Committee on Scholarly Publishing in South Africa Meeting Minutes (Summary)

Date: 18th March 2018
Venue: Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) offices, Baobab boardroom, Pretoria
Time: 10:00 – 15:00


Committee members in attendance:
Dr John Butler-Adam; Prof Robin Crewe (Chairperson); Prof Tania Douglas; Prof Wian Erlank; Prof Wieland Gevers; Dr Leti Kleyn; Mrs Veronica Klipp; Prof Andries van Aarde.

ASSAf secretariat: Linda Fick; Mmaphuthi Mashiachidi; Tsepo Majake; Ina Smith; Desré Stead; Louise van Heerden; Susan Veldsman.

Apologies: Prof Voster Muchenje

1. Matters arising from previous minutes

1.1 Scholarly Publishing Unit (SPU) Funding

The Scholarly Publishing Unit held the books and conference proceedings evaluations in 2014 and 2015. The DHET notified ASSAf in writing that they did not have funds for 2016 and beyond and that they would be conducting the evaluations themselves. Other programmes within ASSAf managed to generate some funds in terms of contract research and that allowed ASSAf to reprioritise its funds so that a large portion of the main stream of funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) was allocated to SPU.

1.2 National Site License

ASSAf was requested by the DHET to conduct an investigation on the possibility for South Africa to have a National Site Licensing initiative, meaning that central licences are negotiated for all universities, and for research councils and researchers.
ASSAf made a presentation to Universities South Africa (USAF) whereby the risk group chairperson requested ASSAf to come up with a business case. Another presentation was made to the DST which the executive management accepted. The Minister also endorsed the business case. The letter will be sent to the new DHET Minister Naledi Pandor for endorsement because she is well aware of the work already done and its background.

1.3 Investigations into publishers not based in South Africa: study

Background: The matter was raised in the Humanities peer review group where it was found that a large number of the Humanities journals were published by international publishers and were not listed on Web of Science. The DHET policy provides that if the seat of the publisher is outside the country then that particular journal should not be recommended for accreditation. As a result, some journals had not been recommended.

A visiting scholar was appointed by CREST to undertake the study and to make recommendations to ASSAf with a view to inform the DHET’s policy development. This study was eventually put in abeyance in favour of the broader study.

1.4 SPP publication

A task team including some members of the CSPiSA and SPU staff have drafted a ‘Second ASSAf Report on Scholarly Publishing in and from South Africa’ which spans twelve years (from previous SPP publication published in 2006) of research publishing in South Africa. The publication incorporates the commissioned study undertaken by CREST which focused on the last ten years of journals, books and conference proceedings publishing in South Africa, looking at the effect the policy has had on scientific publishing in South Africa. The draft report will be sent to the Committee and the final document will be sent to the ASSAf Council for approval, after which it will be published online in May.

2. Report back on SPU Activities

a. Discipline-grouped Journal Peer Reviews

The report on Architecture, Built Environment and Engineering has been published and is being disseminated to all stakeholders. The two groups, Communication and Information Science, and Humanities II: Visual and Performing Arts, are coming to a close and the reports are due to be published in May and June.

Currently there are three groups that are under review, namely: Education; History, Philosophy and Politics; and, Maths and Science. One report of these three groups must be published by March 2019. There are two groups remaining: Economics and Business Management (26 journals) and ‘Other Disciplines’ group (48 journals). These two groups must be set up before the end of March 2019.

b. SAJS and ASSAf hosted journals

The print version of SAJS was discontinued in 2016 and since then the focus has changed to creating an advanced digital version of the journal. Article-level metrics were introduced on the website as well as citation export and social share buttons to give the journal an enhanced online presence. SAJS was re-indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and also received the DOAJ seal. CrossMark was also introduced (digital tool for linking corrections to articles to help identify updates). The SAJS changed its policy to allow submission of preprints which were previously excluded. At the end of 2017 the SAJS migrated to Open Journal Systems (OJS) and a new website was created. Recently, a call was sent out for a mentoring opportunity for early career researchers to gain experience working with an Associate Editor of SAJS.

There are now six journals hosted by ASSAf on OJS. The five journals hosted on OJS by ASSAf as a pilot project were upgraded to a new version which has a more user-friendly interface and article-level metrics in the form of views and downloads. ASSAf has a new relationship with the Journal of Energy in Southern Africa (JESA) which is funded by the DST.

c. Open Science Programme (AOSP)

The African Open Science Programme (AOSP) is sponsored by DST and managed by ASSAf. ASSAf manages this project with direction from CODATA and ICSU (International Council for Science). AOSP tries to understand what is happening on the African continent in terms of Open Science policy, infrastructure, skills and incentives. The focus is specifically on data and the sharing of data. AOSP is in the process of developing an expert database across the disciplines. Other deliverables include frameworks and roadmaps to guide African countries on Open Science initiatives.

d. SciELO SA

The SciELO SA project has been running for nine years and is now automatically an accredited index. This year is the 20th anniversary of SciELO and there will be five-day event in Brazil including an international conference with the theme ‘Moving towards Open Science communication’.
The SciELO SA annual meeting will be held this year.

e. ASSAf Institutional Repository

So far, more than 70 ASSAf publications have been added to the ASSAf Institutional Repository.
There are fewer printed publications, everything is now available online, and usage can be monitored.


The annual meeting will be hosted this year.
The Code of Best Practice was revised because the previous one was published in 2008 and many things have changed in the journal publishing environment. The new Code will be a searchable electronic document with links to resources. The document was approved by the Committee and will now be sent to the ASSAf Council for approval.


The document on Best Practice for Peer Review of Scholarly books was approved by the CSPiSA and ASSAf Council and was sent out to all stakeholders in the publishing sector. It was also endorsed by all the major publishers on the book publishers’ forum.

h. Quest

Quest is a quarterly themed publication. In 2016, 13 000 copies were printed (scaled down from 25 000 copies because of budgetary challenges). The magazine is distributed to schools in all nine provinces, to public libraries, government departments and science centres. The set-up of the magazine is such that there are four cover stories, four features, three articles and three regulars. The cover stories and the features will be in line with the theme that is chosen for that term.

3. Collaborative research

The panel conducted research on international practices for ‘Incentivisation of collaborative research’ and conducted a study on what collaborations are taking place in South Africa and where, with whom and why. Recommendations will be discussed at the next meeting. The report will be peer reviewed, and the CSPiSA will endorse it before it can be approved by the ASSAf Council.

4. CSPiSA membership

Four Committee members who need to rotate as members: Dr Leti Kleyn who is now an ASSAf employee, Gert Kruger who is no longer a journal editor and NSEF representative, Daisy Selematsela and Nthabiseng Taole who were both NRF representatives and are no longer at the NRF. There must be nominations from the NSEF, NRF, CHE, USAf and the National Ethics Committee.

5. Confirmation of date of next meeting
The next Committee meeting will be before March 2019.

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