenopir and King, page 59 and 83) Chemists and scientists in general tend to read more journal articles as compared to engineers. (Tenopir and King, page 157)
Since Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown (2005) had found that chemists are reluctant to post article preprints or postprints to institutional or subject based repositories, the authors were not sure how many green OA articles would be found in the references of the 15 source articles. Swan and Brown also noted that "there have been instances of publishers refusing an article submitted by an author who has self-archived the preprint on the grounds of prior publication." The rejection rate was higher in chemistry, so chemists may be discouraged from posting their articles in subject or institutional repositories.
Use of Freely Available Scientific Resources in Africa
Dulle, Minish-Majanja, and Cloete (2010) found adoption rates of OA for scholarly communication in Tanzanian public universities. Their research demonstrated that more of the researchers simply accessed free online content (62%). This was three times more than those who also disseminated their scholarship through OA (20%). While the majority of researchers expressed an enthusiastic willingness to disseminate their content through OA outlets, some were not able to take advantage of those opportunities.
Bowdoin found that 2.8% of the use of DOAJ was from researchers in Africa, even though 15% of the world's population is in Africa. (Bowdoin, 2011) Limited access to computers and the Internet could be the main reason why they do not access the DOAJ much more.
Henneken, Kurtz, and Accomazzi (2011) noted that there is "a rapid increase in Internet user density" from users in Africa (not including South Africa) who use the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS). While this is not a database of Open Access articles, they demonstrate that researchers in Africa are increasing their use of this freely available scientific database.
At the 2012 SPARC Open Access Meeting, Stuart Shieber (2012) showed that many researchers from countries in Africa use the Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH) repository.
Some of the background evidence indicates that researchers in Africa use the Open Access literature because they may not have access to as many subscription journals. But, it is also known that chemists are hesitant to publish their papers in green OA repositories. With this background evidence, the authors wanted to get a sense of the amount and types of OA literature the corrosion chemists are citing, since that is an indication of information use.
The authors know that some countries in Africa...