Mountain Research and Development Journal
Source: Flickr

Open Science as a Means to Decolonize Scientific Publishing and Foster Fairer Research Collaborations


Scientific publishing is a cornerstone of research. However, current publishing systems are highly inequitable. In an interactive virtual workshop, speakers and participants jointly identified challenges and explored ways of decolonizing scientific publishing and fostering fairer research collaborations based on the principles of open science as a global public good. Key insights from the conversation underline the need for a profound reconfiguration of the current science system to integrate postcolonial thought and open science principles. The workshop was part of a series organized around the Annual Conference of the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE).

In the opening of this 120-minute virtual event held on 9 May 2023, MRD associate editor, scientist at the University of Bern’s Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), and moderator of the workshop Brigitte Portner briefly outlined what’s wrong with today’s scientific publishing systems: They are highly unequal, providing limited access and benefits to most researchers in the global South. She concluded that open science is a must in any decolonizing pathway that seeks to redress historical power imbalances in global knowledge production and dissemination.

Caught between diverging interests

Implementation of open science practices, however, is often bound by multiple interests. Andrea Hacker and Dirk Verdicchio from the Open Science Team at the University Library of Bern highlighted the ambivalent situation of research institutions, who are caught between the expectations of researchers and the interests of publishers. This makes it difficult for them to counteract inequities inherent in the scholarly communication system—one example of which are author processing charges.

MRD‘s efforts to promote open science

The same kind of ambivalence also exists from the perspective of a peer-reviewed journal. MRD associate editor and CDE scientist Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel presented 4 measures that MRD has taken to promote open science: providing full open access coupled with comparably low article processing charges, offering mentoring and editorial support, including different knowledge systems, and bringing scientific knowledge into dialogue with society. She also outlined the various challenges associated with each of these measures.

Collaboration is key

Mercury Shitindo, Manager of the Africa Bioethics Network and PhD Fellow in Research Ethics at St. Paul’s University, Kenya, called for greater attention to collaboration as a means to overcome ambivalence in the scholarly publishing system, cross-fertilize ideas, support people and ultimately improve the quality of their work, and promote robust and equal research partnerships. She mentioned the African Journal of Bioethics, CrossRef, and Open Peer Reviewers in Africa as examples of initiatives that actively support collaborations.

The power of capacity development

The benefits of the Open Peer Reviewers in Africa training were also underscored by PaaNii Johnson, Full Professor in Food Science and Technology at the CSIR College of Science and Technology in Ghana. He presented this capacity development effort from a trainee perspective and gave a first-hand account of how it equips African scientists with the skills needed to actively participate in the peer review process—and thereby helps to decolonize the academic publishing system.

Hot topics …

In the second part of the workshop, participants were invited to engage in the conversations they felt were most pressing. Three topics emerged: (1) the role of training and mentoring, (2) diamond open access, and (3) the question whether open science is achievable. Participants discussed these topics in breakout rooms.

… and key insights

A major insight that emerged from the conversation on training and mentoring was the need to integrate transdisciplinarity and postcolonial thought—including decolonization of methodologies—into higher education curricula. The conversation on diamond open access led to the conclusion that while this concept is still in its infancy, its goal is to achieve a more equitable publishing landscape. The conversation on the achievability of open science emphasized the crucial role of governments and institutions in transforming the current publishing system and making it more equitable.

Overall, the conversations brought to the fore the many ambivalences and challenges that accompany any pathways toward decolonizing scientific publishing and fostering fairer research collaborations. They all underlined the need for a profound reconfiguration of current publishing systems to integrate postcolonial thought and open science principles.


Verdicchio D, Hacker-Heimhofer A. 2023. Ambivalent Open Science Practices: The View From a Swiss Institution. Workshop presentation.

Mathez-Stiefel S-L. 2023. Mountain Research and Development: Advancing Transformative Knowledge for Sustainable and Fair Futures. Workshop presentation.

Shitindo M. 2023. Successes in Decolonizing Research Partnerships: Open Science. Workshop presentation.

Johnson PN. 2023. Decolonizing Science in Africa: Initial Steps. Workshop presentation.

Context of the Workshop

The workshop was part of a whole series of workshops surrounding the annual conference of the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE), which took place on 5 May 2023 and focused on “Decolonizing Swiss Research Collaborations.”

More information about the conference

More information about the workshop series

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap