Weekly highlights – 3 July 2015


“Thank you so much INASP for funding the workshop. This was the best workshop I have ever attended. Its very nature kept me involved and interested. This was a delightful professional development that rejuvenated and inspired me.”

“The aspect of systems librarianship needs to be familiarized to the university authorities. This kind of event will help to boost up the status and professionalism of librarians”.

Participants in the Workshop for Systems Librarians, Bangladesh, May 2015

  1. Updates

– The Publishers for Development conference took place in London on 30th June and saw lively discussion about implementing INASP Principles. We will Storify the social media discussions over the coming days.

– Some photos from last week’s trainer of librarian trainers workshop in Uganda are on our Facebook page.

– In a new blog post, INASP Associate Ravi Murugesan provides an update on uptake of editing services being offered for free by Research Square to selected participants of AuthorAID courses.

– The VakaYiko team have published a report detailing the planned approach to developing an EIPM mentoring programme in Zimbabwe.

  1. Upcoming events

– At the end of July, representatives of library consortia from across Africa will meet together in Ethiopia. The objective of this meeting, which will include representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, will be to support our consortium partners as they develop further as organizations with the strength to secure, provide and manage access to e-resources.

– From 28th-30th July the VakaYiko consortium will hold its annual meeting at GINKS’ headquarters in Accra, Ghana.

  1. Recent publications

Mentorship Programme A Strategy for Evidence-Informed Policy Making in Zimbabwe – Report, July 1, 2015

AuthorAID researchers begin to take up Research Square’s free editing offer – Practising Development, July 1, 2015

#inaspPrinciples for publishers 4 & 5: Pricing and sales, be realistic and predictable – Practising Development, June 29, 2015

Guest Post: From an AuthorAID Travel Grant Recipient – AuthorAID, June 28, 2015

#inaspPrinciples for publishers 3: Avoid making sudden changes – Practising Development, June 25 2015

Experiences from Malawi: #inaspPrinciples 1 & 2: understanding country context and negotiating with consortium – Publishers for Development, June 23, 2015

Tip of the Week #239 – AuthorAID, June 23, 2015

Experiences from Nicaragua: #inaspPrinciples 1 & 2: understanding country context and negotiating with consortium – Publishers for Development, June 22, 2015

“Diseased Science”: Some Humorous Definitions – AuthorAID, June 22, 2015

  1. External coverage

AuthorAID researchers enthusiastic about free editing from Research Square – AJE blog, July 1, 2015

AuthorAID helps researchers become writers and mentors – Elsevier Connect, June 30, 2015

Science In Africa With Trend, Authoraid And A Few Connections – Hands to Learn blog, June 29, 2015

Resource Sharing in Latin America – Interlending & Document Supply (journal), June 25, 2015

Getting Involved in International Development Activities Health Information Updates to and from Africa, June 25, 2015

Open Access offerings for the majority world – Library Matters (University of Nottingham), June 24, 2015

Newsletter: International Evidence – Africa Evidence Network, June 24, 2015

How to conduct a workshop on medical writing: Tips, advice and experience sharing – Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, May 28, 2015

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From Principles to Practice: Conference gets library consortia and publishers working together

A guest post by Teresa Hanley, Facilitator at Publishers for Development, Independent Consultant (thanley@gmail.com)

I was pleased to be asked by INASP and the Association of Commonwealth Universities to facilitate the 7th Publishers for Development (PfD) meeting which took place on 30th June in London on one of the hottest days of the year so far. I had heard of PfD as a fledgling group while evaluating an INASP programme about five years ago. It was striking, then, to now find such an established group with excellent camaraderie and, working relations, very focused on how to work responsibly in developing countries.

Discussions focused on the five principles developed by INASP which include understanding country context, respecting a country’s wish to work as a consortium, not making sudden changes, thinking long-term, and being realistic about sales.  The principles aim to support publishers working in developing countries to balance their commercial aims with being a supportive partner to researchers and others in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Sustainable access to e-resources is vital for any researcher to be able to engage with the global body of knowledge, and the principles address this.

Some excellent presentations included a scene-setting overview by Dr John Kirkland of the ACU who highlighted some key trends in higher education and research. He referred to the rapid expansion of and expectations placed on higher education globally and the greater presence of developing countries in international research communities. Dr Kirkland also made a timely reminder that the majority of researchers are part of a great body of institutions and people who are still working in extremely difficult and resource-poor conditions, thus lacking opportunity to engage in global discussions.

