Launch of the Consortium of Academic Publishers in Tanzania
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Does Tanzania have a reading culture? This was one of the questions raised at the launch of the Consortium of Academic Publishers in Tanzania, held at the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) on June 16. Although everybody present at the launch was very enthusiastic about the project and the possibilities it will offer to strengthen digital and academic publishing in Tanzania, there was also discussion about the challenges and difficulties of publishing in this country. Children grow up in an environment where reading isn’t stimulated and access to high quality publications is difficult. In addition to this, universities give credits for publishing in international journals, but do not acknowledge articles published in Tanzanian journals. That will be one of the tasks of the newly established consortium: liaising with the Tanzanian Commission for Universities to have a standardized list for all universities of recommended international AND indigenous journals.

Another big challenge that keeps coming up in discussions about publishing in Tanzania, is the lack of English proficiency among university students. Submissions that are being received by editors are simply not good enough and it takes too much time to rewrite all of the papers. Some say the lack of English language skills is caused by the fact that Kiswahili is the language of education for primary schools in Tanzania, but at secondary and higher education, all classes are taught in English. The shifting of language of instruction causes communication problems for both students and teachers along with a lack of native English teachers. After graduation from secondary school, English remains a big challenge for many students at universities. Continue reading “Launch of the Consortium of Academic Publishers in Tanzania” »

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This summer Oxford helped me to realize three things
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Dr Haseeb Md Irfanullah is an AuthorAID mentor and an editor of Bangladesh Journal of Plant Taxonomy hosted on BanglaJOL. On 7−18 July, Haseeb participated in a 2-week publishing summer school at the Oxford Brookes University, UK, with financial support from the INASP. This article captures his recent realizations and thoughts on publishing. Working full-time for a UK-based charity Practical Action in Bangladesh, Haseeb is available on hmirfanullah@yahoo.co.uk and can be followed on @hmirfanullah


Size

I work for Practical Action − an NGO which uses simple technologies to help the poor. Here we believe in ‘small is beautiful’ – a philosophy EF Schumacher introduced several decades back.

In the publishing industry, however, big is better and [the question of size] is becoming unavoidable. In the publishing training I attended, Amazon’s ever-increasing size, its monopolization, and its fight with Hachette came up again and again. Our visit to Lightning Source/Ingram, the world’s largest print-on-demand facility, showed us how you can have 11 million titles in hand and  be ready to print just 1 copy of 1 book if 1 person places a request. Bloomsbury Publishing – the publishers of the Harry Potter books −, on the other hand, acquired 10 smaller academic and professional publishers during 2007−2013 and achieved 300% revenue growth in just 4 years (2010-14). Publishing is [definitely] not dying, if anyone had any doubts!
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World class universities – or world class systems?
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The idea of ‘world class universities’ grips the higher education sector, driven by several big international rankings. It’s an idea that is no less popular when it comes to many of the countries in which INASP works. But when it comes to research and higher education for development, is it world class universities that we should be pursuing?

Different institutions to do different things

Goolam Mohamedbhai argues that what African higher education needs is ‘mission differentiation’, namely a range of institutions doing different things. Rather than focusing on creating new universities, governments should instead be supporting existing institutions in different ways – some to become more research-focused, and some to concentrate more on undergraduate education. ‘It would be impossible, and unnecessary, for most staff in all tertiary institutions on the continent to have a PhD’ he argues. In a similar vein, Lynn Meek argues that our emphasis should be on ‘world-class systems’, not single top institutions.

This is more than just a matter of semantics. An important shift occurred in the last decade or so: higher education has received steadily more attention from international institutions and bilateral donors, and this has in turn helped to improve its place in national policy making. One expression of this has been new funding for ‘centres of excellence’, or in some cases ‘networks of excellence’ between leading institutions. These are certainly important, helping to develop hubs of expertise, postgraduate training and research. But often these are located at leading institutions in growing capital cities, with the danger that, with limited funding accruing to a smaller number of institutions, higher education’s broader base is neglected as a result.

Dangers of distortion?

