Nepal’s earthquake recovery needs local knowledge


Nepalis clear rubble following the country's devastating earthquake.

Photo: DEC

As a long-time supporter of Nepalese academics, INASP was deeply saddened to learn of the country’s devastating recent earthquakes. We have been pleased to hear news that our partners are safe, and are playing crucial roles in the ongoing relief effort.

With aid and volunteers flooding into urban and rural Nepal, it is essential that local knowledge informs reconstruction efforts. INASP’s NepJOL has fostered Nepalese research on a wide range of sustainability issues, including natural hazards such as earthquakes. One by Harihar Paudyal in 2012 warned that the region was “highly compressed”, with dire potential consequences for future seismic activity. Another by Bijaya K. Shrestha in 2005 detailed how poor urban planning has exacerbated Kathmandu’s vulnerability to tremors, with the author spotlighting “haphazard urban (re)development in the historic core area.”

Beyond local knowledge, much can also be learned from other developing countries. Nearby Bangladesh also suffers from earthquakes, and INASP’s BanglaJOL has featured many articles by Bangladeshi academics on the challenges these pose for risk management, building design and urbanization more broadly. These have shown how disaster mitigation strategies work best when developed collaboratively with communities, whose awareness of local topology and architecture are rich resources.

INASP looks forward to continuing its support for Nepal’s development, with both planning for the long-term sustainability of the NepJOL journal platform and access to international academic literature, and short-term donations to meet urgent needs.

Leave a comment

Weekly highlights – 26 May 2015

  1. Staff highlight

“I was hugely impressed by my first INASP trip to Mongolia. It illuminated how each country in which we work has a unique history that informs its research culture. Mongolia has a relatively high number of female researchers, particularly in medicine, perhaps due to the emphasis on gender equality during its Soviet occupation, and the agency of women within its traditional nomadic way of life.”

Daniel West, Communications Support, INASP

  1. Updates
  • We have just published a Storify of the recent Journals Online workshop in Mongolia.
  • INASP’s Andy Nobes has been at the eLearning Africa Conference in Addis Adaba last week as part of his new role as leading the administration of INASP’s online courses.
  • There is a new INASP factsheet for Zimbabwe produced to tie in with Emma Farrow’s visit there last week for workshops on library marketing and advocacy and Emily Hayter’s visit this week for evidence-informed policy making training.
  1. Upcoming events
  • INASP will be moving offices on 28th May. Our new address will be: 2/3 Cambridge Terrace, Oxford OX1 1RR. As a result of the move there will be disruption to phone and email services between 27th and 29th May.
  • Veronika Schaeffler is in Sri Lanka to observe and co-facilitate a workshop on monitoring and evaluating for library consortia.
  • Rebecca Bailey is in Ghana this week for a course in leadership training for librarians.
  • Emily Hayter is in Zimbabwe this week piloting the second module of the VakaYiko evidence-informed policy making training course with the Zimbabwe parliament. She will then attend Africa Evidence Network events in Johannesburg.
  • We are recruiting for a fundraising coordinator.
  1. Latest publications
  1. External coverage
Leave a comment

Tanzanian publishing workshops consider copyright and ethics


Maaike Duine is Project Manager of the Strengthening Tanzanian Publishing (TZAP) project. In this latest blog post, she reflects on recent workshops on the topics of copyright and plagiarism

One of the main goals of the Strengthening Tanzanian Publishing (TZAP) project is to increase the quality of Tanzanian research output. In order to achieve this goal, TZAP’s partners organized a forum to discuss intellectual property (IP) policies at Tanzanian universities and research institutes. The Tanzania Commission of Science and Technology (COSTECH, one of the project’s partners) is working with universities to register their research.

As the Tanzanian government wants the country to focus on translational research, all universities should include a section on licensing or commercializing their technology in their research policy. A few universities already have a policy in place, but most of them do not. COSTECH is working with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to raise awareness about IP. The newly established Consortium of Academic Publishers will also assist in creating more awareness about IP with its members. COSTECH recently facilitated a workshop on supporting bioscience innovation and commercialization of research results. The topic of intellectual property will also be high on the agenda at Tanzania’s fourth Annual National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Conference to be held in Dar es Salaam in June.