While acknowledging the value of local publishing, discussions in this meeting were rooted in the context of publishers from the global North supporting access for researchers, librarians, universities and research institutes in developing countries. Insightful presentations from Dr Joel Sam (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana) and Dr Sophia Kaane (Kenya Libraries and Information Services Consortium) highlighted the value of access to e-resources but also reminded us of the complexity and unpredictability of country contexts. They illustrated the value of their consortia in engaging with publishers as well as the challenge of balancing commercial relationships with publishers with the needs of member institutions and the unpredictability of their resources.

The publishers’ perspectives were presented by Jonathan Wynne of Wiley and Olga Middleton of Elsevier who were able to show that the principles were not at odds with their commercial aims. But they also shared challenges from their side, for instance in dealing with an increasing range of research organisations in countries and in balancing engagement with consortia and Ministries of Education.

In the afternoon, discussion groups worked through the practical implications of applying the five principles to their work. Some key messages resonated throughout. These included the need for communication between publishers and consortia; communication that needs to be clear and sustained. The benefits to all parties of long term thinking and agreements also surfaced repeatedly. It was striking to hear the consensus in thinking, and commonality of aims between Southern research institutions and Northern publishers which at first sight would seem to be coming from very different places.

Reminders of the dynamic environment in which work is taking place brought the meeting to a close, for example the development of new products and technologies which we can’t even imagine at present.  The room concluded that the focus needs to be on the practice of the principles. This will need active input by publishers, consortia and research support organisations such as INASP and ACU as we consider the next steps.

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AuthorAID researchers begin to take up Research Square’s free editing offer

Ravi Murugesan provides an update on the free editing offer available to some developing country researchers in the AuthorAID community thanks to the support of Research Square.

Researchers spend months or even years carrying out a research study. When they get to the happy stage of having enough results to write up a research paper, many researchers face a new challenge: writing in clear, precise English. This is particularly difficult for researchers who have limited proficiency in English.

At AuthorAID, we work with researchers living in developing countries around the world, and we have often sensed their need for manuscript editing support. Editing even a short research paper can take hours of effort, and is ideally done by a trained English language editor. However, manuscript editing is expensive when one has limited funds, like many of the researchers in the AuthorAID network.

With this in mind we were delighted when Research Square offered to waive the fees on its manuscript editing service for a group of researchers trained by AuthorAID. In February 2015, we extended this free editing offer to about 260 researchers from several developing countries who had recently completed an AuthorAID workshop or online course and showed an improvement in their knowledge of core concepts.

We have already seen some in the AuthorAID community begin to take advantage of this offer and we expect that as the offer nears its expiry period in December 2015, there will be a spike in the uptake. We have also received a number of positive comments from researchers who have benefitted from this offer.

One agricultural scientist in Kenya, for example, commented: “I have just completed the paper I started writing after the training and this offer is God sent. Will send it for editing now. Thanks for the training and this bonus!”

Another Kenya-based scientist echoed these thoughts: “Thanks for this. I am actually developing some papers and this will be of great importance.”

For some, the availability of this offer provides a focus for finishing the papers they are writing. “There is a manuscript that I am working on, it may be ready within a month. I will certainly make use of the free editing,” noted a biologist in Uganda. A social-science researcher in Ghana agreed: “Thanks for the information and the offer. That is encouraging and spurs me on to do at least one paper before the deadline.”

An Indian biologist echoed these thoughts: “I am going to use this free editing service for my review paper, which is being written.” There has even been a comment in Spanish from a biologist in Mexico: “Estimado (a), así es necesitaría pasar al ingles el manuscrito , pero si en su editorial se presta este servicio, será de mucha ayuda. Gracias!!” (which translates as “[…] indeed, I need to translate the manuscript, but if your company lends this service, it would be very helpful. Thank you!”).

Research Square’s Ben Mudrak said: “We simplify the communication process for researchers so they can focus on making new discoveries. Through our partnership with AuthorAID, we are delighted to help international researchers from developing countries remove language barriers when publishing their work. We hope that the offer of free editing through our AJE brand encourages participants from AuthorAID courses to submit their work for publication. This collaboration will enable them to focus on the valuable scholarship they are producing instead of the words used to describe it.”