Of course there’s a compelling argument to focus investments on a smaller number of institutions – resources are limited, and there’s an urgent need to increase research and teaching capacity. But research and training with the potential to support national development takes place in a whole host of institutions. As Jamil Salmi (the World Bank’s former tertiary education lead) warns, the pursuit of world-class institutions can create ‘dangerous distortions in resource allocation in favour of a few flagship institutions, to the detriment of the overall tertiary education system’. There’s also the problem – as this report suggests is the case in Pakistan – that a concentration of research institutions in a couple of centres can mean that needs at a provincial level are not met.

Laying the foundations

One very practical way to ensure this balance, and to help us move towards world class systems, is to focus on the foundations that support this. One such foundation is access to research literature, in the form of e-journal collections. INASP believes that broad, national access to these collections is important precisely for this reason. We work with publishers to achieve this by negotiating for national licenses, and with partner countries to support the development of national purchasing consortia. This means that many universities, colleges, research institutes, teaching hospitals and other research institutes gain access – not just one or top universities.

We’re still learning what a ‘national research and knowledge system’ looks like and what a ‘world class system’ might mean. But by taking a national approach we hope we’re helping to strengthen the network of institutions that will make up a viable system of research and training – providing a foundation on which countries can build their own institutions, as they see fit, to serve their own development needs.

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Maximizing the return on investment: Making research matter
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Rose Wilcher is the Director of Research Utilization at FHI 360 where she works to translate public health research findings into evidence-based policies and practices. She has extensive experience supporting the application and scale-up of underutilized and emerging evidence in reproductive health and HIV programs in developing countries. This was originally posted on July 30, 2014 on the FHI 360 blog, Degrees

Earlier this month, the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) released a report that seeks to answer a compelling question: Does research drive international development?

Through an extensive literature review, the authors examined the evidence supporting the commonly held assumption that investing in research leads to positive impacts on socioeconomic development. One of the specific pathways they explored is whether investment in research leads to development through more evidence-informed policy and practice. While the authors provide several examples of how research has led to policy and program improvements, they also conclude that “there are significant gaps in the capacity, incentives and systems necessary to ensure that research is systematically used in decision making.” Continue reading “Maximizing the return on investment: Making research matter” »

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Reconciling business interests and development needs
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How can publishers ensure developing countries have access to the research they need?

A successful partnership

INASP’s partnerships with publishers have always been an essential part of our work to support access to research in Southern universities and research institutes. Through the two phases of the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) we’ve been able to make many thousands of e-journals available and in some cases e-books too. 2013 saw 4.5 million full-text downloads, with 65,000 full text items available in our partner countries – and this is of course on top of access achieved through Research4Life and other initiatives, as well as the wealth of resources now open access.

The world of research communications has changed significantly in the last few years. OA has advanced rapidly, making a significant volume of research freely available, and there have been some steady, but marked improvements in the research systems of many of our partner countries – with library consortia developing and universities beginning to invest more in research and postgraduate training. And at the same time, publishers have begun to look increasingly to African, Asian and Latin American countries to develop new business and reach new readers and authors. Continue reading “Reconciling business interests and development needs” »

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Responsible engagement with developing countries: what can publishers do?
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We’ve put together some key principles to guide publishers wanting to ensure they engage responsibly with our partner countries, and to support genuinely sustainable and effective access.

  • Make an effort to understand the country context, which institutions are members of the consortium, and what their needs are. Try to look beyond the capital city – connectivity for each is often very different. You can do this through direct discussion with the consortium, but also by participating in Publishers for Development events.
  • Where a country wishes to negotiate as a consortium or purchasing club, respect this – don’t try to find alternative routes and don’t withdraw access before or during negotiations. It could damage reputations and relationships.
  • Don’t make sudden changes – if you wish to develop a direct relationship, communicate with the consortium or national coordinating body early to explain your plans, and give them time to prepare. A 3-5 year plan for engagement is likely to make for a more effective transition.
  • Think medium to long term on pricing and be realistic about your sales expectations. Budgets won’t have increased just because countries are able and willing to deal directly with publishers. Where increases are needed, make these affordable, incremental and predictable.

These suggestions are part of a longer blog discussing INASP’s work with developing country researchers and international publishers.

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