When I set out to explore the policyframework for scholarly publishing in South Africa, I did so with aburning question that I have carried over from my publishing career.Given the scenario that I sketched in my last posting, in whichAfrican voices are largely silenced by the conventions of globalscholarly publication, what I would be looking for would be nationalpolicies that would grow the output and effective dissemination ofAfrican research in and from Africa, for African development, in themost appropriate media and formats. A publisher's approach would beto look at the goals articulated in national higher education andresearch policy and then ask whether policy for researchdissemination is encouraging publications that support those goals.
What I found was that there is strangeclash of paradigms within the different policy documents and, morestarkly, between the policies of different government departments.Before I get too critical of these illogicalities, I need to stressthat South African policy is not unusual in this regard. Worldwide,discussion of research dissemination is a blind spot. As the authorsof an Australiangovernment report on research communication costs put it:'despite billions of dollars being spent by governments on R&Devery year, relatively little policy attention has yet been paid tothe dissemination of the results of that research through scientificand scholarly publishing'.
Effective dissemination of highereducation research and the availability of that research knowledge tothe country that funds it - particularly in Africa - can be quiteliterally of life and death importance. Just think of the need forrapid responses to the AIDS pandemic, continually informed by thelatest research findings. Yet when the question of publication andeffective dissemination arises in the policy documents, it tends tobe in terms of a generally unchallenged set of presumptions aboutwhat constitutes effective research dissemination - articles inaccredited scholarly journals and registered patents. And, whileuniversities might spend large sums of money registering patents,there is a tacit assumption that publication is not something thatuniversities pay for. This is, in part, what JosephJ Esposito in a recent article on university presses in LOGOSand the Journal ofElectronic Publishing calls ' the free rider syndrome. Auniversity must provide for students and faculty and will activelyencourage faculty to publish, but a press can be stinted becausebecause it is always possible that a particular book will bepublished somewhere else.'
The major policy framework for highereducation research in South Africa is the research and innovationpolicy developed by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).Starting with a backgroundreport commissioned from the IDRC in 1995, the departmentconsolidated these findings in a WhitePaper on Science and Technology in 1996 and then updated this inSouthAfrica's Research and Development Strategy in 2002. To summarisesomewhat brutally; the common theme across these policies is thatSouth African research must address national development needs andcontribute to employment and economic growth. The emphasis is on thevalue of collaborative and inter-disciplinary research in arapidly-changing technological environment. While attention is paidto the need to build the international reputation of South Africanresearch, this is balanced out by a developmental focus that insistson a responsiveness to national need(More)