NAI books on the internet

We are now publishing our Africa Now book series on the internet for anyone to download and read. This will allow our researchers to reach new readers and to be more frequently cited in other academic works.

Africa Now is a series of books in which researchers from the Nordic Africa Institute present their findings on a wide range of subjects. We publish them in cooperation with Zed Books, a well-known London-based publisher with established distribution channels in Africa. Since 2010, we’ve co-published 14 Africa Now books, which have had a strong impact in the academic world. Of these, 11 are currently available online. Books in the series are frequently cited as sources in scholarly texts and used as university textbooks not only in the Nordic countries, but throughout the world. By also publishing them as free e-books, we’re hoping to achieve two objectives – knowledge dissemination and greater scientific spread.

– The decision to have open access research publications is a matter of principle as well as of achieving our goals. We have many important target groups in Africa, where there is often little access to libraries and there are fewer resources for book purchases. Through open access we have a better chance of reaching these, as well as other target groups, in the worldwide researcher community. We’ll also be better able to reach a wider audience than before, says Elnaz Alizadeh, head of communications at the Nordic Africa Institute.

She stresses, however, that the open access publishing will be complemented by other strategies.

– We’ll continue to publish and sell the Africa Now Series in print, since we know that many researchers and students prefer traditional books in which they can make underlinings and notes.

Citations – hard currency in the research community

Open access is becoming more and more common in the research community. For readers the advantages are clear: it’s easier to obtain books that previously costed substantial amounts of money. Moreover, many researchers welcome open access since it helps them to reach out more effectively. One of them is Marianne Millstein, researcher at NAI.

– Citations in scientific texts are hard currency in the academic world, and open access increases the chances of being cited. More importantly, open access means our research becomes more broadly available to those it actually concerns ‒ readers in Africa and people outside narrow academic circles. That’s how research becomes significant, says Millstein.

Phased release of online texts

Of the 14 Africa Now books published so far, 11 are now available in full text on Diva, an online digital archive and publishing system for research works and student theses. There are 37 universities and research institutes, including NAI, participating in the Diva project.

– From Diva, the books will also be harvested by Swepub, the Swedish National Library’s online database for academic publications at Swedish universities. Diva guarantees state-of-the-art preservation of digital documents, says Kalle Laajala, librarian at NAI.

The reason not all 14 Africa Now books have yet been published is because the contract with Zed Books stipulates an embargo of nine months after release of the printed edition. The last three titles, all published over the past nine months, will be available on Diva in due course.

– The content on Diva is indexed by Google as well as other search engines. This boosts the dissemination of the texts. Web traffic to Diva servers has increased steadily over the years, with a remarkable leap in the past two years. It’s hard to say exactly what has caused this, but there’s no doubt Diva has become an important platform for disseminating current research, says Laajala.

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