INASP hopes that this free editing offer will eventually make a big difference to those who make use of it. We thank Research Square for this very generous offer, and we look forward to collaborating with them further.

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#inaspPrinciples for publishers 4 & 5: Pricing and sales, be realistic and predictable

Principle #4 Think medium to long term on pricing

Principle #5: Be realistic about sales expectations – where increases are needed, make these affordable, incremental and predictable

In the last few posts we’ve covered a range of issues: varying levels of infrastructure; the day-to-day challenges of getting things done; the importance of working through the consortia that countries are striving to develop. We deliberately started with these issues because they’re the all-too-important context that can get lost in conversations that begin with price. But of course price matters, and it’s one of the biggest concerns for INASP’s partners, particularly as some begin to take on the negotiating role that INASP has played for many years. Our final two principles both tackle the finances so we’re grouping them together in this post.

Competing for limited funding

As we discussed in Principle 1, research and higher education are growing in many of our partner countries. Governments are increasing budgets, and there are some sizeable investments from donors. But consider the decades of underfunding that many countries suffered and you can see that much of this money is needed simply to rehabilitate or expand campuses, provide the IT infrastructure, or train staff. In Kenya, for example, enrolments to public universities have risen seven times faster than funding. And, as Trevor Namondwe of the Malawi consortium notes, “although there is increased intake of students in universities, it does not directly translate to more income generation by institutions because as the institutions grow, challenges follow suit”.

Growing slowly

Like water flowing through a long pipe, it also takes time for new funding to reach universities, increase library budgets (if it does at all – libraries are rarely at the head of the queue!), and in turn to grow the consortium’s funding pot. (It’s worth emphasising that when we say consortia, we include other national purchasing arrangements – sometimes under a government agency, or a network of universities). University budgets are typically negotiated and agreed far in advance of when expenditure is actually committed – as we heard from Maria Eugenia (Principle 3) this can sometimes be eight months in advance in Central America – which means it’s unlikely that consortia can accommodate price increases unless they’re discussed in plenty of time.

So when you’re approaching consortia – or when consortia indicate that they’re keen to talk directly – think about pricing as a longer-term goal. We recognize that working directly means publishers are likely to spend more time managing accounts. This brings new costs so prices may need to gradually increase as a result: negotiating prices with each consortium, agreeing licences, invoicing and providing supporting documentation, handling payments and dealing with queries. But consortia budgets (and those of their member institutions) are unlikely to have increased since last year – and they’re unlikely to increase much next year, or in the next few years.

A small percentage increase in a dollar or sterling price can be much bigger when translated into local currencies in which budgets are set. In fact, with unstable currencies budgets may even have declined in real terms. As one of our partners explains, they need “flexible pricing that offers customers real options”. Consortia see a real value in developing longer-term relationships, and pricing is an important part of this.

Being realistic about sales expectations

Consortia must strike a careful balance. There are more and more titles and resources that researchers want – and publishers want to sell them! However, there is also limited funding to buy everything that researchers need. Consortia need to make good decisions about what to buy, and this means sufficient time and information to do so. With fixed budgets, accommodating a rising price for one package inevitably means cutting something else. Mergers also mean that a publisher may be offering more content in a package each year – and the price of the package will increase accordingly – but it won’t necessarily be additional material that a consortium actually needs. Patrick Mapulanga of the Malawi Library and Information Consortium sums it up neatly: “Publishers are in business and African libraries are in a fix as there is no indication that e-resources are likely to become less expensive”.

Stifling research just as it begins to flourish

There are tough decisions we all have to make when budgets are limited – but the impact of rising prices and the resulting cuts to content on an emerging research cluster, or a new university, could be relatively significant. Our partner consortia are working hard to build a more sustainable foundation for research in their countries, and to do this they need to be able to serve their researchers well. Being forced to make deep cuts to collections weakens their efforts to engage faculty and show how they can and must be part of efforts to grow the research base.

Size isn’t everything

As our Malawian colleagues explained in our first post, the size of a consortium isn’t indicative of the number of active users, so as a consortium increases in size year by year, it doesn’t mean it’s becoming a larger consumer at the same rate. Geoffrey Salanje tells us that a lot of members are members in name only; in fact some may not have contributed their share of the subscription costs.

So what is an affordable, incremental and predictable increase?