Next to raising awareness about IP, COSTECH is collaborating with COSOTA (The Copyright Society of Tanzania) to increase knowledge about copyright issues in Tanzania. COSOTA registers works and collects royalties on behalf of authors and performers. A big part of their work involves collecting and destroying illegally-copied books and DVDs. Alongside this, COSOTA is working on a new regulation about how to charge universities for photocopying teaching materials. Maureen Fondo, legal advisor at COSOTA, has informed us that plagiarism of and within dissertations happens frequently. Most participants present at our workshops confirm this and many fear that, with increased access to online content, students will be more tempted to copy material.

In our workshops we have also focused on ethics, plagiarism and copyright issues to emphasize that the digital and print world have much in common. Several universities plan to update their dissertation policies and, as many Tanzanian universities and research institutes are starting to build their institutional repositories, it is good to raise awareness about what publishers allow. We explained the concepts of green and gold open access and the different Creative Commons licences.

During our workshops we not only try to raise awareness about copyright issues with university presses, but with the commercial publishers as well. Many of them seem hesitant about publishing books online, afraid that their publications will be plagiarized. We have covered topics such as Digital Rights Management, watermarking and online data clean-up policies to take away some of their worries.

As more and more people are getting smartphones in Tanzania, going digital might be the way forward for Tanzanian publishing. By having participants create their own ePub files, they get a first insight into digitizing content. During one of the workshop exercises, participants had to create content for different devices such as e-readers and smartphones. This gave the participants a good idea of the possibilities of digital publishing and they were very enthusiastic about loading content onto their own smartphones.

However exciting creating digital content may be, Dar es Salaam days are still very hot, and huge Tanzanian lunches can make the participants (and facilitators) sleepy. Luckily, getting up and singing “head, shoulders, knees and toes” in English, Dutch and Kiswahili makes everyone alert and awake again.

Tanzania’s warmest months have passed and we are well into the rainy season now. Roads, bridges and entire neighbourhoods get flooded and the thunder storms have a negative effect on power and internet availability. During one of the workshop exercises, participants had to list the advantages and disadvantages of digital publishing. And one of the big disadvantages is poor internet connectivity and power cuts.

Lecturers at St Augustine University in Mwanza stress that in their region (North-West Tanzania) internet access is more irregular than in Dar es Salaam, and this makes it even harder for researchers to access online research materials. Nevertheless, the lecturers in Mwanza do realize the importance of publishing and see the opportunities of going digital. Lobbying with government and other organizations to raise the level of ICT to strengthen digital publishing throughout the country is one of the other tasks of the newly established interim committee of the Consortium of Academic Publishers of Tanzania. A full agenda!

In my next blog you will read about our workshops on Marketing and Communication and how the Consortium implements the acquired skills in further advancing academic publishing in Tanzania.

See also the blog post by Geraldine Lovell, one of the facilitators of the workshop on Digital Publishing. Follow discussions and latest updates from the TZAP project with the hashtag #TZAP.

Leave a comment

Policy makers sharing online spaces: an opportunity to learn and foster a culture of use of knowledge in politics

Following their first post, Vanesa Weyrauch and Leandro Echt from Politics & Ideas provide further information about learning from the development of their online course aimed at building the capacity of Latin American policy makers to use, and promote the use of, knowledge in policy making.

Selecting a promising group of participants

As already shared in previous posts at P&I, our think net launched a call last February to engage Latin American policy makers interested in promoting the use of knowledge in their organizations through their participation in an online course.

We received more than 350 applications from most of the countries of our region and were then faced with the challenge of selecting only 25 of them to fill the available spots. For that purpose, we used a mix of criteria such as geographic diversity, experience in the use of research/evidence in their working environments, needs and motivations to learn and use that knowledge within their organizations, and individual and organizational commitment to share knowledge with other peers.

We now have a very rich and heterogeneous group from Guatemala to Argentina, working at the national, subnational and local levels, and with diverse profiles ranging from a member of a public/private corporation in Colombia committed to strengthen research on rural issues to a member of the National Council for Science, technology and Innovation in Peru engaged with developing policies and tools related to science and technology.

Without this course, these people would probably never have had the opportunity to “meet” each other and learn together for any period of time. The whole project budget would not have allowed us to bring them all together for a week but it has enabled us to develop all of the content and conduct the seven-week online course so that they can share knowledge and experience virtually. It has also enabled us to partner with a South Asian organization to adapt the content to a new setting.

A unique capacity building opportunity

What else makes this capacity building offer unique and so far attractive to its participants? One might think that the lack of possibility for participants to meet face to face and get to know each other would hinder the chance to interact and discuss their relevant challenges as well as share relevant experiences. However, we are finding that the online platform combined with theoretical modules and practical exercises, plus a series of webinars, are providing them with a good opportunity to significantly develop their own and others´ capacities to tackle this complex interaction between knowledge and policy.

