Author Archives: Desre Stead

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.

Webinar: Identifying questionable journals

How to identify questionable journals? (Friday 02 November, 11:00 – 12:00)

Presented by Tom Olijhoek, DOAJ

After the closure of Beall’s list, there are still many ways to identify journals that publish low quality research without meeting basic publishing standards.

Biography of presenter:

Tom Olijhoek – Editor-in-Chief
Tom has a PhD in molecular microbiology and has spent several years in Africa doing research on malaria, sleeping sickness and meningococcal epidemics. He has been actively advocating open access and open science since 2012 when he joined the Open Knowledge community. At around the same time he became a member of the DOAJ advisory board. His current research interests are development of quality systems for the assessment of scholarly journals and articles, and research in the area of soil microbiology in relation to soil health and human health.

Click on the link below to access the PowerPoint presentation of the webinar.

How can we identify questionable journals

Webinar: Open Peer Review

Friday, 24 November 2017, 10:00am

Summary of webinar

To address problems with the peer-review process, many journals have experimented with different types of peer-review models. Open peer review was adopted by several journals in order to encourage transparency in the process, and there are now a number of different ways in which this is implemented. This webinar will provide an overview of the different peer review processes which exist, and will demonstrate how the post-publication open-peer review model is implemented on articles published in F1000Research and associated platforms.

Sabina Alam is the Editorial Director of F1000 Platforms.  After completing a PhD in neuroimmunology from the University of Bath, and then a postdoctoral position in neuroscience at the School of Pharmacy in London, Sabina moved from research into scientific open access publishing in 2008.  After a few years as a staff editor handling the peer review process on a number of BMC series journals, she became the Chief Editor of the open-peer reviewed journal, BMC Medicine from 2011-2016. Sabina has been involved in various peer review initiatives, and is a member of COPE and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME).  Sabina joined F1000 Platforms in 2017 as Editorial Director where she oversees the editorial and publishing service for all submissions to the F1000 platforms, which all operate on a post-publication invited open-peer review model.

Click here to view the PowerPoint presentation: ASSAf webinar_Sabina Alam Open Peer Review Nov2017_

Unfortunately we experienced technical problems and could not record the webinar.

May 2017 Communiqué

Dear Journal Editors
In addition to the emails we regularly share via the NSEF mailing list, we also like to look back from time to time to reflect on progress made in all areas of the ASSAf Scholarly Publishing Programme. The Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal (PER/PELJ) was part of the ASSAf Open Journal Systems pilot project and in this communique Prof Christa Rautenbach, editor of the journal shares their experiences. This editorial team fully embraced the OJS technology and they have become expert users within only one year of using the software. The University of KwaZulu-Natal has invited ASSAf to present a training session during the upcoming week on using, managing and publishing high quality Open Access journals. View the list of SA institutions currently hosting journals using OJS.
We hope you will enjoy reading the items contributed to this newsletter, and any feedback is most welcome!

Kind regards
Susan Veldsman
Director: ASSAf Scholarly Publishing Programme

Contribution by Prof Christa Rautenbach
Milestones of the Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal / Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regstydskrif – from 1998 to date
The Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal/Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad (PER/PELJ) has been published by the Faculty of Law of the North-West University. The journal publishes contributions relevant to constitutionalism and legal development globally and has been regarded as a pioneer in peer–reviewed, open access, online publishing in South Africa since 1998.
From the outset PER was focused on maintaining high editorial standards and producing material for legal scholars. Double-blind peer review practices are maintained for all original articles. The most widely cited contribution to PER (on Ubuntu by Justice Yvonne Mokgoro) appeared in the first volume. Papers delivered by prominent scholars and judges (referred to as orationes) are often published in PER.
Since 2003, PER/PELJ has taken its place among a range of renowned internationally accredited journals, currently listed and indexed inter alia by IBSS, SciELO SA, DOAJ, SSRN, AJOL, Boloka, HeinOnline, and more recently Scopus.
In 2016, PER/PELJ migrated to an online journal system (OJS) hosted at Contributions accepted for publication are now published continuously as soon as the finally edited version becomes available. In 2016 the following publications ensued: 35 articles, four notes, 14 case notes, one oratio and one book review. 16 articles and 5 book reviews have been published thus far in 2017, whilst 73 contributions are in review and 13 others are being edited.
PER’s visibility on the WWW has grown tremendously over the last few years. The SSRN database reveals that PER had 21,144 downloads to date – see PER e-library stats

Google Scholar Profile indicates 1338 citations on 30 April 2017.