Well, as you’d expect, it depends on the country. But increases of anything more than 2% each year are likely to cause problems for consortia. If there is an expectation that the price increases by any set figure or percentage over a period, make this clear from the start so that consortia can prepare. It’s tempting to think that if a consortium can’t meet the price, tapping the funding at source – by going direct to government or university leadership – is a better option. But (unless this is how a country has chosen to provide e-resources) all this does is create more hassle for librarians and consortia leaders (most of whom are working hard to support national access on top of their institutional day jobs). It will only damage relationships in the long run.

But there’s plenty of good practice here that we should acknowledge. Some publishers that INASP has worked with over the years have been able to freeze prices for several years or offer 18 months’ notice when a price increase is expected. In such instances we tend to see fewer cancellations.

We hope you’ve found this series helpful – and that it’s prompted some useful conversations. You can read the earlier blogs here. We’ll be taking these further at Tuesday’s Publishers for Development conference, so we hope to see you there.

Perhaps the best way to end this blog – and this series – before we open up the discussion at Publishers for Development tomorrow is this message from Agatha Kabugu of the Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium:

“Let us not just focus on striking a one-time deal. It would be more worthwhile to ensure that you have understood the environment you are targeting and created a viable business partnership with the country through the consortium. We need you and you need us, so that makes the two of us.”

Join the conversation by following us on Twitter, and using the hashtag #inaspPrinciples. More information can be found on the Publishers for Development website.

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#inaspPrinciples for publishers 3: Avoid making sudden changes

– for full list of the principles see here

I’ve had the privilege of travelling to many of the countries in which INASP works. In most of the cities I have visited, I find that my hosts have a kind of inverse pride in their traffic jams. I have been told that the jams are worst in Dhaka, in Nairobi, in Hanoi, in Dar es Salaam… I wouldn’t put it to the vote, but I have sat in hot cars for many hours in all those cities. And that was in a car, not reliant on public transport which may or may not show up, or have space. This affects the ability of people to plan ahead; even with allowances for the “jams”, one cannot set arrival times with any confidence. It also limits the number of places one can plan to get to in a day, so we have learned not to have more than two or three appointments in a day in, say, Nairobi.

Why talk about traffic jams? Because it’s a useful illustration of one of the many challenges of day-to-day life and work, and what can be accomplished – even by those in professional roles in universities or government – in any given day. The same can be true of bureaucratic and administrative processes. Getting things done simply takes time. So, to our third principle, it’s important to avoid sudden changes – to processes, content, platforms, and pricing. And when changes are needed, it’s important to explain plans early and give consortia time to prepare.

Getting things done

Public administration systems in many developing countries are not as responsive as those in more established bureaucratic systems. Change may be slow due to lengthy administrative process in place and also the shortage of people to run these systems. Decisions may be delayed as a key signatory hasn’t been able to get through the traffic to a meeting, or power failures or IT problems might slow down day-to-day work. In Harare, phone lines are often stolen as thieves make a good income from the sale of copper cable.

Consortia’s ability to respond to change

Our consortium advisor from Costa Rica, María Eugenia Briceño Meza, explains that fiscal years in Latin American countries are generally different from those in the US and Europe. In Costa Rica, operational plans are presented for consideration by the institutional authorities during April-May. The fiscal year generally runs from September to August, so the annual budget planning should therefore be executed before this closure in September. When subscription years run from January to December, this means consortia and their member institutions have to estimate expenditure eight months in advance. A three to five-year plan for engagement is likely to be more effective than an annual plan and process.

Consortia are in their nature consultative bodies, drawing on the experience and expertise of member institutions. Those representing institutions have full-time jobs and serve the consortium on a voluntary basis. In addition to a consortium’s planning processes, they depend on institutions to contribute funding and expertise – and thus are dependent on multiple, varying schedules within each institution.

In most cases, consortia collect funds from member libraries, which must be secured through institutional budgeting mechanisms. Even when financial years are more closely aligned to subscription years, this can take a considerable amount of time so long-term planning is important.

Communicating change and engaging with customers

As Mercedes stresses, communicating regularly with consortia and libraries about any changes in platform, provision or pricing enables them to make the necessary preparations. Mailing lists and announcements are an effective way to achieve this. In Costa Rica, some publishers have arranged annual events with their clients and potential clients where they share their latest news and changes for the upcoming periods. Another practice which has been welcomed is the invitation of developing-country customers (usually librarians) into publisher advisory or consultative groups where they can meet, often electronically, to assess new products and projects and provide suggestions and information about the appropriateness and relevance of the product for a region, country or type of institution.

