From 2013-2018 the Strengthening Research and Knowledge Systems (SRKS) programme worked at the individual, institutional and national levels to strengthen research and knowledge systems.
SRKS built on the earlier Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information, building on existing projects and partnerships, while also developing new areas of work and approaches.
The programme’s intended impact was that research knowledge contributes to economic and social development. This was designed to be achieved through the outcome of increased sustainable (1) access to and (2) production of research literature in INASP-supported countries.
Having started in-depth work in 22 countries, we have handed over responsibilities to national partners in 15 countries, and began work with partners in a further two countries, Sierra Leone and the Somali regions. We also supported smaller projects through small grants in a further nine countries.
SRKS was structured as a set of ‘global’ or multi-country services, and a series of smaller projects where we worked in fewer countries.
Improving access to online research and strengthening the capacity of partner countries to secure and manage access in the future
Negotiating more affordable access to journals and books for developing country universities and research institutes
We negotiated with over 50 academic publishers to secure discounted or free access to scientific books and journals for up to 67 countries: 44 countries had access to collections at no charge; of these 22 countries had further access to additional collections at more affordable subscription rates.
We negotiated for national licenses, so that universities, research institutes, government agencies, teaching hospitals, and local non-profits would have access for a single national subscription.
- The programme saved approximately £307 million and provided access to over 50,000 journals and 20,000 books to 1,700 organisations. We estimate that this reached up to 4 million academics and students.
Capacity support to national library consortia
In 22 countries, we worked with national library consortia or equivalent bodies to provide more in-depth support, to enable them to strengthen their organisational capacity, and to provide skills training programmes to their members. This aimed to ensure that access to research could be managed locally – including negotiating directly with publishers – and librarians can in turn support researchers and students.
- Ten national library consortia or equivalent bodies are now negotiating directly with publishers on behalf of universities and research institutes.
- Over 2400 librarians and information professionals in 19 countries were trained in different aspects of digital library management. Just under half were women.
Increasing the quality and visibility of locally produced research
Through INASP’s AuthorAID project we supported early-career researchers to develop scientific writing and communication skills. Online courses were run as Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCS, providing introductions to research writing or grant proposal writing, covering all disciplines, and also as small, intensive courses focused on a specific thematic area (environmental science) in partnership with Pure Earth.
We worked with nine universities, research institutes and professional associations in four countries – Ghana, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Vietnam – to develop and run their own in-house training programmes, building on and adapting AuthorAID’s face to face and online training courses, and incorporating other forms of support such as writing clubs and mentoring.
- 18,800 researchers have participated in our English-language AuthorAID online courses. 50% have been women.
- The AuthorAID platform has grown to support a network of over 17,000 researchers from over 175 countries across the world.
- Over 10,300 mentors have registered on the AuthorAID platform to provide support to early career researchers.
- In four countries, nine universities and research institutes are now delivering their own in-house training in research writing to research staff and students.
Through our Journals Online project we worked with teams in seven countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua) to develop locally-led online publishing platforms, and to enable them to run and manage these locally. These platforms, managed by national science academies and university networks now host 390 journals.
- In seven countries national science agencies or regional networks are managing journal publishing platforms and supporting local editors and journals
- 390 journals are now publishing on five platforms covering research in seven countries. Over 32,200 new articles were published during the programme, over 96% are open access.
- 580 journal managers and editors were trained. 40% were women.
Journal Publishing Practices and Standards
We also worked with journal platform managers and individual journal editors to increase the quality of their publishing processes. In collaboration with African Journals Online we developed and launched a new framework to assess the publishing standards of journals (www.journalquality.info), and to guide editors in how to improve the publishing quality of their journals. Journals are assessed and given a one to three star rating.
- 390 journals from the seven Journals Online platforms have been assessed and their ‘Journal Publishing Practices and Standards’ levels displayed on the journal homepages.
Piloting new work and sharing lessons learnt from the programme with internal and external stakeholders
Alongside the core programme strands, we introduced a series of pilot projects to explore how to address other needs that had been identified, and to bring our learning to two new countries.
Campus IT networks: Building on our earlier work, which highlighted that poor IT networks impeded access to online information, we strengthened university IT networks, working with National Research and Education Networks in Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia to train university IT engineers, and to undertake ‘direct engineering assistance’ missions, providing hands-on training and troubleshooting under the guidance of experienced network engineers. NREN engineers trained over 200 campus engineers and 30 ‘direct engineering assistance’ missions were undertaken. Universities noted improvements in the speed of networks as a result.
Library and information science curricula: We strengthened the postgraduate degree programmes in five library schools so that librarians graduate with digital library-management skills (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia).
Academic publishing in Tanzania: Responding to a growing demand in Tanzania to ‘go digital’, the project conducted training and workshops for commercial and university publishers in topics such as Digital Publishing and Marketing and Communication.
Strengthening research in Sierra Leone and the Somali regions: We worked with new partners in Sierra Leone and the Somali regions to identify what could be done to strengthen the foundations for research and to provide initial support. In Sierra Leone we focused on access to research information, including training for librarians and support to the nascent academic IT consortium, and research writing and publishing skills for researchers. In Somalia we focused on support to women researchers, also including support in research writing.
Gender support to universities and research institutes: In 2016, we began a strand of work to enable universities and research institutions to analyse and address gender barriers and gaps. We supported partners in Ghana, Tanzania and Somalia to initiate gender mainstreaming processes, and ran an open grant call to award funding for other women researchers to present gender-focused work at conferences or to run gender sensitisation events within their institutions.