Monday, June 30, 2014

The Curse of World Cup [dis]appearance fees


The FIFA 2014 World Cup fever is on and I am infected.
Cameroon, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire are out of Brazil FIFA 2014 World Cup tournament, and the chances of a team from African winning the 2014 tournament have been tremendously reduced. 

Africa’s hopes of winning 2014 World Cup now rests on Nigeria or Algeria.

Winning the World Cup aside, African teams have already won in one area - the circus involving World Cup appearance fees.  According to FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke,  the players have the right to receive their appearnce fees. After all these are paid by FIFA.

The problem is how the fees are demanded by the players, and sometimes the actions taken to meet the  players' demands. 
It all started with the Cameroon World Cup squad’s refusal to board the plane to Brazil because the players felt that the £61,000 to be paid as appearance fee to each player was not enough.

The team’s demands for improved bonuses and immediate payments were, in Brazil, matched with a shambolic performance, spiced up by Benoit Assou-Ekotto head-butting his teammate Benjamin Moukandjo during their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Croatia.

 
Was £61,000 really not enough for a quick disappearing act from the tournament?

The drama from Ghallywood (Ghana’s version of Nollywood) out-performed the Cameroonians.
Breaking all financial policies and regulations put in place by the government and the Bank of Ghana regarding transactions in foreign currencies, $3 million in hard cash, was airlifted in record time on a chartered flight to Brazil to pay the mutinous players.

The arrival of the chartered jet carrying $3 million and the money’s subsequent transfer to the Ghana team hotel, under heavy policy escort, was covered live on some TV channels in Brazil.



Within hours of receiving the payments, the Black Stars disappeared from the tournament after a 1-2 defeat to Portugal.

The Ghana FA President Kwesi Nyantakyi attributed the Black Stars early disappearance from the World Cup to the 'appearance fee syndrome'
Today Nigeria meets France in the round of 16. Unfortunately, the players have already been diagnosed with symptoms of the [dis]appearance fees syndrome.  

The Nigerian players boycotted training on Thursday fearing that they would not be paid their allowances after the tournament.

My hope is that the Nollywood production on [dis]apperance fees syndrome will not be produced. Instead the Nigerian players will play their cards right and progress to the round of 8. However, whichever way the script ends, the Nollywood production, if it is released, it will be fit for several Oscar nominations.
On a related note, the Greece players have contributed their appearance fees towards building new training facilities for the national team.


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.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards) - 2014

By The ARDYIS Project Team

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) and its partners are pleased to announce that submission for the 2nd Edition of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards) is now open!  Blogs can be submitted via the newly created website for the YoBloCo Awards (http://www.yobloco.info/) until 31 January 2014.

Individual young blogger, or youth blogging for organisations engaged in agriculture from ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries are highly encouraged to submit their blogs as soon as they can. Even if the blog is not fully ready or does not have many articles, it is recommended not to wait for the last minute to submit the entry.

All blogs (individual and institutional) can be submitted on this link: http://www.yobloco.info/enter-competition.

More information on the YoBloCo Awards here: http://www.yobloco.info/about