Thursday, August 14, 2014

Forthcoming Web 2.0 & Social Media training events in sub-Saharan Africa

Particiapnts at a Web 2.0 Learnining Opportunity training,
 in Accra, Ghana in 2013
The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA),  in collaboartion with national partner organizations, has the following Web 2.0 & Social Media face to face training events in the pipeline for sub-Saharan Africa:

  • 01-05 Sept 2014, National Library Service (NLS), Lilongwe, Malawi. Application closing date: 11 August, 2014. More info.
  • 08-12 Sept 2014, Department of Information and Communication Studies, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia. Application closing date: 11 August, 2014. More info.
  • 08-12 Sept 2014, National University of Lesotho (NUL), Roma, Lesotho. Application closing date: 11 August, 2014. More info.
  • 15-19 Sept 2014, Mananga Centre for Regional Integration and Management Development; Ezulwini Campus, Ezulwini, Swaziland. Application closing date: 25 August, 2014. More info.
  • 22-26 Sept 2014, Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, Nigeria. Application closing date: 1 September, 2014. More info.
  • 22-26 Sept 2014, SomaliREN c/o SIMAD University, Mogadishu, Somalia. By invitation only.
  • 20-26 Oct, 2014, National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research, New-Bussa, Niger State, Nigeria. To be announced
  • Date t.b.d. UNIPORT, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. To be announced
  • Date t.b.d. Democratic Republic of Congo. To be announced
In general, the Web 2.0 and Social Media Learning Opportunity cover the folloiwng:

  • Web 2.0 and Social Media: concepts and principles;
  • Selective access to information via (i) advanced multilingual search options; (ii) RSS and (iii) automated alerts;
  • Content curation: Tagging and Social Bookmarking;
  • Photos for the web;
  • Remote collaboration (e.g. GoogleDrive, Dropbox);
  • Online conversations (Skype, Google Hangouts, Viber, Whatsapp);
  • Online mapping (New Google Maps);
  • Blogging (Blogger or Wordpress);
  • Micro-blogging (Twitter);
  • Social networking (LinkedIn and Facebook), risks and mitigation measures;
  • Online Communities of Practice;
  • Web 2.0 and Social Media for Agri-business and marketing.
 
Vist the Web2forDev website for more information.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Research4Life helping Africa to attain MDGs

Forty-eight countries in Africa have free or low cost online access to over 35,000 peer-reviewed international scientific journals, books, and databases worth tens of millions of dollars, thanks to the Research4Life Programmes led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the world’s leading scientific, technical and medical publishers.

Goal
Accessing online resources on Research4Life portal
Research4Life, a public-private partnership for international development, is providing access to global scientific literature (full-text documents in digital format) focusing on health, agriculture, environment and other life, physical and social sciences in the developing world. The goal of the Programmes is to improve the quality of research conducted in developing countries that will advance higher education, inform public policy decision, and prepare tomorrow’s leaders.  By so doing, Research4Life will contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, reducing the knowledge gap between industrialized countries and developing countries by providing affordable access to critical scientific research.

Since early 1990s, thousands of students, researchers and lecturers in majority of public universities and research institutes in Africa have faced challenges to gain access to current scientific information needed for education and research. Universities and research institutes are unable to pay subscription fees to peer-reviewed international scientific journals that can cost the organisation more than $1 million per year. This is now addressed by the Research4Life programmes.

Programmes
The four Research4Life programmes are HINARI (Access to Research in Health) launched in January 2002 and managed by WHO, AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) launched in 2003 by FAO, OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment) launched in 2006 by UNEP, and ARDI (Access to Research for Development and Innovation) coordinated by WIPO. The four UN agencies are working closely with other partners including Cornell University, Yale University, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, some two hundred publishers and technological partners including Microsoft.

Public institutions such as government ministries and departments, hospitals and clinics, universities and colleges, professional schools, research institutes, extension centres, national libraries, as well as local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in 48 African countries are eligible for free or low cost access to Research4Life Programmes. The programmes are accessed at www.research4life.org and an institutional registration is required to obtain a dedicated username and password. Among others, institutions already using the programmes include the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security of Tanzania, the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC) in Sudan, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, National Veterinary Research Institute (Nigeria), Black Lion Hospital (Ethiopia), King Faisal Hospital (Rwanda), Kenya Medical Research Institute, Aga Khan Hospital (Kenya), Makerere University (Uganda), University of Ghana, University of Zambia, Addis Ababa University and Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (Senegal).

