Wednesday, May 8, 2013

IMARK e-learning course on managing spatial information

The Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK) Steering Group has announced the release of the course entitled: “Management of Spatial Information ”, available in English. The course provides a comprehensive overview of the nature and characteristics of spatial data, how it can help improve the quality and scope of activities in organizational processes, how to manage the infrastructure internally and how to integrate the infrastructure in a wider context of data acquisitioning and provisioning. The course was developed by FAO in partnership with ITC - Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation of the University of Twente.

The course is available on CD (on request) and online.

Other IMARK modules/courses, also available CD and online, are:
IMARK courses provide an opportunity for self-paced learning to individuals who want to acquire skills in modern information management and exchange.

Monday, May 6, 2013

“African researchers are active consumers of content but inactive contributors”

In late March 2013, I took part in a workshop on National Digital Repository Framework organized by the Association of African Universities (AAU) in Accra. Participants, mainly from universities, discussed setting up national digital repositories of theses and dissertations, as part of AAU’s Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD) initiative. A comment made by one presenter, that “African researches are active consumers of content but inactive contributors”, attracted my attention. I decided to give it a thought and I am afraid I have to say that he was largely right.

Most public research organizations and universities on the continent cannot afford to subscribe to scholarly publications without donor funding. For most of these institutions, they last paid for journal subscriptions using institutional budgets in the late 1980s and in 1990s. Since then, they largely depend on the good will of the international community to sustain their research and academic information needs.

At the click of a computer mouse button, thanks to modern information and communication technology (ICTs), today researchers, faculty members and students in Africa have access to thousands of journal titles, books and other information materials in digital format. This is possible due to several initiatives including the Research4Life Programme, the Programme for Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) and open access initiatives such BioMed Central. Availability of easy and around the clock access to these digital resources puts researchers, faculty staff and students on the continent at par with their colleagues in the developed world in as far as access to the latest research is concerned. However, how much of the research generated in Africa is accessible to the outside world?

Data available from the 2010 Thomson Reuters’s Global Research Report: Africa shows that from the years 1999 to 2008, on average Africa produced about 27,000 scientific papers per year, about the same volume as that of The Netherlands. Furthermore, Africa’s research scene, in terms of published outputs, is dominated by three countries – Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa. 

What then, are our researchers doing? 

Africa, as indicated by the BBC, has the potential to play a big role in the global science. However, there is little government-funding going into research. For example, in 2006, the African Union’s Executive Council endorsed that by 2010 governments in Africa should spend at least 1% of the GDP on research and development. How many countries have met this target?