The Washington & Lee Law School Ranking System (accessible at ) for the period 2008-2015 reveals that PER ranks fourth out of sixteen South African law journals with an impact factor of 0.01, which is phenomenal considering that it is an open access, online journal. The results for 2016 are still outstanding.

PER has been accessed 499 129 times via SciELO SA and features in the top 10 used titles on SciELO SA – see below under the SciELO SA heading.
The editorial team consists of: Prof Christa Rautenbach (editor-in-chief), Klaus Beiter, Wian Erlank, Anel du Plessis, Sarel du Toit, Dr Anel Gildenhuys and Dr Oliver Fuo (associate editors). The team is assisted by very capable language, copy and layout editors, and recently obtained the assistance of an intern to assist with web related tasks. He is currently busy with the tedious task of uploading all previous editions of PER onto the OJS platform. The editorial board is made up of renowned South African and international legal scholars.
One of the challenges facing a publication with such a high publication rate is finding willing and capable reviewers. Therefore, the journal is very grateful to its loyal reviewers and we acknowledge the important role they have played in the tremendous growth of the journal since its establishment in 1998.

Contribution by Louise van Heerden
SciELO SA Quality Criteria
The bi-annual assessment of the SciELO SA collection by the SciELO Network took place at the end of March. The purpose of the assessment was to check that the collection adheres to all their stringent criteria, including checking whether all the journals are current / publishing according to the publication frequency they indicate on their web pages. A score of 89% was awarded to the collection – the highest score to date.

Collection Views
Since its inception in 2009 more than 6 million documents have been viewed via the SciELO SA website.

Journal Views
The top ten viewed journal titles from January 2009 to April 2017 were as follows:

Document Views
Top 10 average document views: When the total articles accessed is contextualised in terms of the amount of articles the journals have in the SciELO SA collection, then the order changes.
Calculation examples: South African Journal of Education has 422 documents in the SciELO SA collection. These documents have been viewed a total of 1 362 158 times. The average is 3228. The next highest is Kronos with 121 documents in the collection that have been viewed a total of 267 729 times. The average is 2213. Journals are welcome to contact Louise van Heerden ( ) for more details.

Summary of Views
The South African Journal of Education, Water SA and the South African Journal of Science feature in both pie charts.
Discipline-grouped Peer Review of South African Scholarly Journals
Contribution by Desré Stead
Peer Review Panel members have sent their input and comments on the Version 1 draft reports of each journal in the following disciplinary groups: Humanities II: Visual and Performing Arts group (10 journals), Communications, Information Science and Knowledge Systems group (14 journals), and Architecture and Engineering group (15 journals).

A panel meeting of the Architecture and Engineering disciplinary group took place on the 29th March 2017 in Johannesburg. The primary purpose of the meeting was for panel members to reach consensus decisions on each journal in respect of making recommendations for DHET accreditation and SciELO SA inclusion and to offer suggestions for improvement. The meeting was very productive and there is a clear way forward with this particular journal review. The panel is currently working on the Version 2 draft report.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, there has been a delay in setting up the Peer Review Panels for the following discipline groups: Education; Maths and Science; Politics, History and Philosophy.
Data Policy for your Journal
More and more there is a push towards making the underlying data, associated with a journal article, publicly available. Whether your journal requires data to be openly accessible or not, it is always good to be transparent and have a policy on issues concerning the journal governance. View the following data policy as an example: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
DHET Accreditation
All applications for DHET Accreditation are due by 15 June each year.

Web page: DHET List
Criteria: Click here (apply by 15 June each year)
Application form: Email
Contact Walter Ntuli:
The ASSAf Scholarly Publishing Program would like to welcome two new staff members – please click on the links provided to meet them! We are very grateful for the two additions to our team!

Sbonga Dlamini has been appointed as part of the NRF Internship Program, and was recently awarded an Honours degree in Information Science at the University of Zululand. Nozuko (Zukie) Hlwatika worked at ASSAf as a NRF Intern during the past year. Thereafter she was appointed as Programme Administrator for the African Open Science Platform project.

We are also looking forward to welcoming Mmaphuthi Mashiachidi back to work on 14 June 2017.
Congratulations to Mmaphuthi with the new addition to the family, and we wish you, your family and your new baby girl much happiness, health and grace.