Impact
The impact of Research4Life on work, life and community is documented in a booklet - Making a difference: Stories from the field:how access to scientific literature is improving the livelihoods of communitiesaround the world. Examples from Africa, illustrated in the booklet, include researchers, scholars and scientists in Malawi who produced quality and well researched project reports, scientific papers, theses and dissertations; a physician in Zambia who used scientific information from the programmes to improve the lives of HIV-infected children; a doctor in Ethiopia who successfully treated a patient with a rare and serious condition; a Nigerian researcher who completed his PhD studies and other research on organic agriculture, biopesticides and biofertilizers; and a Sudanese policy-maker who used the information to introduce evidence-based policy development designed to improve the Sudanese people’s health.

During the tenth anniversary of the launch of AGORA, in September 2013, Stephen Rudgard, then Chief of Knowledge and Capacity for Development at FAO, said that AGORA had contributed to changes in behaviour of scientists, academics and practitioners in terms of their information use. "Researchers and academics using AGORA have been able to plan their research more effectively and ensure that their work is not duplicative. They have been able to find new technologies developed outside their own arenas, test them to ensure they are applicable locally, and then pass them on to farmers. In addition, they have been able to use literature to update their curricula."

Capacity Development
 
Participants at a Research4Life workshop in DRC
Capacity development in using the Research4Life programmes in sub-Sahara Africa is provided by ITOCA (Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa) and “Librarians Without Borders”®, in collaboration with the regional offices of FAO located in Ghana, WHO (Congo) and UNEP headquarters in Kenya. Since April 2004, more than 5,000 researchers, lecturers, policy makers, health professionals, development practitioners, and librarians have taken part in more than 85 Research4Life training-of-trainers workshops. From available data, Gracian Chimwaza, ITOCA Executive Director, estimates that the trained participants have gone on to reach more than 300,000 users downstream with follow-on training on the four programmes.

Monday, June 16, 2014

You want your Open Access initiative to succeed? Partner with research funders

This month I moderated a very informative webinar on Encouraging Openness and how stakeholder policies can support or block it, organized by CIARD (Open Agricultural Knowledge for Development) and delivered by Bill Hubbard, Director of the Centre for Research Communications (CRC) at the University of Nottingham.

During the webinar, Bill mentioned two points that gave me food for thought. These are that simple policies to encourage Open Access (OA) do not seem to work (unless where they are mandated with sanctions); and that research funders are key to encouraging OA.

Opening access to agricultural research information in Africa is a big issue. Please, note my use of the term opening access as opposed to Open Access. This is because from my experience a good number of researchers, especially in public research organizations in Africa, appear not to be too keen with the idea of Open Access as in free and unrestricted online availability to the content they generate. They of the view that they cannot just give away for free their research outputs, a factor that has contributed to slow progress on OA initiatives on the continent. Therefore, I am of the view that for a start opening access, as in ensuring that research output is properly documented and is made visible to enhance identification and access without any restrictions if the organization or researcher decides to so, is more appropriate in such an environment. After all, in the long run it will lead to OA. Placing too much emphasis on free and unrestricted online availability of research frightens a good number of people.

Since 2006, I have been working on initiatives that encourage opening access to agricultural research information in Africa. I have supported projects in this area in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, and provided technical support and policy advice to several other countries. The focus of the initiatives has been on working with key institutions involved in the generation, processing and dissemination of agricultural knowledge, placing emphasis on developing their technical and functional capacities and ensuring that the enabling policy environment in place. Depending on the initial assessment of the institutional readiness, support has included providing appropriate ICT (i.e. computer servers, workstations, scanners, connectivity, etc.); training staff in digital information management, developing digital institutional repositories,  and using content management systems; and developing copyright guidelines, and information management and communication (ICM) policies and strategies that encourage opening access to content.

Out of 16 institutions that I worked with in Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, only the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is doing well and has its institutional repository listed in OpenDOAR. What has happened to the other 15 institutions?

Bill is right when he says that simple policies to encourage Open Access (AO) do not seem to work, unless they are mandated with sanctions. Six of the institutions that I worked with information policies and strategies that incorporated OA, and these were endorsed by senior management. To date, the number of full-text documents in some of institutional repositories is almost the same as it was at the end of the projects. Not that many resources have been added because researchers are not depositing their works, and no one is sanctioned.

For a long time, even before the arrival of OA on the scene, most agricultural research organizations in Africa have had policies in place that required staff to deposit copies of their publications with the library or documentation centre. In most organizations these policies have rarely worked largely because no staff are sanctioned for not depositing their publications. Most researchers do not feel compelled to deposit their publications in the institutional repository to facilitate opening access to their works.

I also agree with Bill that research funders are key to the success of Open Access (or opening access) initiatives. Agricultural research in public research organizations in Africa is largely funded by external donors. Imagine what would happen if they all included Open Access to outputs of the research they fund in the conditions for financing research projects?

Your guess is as good as mine. Institutional OA policy or no policy, research output will be available for Open Access if the funders for research demands so.

I guess now I have ideas on how to approach my next OA initiatives.