First of all, one advantage of the online course in comparison to a face to face workshop (although ideally we would have loved to combine both!) is that participants have a longer time to digest content and link it to their on-going work. The course takes place over seven weeks so we are able to space out the knowledge – a crucial strategy due to the high level of complexity and depth of many of the issues we reflect upon: starting from internal capacities to how the overall political context or the behaviour of other stakeholders can pose several challenges to this type of work.

Second, online tools allow us to promote horizontal learning. It provides the feeling of a network, where many can bring both ideas and problems and where the experience of one can shed light on the question of another. As the weeks progress, participants get engaged and share very real life examples of what they are doing well, as well as current dilemmas and obstacles. Reading each other, pausing one or more times a week (many do it on the weekends!) and selecting when to process the modules all contribute to the possibility of each participant finding his/her unique pace. They can also select which topics to bring into discussion.

Inspired by Acumen´s online courses, we have also a weekly ‘Ahá’ moment where participants are invited to share what they have discovered as novel or some sort of awareness/realization about their work that took place due to modules´ content or discussions. This practice enables them to highlight (from the quite dense content) the specific knowledge that best talks to them and their real challenges/environment.

Course content: co-constructing knowledge with policymakers

The content of the course is also quite original – we developed the curricula with the help of a Strategic Group made up of eight former or current senior policy makers (national and provincial ministers, secretaries and directors, among others) with a significant academic or research background from different Latin American countries (see more here). We have also made the decisions to focus not only on supporting the development of technical ability but also on how to approach common challenges that arise when seeking to strengthen the use of evidence taking into account political economy in these processes. Therefore, we cover issues such as detecting different decision making styles in order to better assess what type of knowledge should be shared and how, and how the prevailing mode for making decisions including who participates means different opportunities and challenges.

Additionally, we interviewed a range of public officials in different countries and with different positions to understand how they are currently using evidence so as to ensure that we incorporate a more realistic view on the several issues in the curricula. Some of them along with members of the Strategic Group were invited to share their experience and reflections in our webinars.

Right now, in the fifth week of the course, we feel inspired by what participants have shared so far. Their continuous engagement in relevant discussions, their concrete experiences that will expand and refine the content of upcoming capacity building activities, their unanswered questions and the collective spirit of starting to think about new ways of thinking about this complex interaction are all working to make it more effective and fruitful.

Additional information

Politics & Ideas (P&I) is a joint initiative of researchers and professionals to co-produce and share knowledge on the link between ideas and policy in developing countries. As part of the VakaYiko programme, INASP’s Evidence-Informed Policy Making team is providing P&I with a grant to develop an online course aimed at developing the capacity of Latin American policy makers to use, and promote the use of, knowledge in policy making. Read more about the small grants scheme that made this work possible here.

Tagged , Leave a comment

Training helps embed EIPM into Ghanaian government practices

The VakaYiko Consortium has recently concluded a nine-day evidence-informed policy making (EIPM) training course at the Civil Service Training Centre (CSTC) in Accra, Ghana. CSTC is the official training centre of the Ghanaian government, offering more than 60 courses to in-service personnel at all levels of the Civil Service. The EIPM course will be embedded within the Centre’s suite of courses, making it available to civil servants across the government in the years to come.

Mid-level civil servants play a key role in policy formulation in Ghana. In preparing briefs, memos and reports on a wide range of issues from gender based violence to petroleum smuggling, fisheries policy and telecommunications systems, participants are on the front lines of the process of gathering evidence and communicating it to decision makers. However, as the Head of Civil Service, Nana K. Agyekum Dwamena, said in his opening address, “the analysis that should go into those decisions and policies is not completed”. “The problems we are having in this country”, he said, “are a matter of policy failure”, adding that he believes that one reason that 60% of policy decisions made by Cabinet are never implemented is because they do not have a sound evidence base. “You are contributing to solving this problem”, he told participants; “you are supposed to do the analysis and provide the evidence…this will impact directly on the kind of policies we have”.

Bringing together 23 participants from 14 ministries and the Research Department of the Parliament of Ghana, last month’s training was the first time that the new EIPM course has been piloted in Ghana. The course aims to build skills in searching for, accessing, assessing, and communicating policy-relevant research. It was delivered by CSTC trainers, with support from VakaYiko partners INASP and the Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS) as well as guest speakers Professor AA Alemna and Dr Emmanuel Adjei from the University of Ghana, and Dr George Essegbey of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The training benefited enormously from the insights of these researchers, who were invited as part of a GINKS commitment to build alliances across different parts of the research system in Ghana.

Learnings on the content and structure of the course are contributing to an ongoing process of revision of the modules after each pilot. At the end of the programme, the final EIPM Toolkit, comprising the facilitators’ handbook for each module and associated learner-centred activities, readings, handouts and reflection tools will be shared with all stakeholders. The Toolkit is informed by real-life examples raised in the pilot sessions.

In line with standard CSTC procedure, participants produced Action Plans during the training detailing how they plan to implement the learnings from the course. Some of the initiatives planned over the coming months include sensitization meetings and report-back sessions, creation of a new statistical database for the department, improving physical document storage/libraries, and soft storage of relevant systematic reviews. These Action Plans are a key feature of CSTC trainings, and are followed up closely by CSTC with participants and their supervisors to ensure implementation. This is one way in which VakaYiko hopes to go beyond individual skills-building to address wider institutional factors and ensure that the programme has a clear sustainability component.

VakaYiko’s approach in Ghana focuses on embedding EIPM training within existing internal structures (CSTC) and practices in the Civil Service. This enables a very broad reach across Ghanaian government institutions, but less specific focus on individual institutional needs and also less focus on evidence-informed policy making as a topic, since it is one of several dozen different courses being delivered by trainers at the Centre. This differs to the approach taken in Zimbabwe, where EIPM training is offered externally by VakaYiko partner ZeipNET, who focus exclusively on evidence-informed policy making to specific institutions (Parliament, the Ministry of Youth, and the Ministry of Industry & Commerce). INASP as an organization has a very reflective ethos, and we are looking forward to drawing out and comparing the learnings from these very different approaches as we go forward.

With thanks to the Principal of the Civil Service Training Centre, Mrs Dora Dei-Tumi;  CSTC trainers lead by Coordinator Mr Ebenezer Rexford Amankwah; as well as our partners at GINKS for a productive and successful pilot.

A version of this blog post first appeared on the African Evidence Network blog.

More information

The VakaYiko Consortium

Ghana Civil Service Training Centre

VakaYiko Civil Service Training Centre Review

Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Evidence Informed Policymaking Training Opens in Accra

Tagged , , Leave a comment

Weekly highlights – 18 May 2015

1. Staff Highlight

“As a part of the pilot project ‘Network of Trainers’ and after having attended a ‘Train the Trainer’ workshop, 20 librarian trainers from Ghana and Uganda are actively involved in an online community of practice. INASP’s Network of Trainers is a community platform for librarian trainers that aims to stimulate discussion and encourage the sharing of learning and practices on how to develop and use learner-centred skills in their training and/or teaching. Most of the trainers are engaged and have started their own discussion threads, shared experiences and given constructive feed-back to their colleagues.” Dr Laura-Elena Runceanu, Training Strategy Coordinator

2. Selected news and updates

    • Twitter: INASP staff have had a successful week in Mongolia with the 1st Journal Quality workshop. Tweet example: “One of the challenges of being a #Mongolian journal editor is having a limited pool of reviewers who speak Mongolian #inaspMN #peerreview”. See more using the hashtag #inaspMN
    • Video: Senior Editor at PLOS ONE Matt Hodgkinson talks about his experiences of being an AuthorAID mentor. INASP’s Julie Walker wrote late last year about how and why to promote mentoring.
    • We are delighted to welcome Annalise Dennis, our new Training Officer. She has worked in many different countries, most recently with Oxfam, and brings her wide range of experience to INASP programmes.

3. Forthcoming events

    • 17-25 May: Emma Farrow will be in Zimbabwe attending marketing and advocacy workshops for consortium institutions and meeting with Zimbabwe University Library Consortium (ZULC). Follow the trip using the hashtag #inaspZW

4. Recent publications

Latest Tanzanian publishing workshops support marketing and communication 15 May I

NASP launches series of pilot workshops in Zimbabwe 14 May

May Photo of the Month 14 May

AuthorAID Tip of the Week 13 May

Guest Post: Pre-Conference Workshops – A chance to teach and learn (Part 2 of 2) 11 May

5. External Coverage

How are Projects Sharing Knowledge as they Implement? BCURE Global

Engaging with government: experiences from the VakaYiko programme  Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

Leave a comment