Changes in content

In Maria Eugenia’s experience, difficult situations have arisen when two publishers have merged or one of these has acquired the products of another and this has meant a substantial increase in price or even changes to pre-established contracts. While it is seldom possible to share information about mergers and takeovers in advance, the more information that is shared, the easier it is for consortia and libraries to plan and the easier it is to accommodate change. While content has not changed (so far) Springer and Macmillan have had a very effective and inclusive communication campaign about their recent merger.

Maria Eugenia notes that while mergers have enriched content considerably, they may also increase the price disproportionately from one year to another, which translates into an economic imbalance for the consortium if it continues its subscription to the product.

Mercedes Tinoco from Nicaragua welcomes changes when they benefit members of the consortium. However, she points out that the consortium works on consensual decisions by the members, as well as a jointly developed work plan, and this makes adjustments to sudden changes a difficult task. She recommends that publishers consult the consortium prior to making changes in order to ensure that the outcomes of these changes benefit both parties, such as increasing content to mirror increasing costs.

Platform changes

Smaller or rural institutions in developing countries may lack technical staff or systems librarians. As we identified in an earlier blog, consortia in developing countries often provide technical expertise to such libraries. Publishers correctly and appropriately make platform changes to improve their services. The earlier these are communicated, the easier it is to plan for this technical support. This could involve a single person travelling around the consortium member libraries to implement any updates to firewalls or links from library websites, so may cause breaks in access for researchers. This affects all customers and we would like to commend those publishers whose platform changes now include a period where old links redirect, which benefits customers across the board. Mercedes notes that EBSCO has adapted its content and platforms to fit the specific Central American context with good results.

Changes in processes

There are times when payment processes in their nature have to progress – publishers merge and change names or open new bank accounts to receive payments. Developing countries are often very aware of the possibilities of corruption, so have extensive processes in place to make payments, particularly when this involves the international transfer of substantial (in their terms) sums of money to pay for resources. Consortia and institutions have developed a system of safeguards, many of which include physical countersigning of all foreign exchange payments, thus carrying the documents around the city to reach several member institutions. Many consortia (or, indeed, their banks) also require documentation to work around a tender system, and have to repeat this process if there are name changes for their suppliers, or different bank details for the transfers, so publishers need to be willing and able to provide this documentation on request.

So, what can you do? Understand the limitations on consortia’s ability to respond to change. Communicate well in advance and be patient when messages and processes take a long time. Include developing country members in your consultations.

Join the conversation by following us on Twitter, and using the hashtag #inaspPrinciples.  More information can be found on the Publishers for Development website and registration for the London conference on the 30th June is still open here.


Weekly highlights – 23 June 2015

  1. Staff quote

“We are really looking forward to this year’s Publishers for Development meeting on 30th June in London. It is a great opportunity to bring together speakers representing our Southern library consortia partners with the Northern publishers that work closely with us. We have been very pleased this year with the level of engagement already in our #inaspPrinciples from the publishing community and from our consortia partners who have been sharing their experiences so constructively via Community of Practice discussions.”

Anne Powell, Programme Manager, Information Access and Publisher Liaison

  1. Updates

– This week the second workshop of our first learner-centred librarian trainer of trainers course is taking place in Uganda.

– To coincide with this week’s training course in Uganda, we have produced a new factsheet for the country.

– The Photo of the month for June 2015 was taken at a recent VakaYiko evidence-informed policy making course in Ghana.

  1. Upcoming events

– At the end of July, representatives of library consortia from across Africa will meet together in Ethiopia. The objective of this meeting, which will include representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, will be to support our consortium partners as they develop further as organizations with the strength to secure, provide and manage access to e-resources.

– The Publishers for Development conference will take place in London on 30th June. It can be followed using the hashtag #pfd2015 and discussions will particularly focus on responsible engagement between publishers and library consortia (see the hashtag #inaspPrinciples).

– From 28th-30th July the VakaYiko consortium will hold its annual meeting at GINKS’ headquarters in Accra, Ghana.

  1. Recent publications

INASP shares experiences of online peer assessment at MOOC conference – INASP News, June 22, 2015

Experiences from Nicaragua (#inaspPrinciples) – Publishers for Development, June 22, 2015

Uganda facts and figures – INASP Publications, June 19, 2015

Second workshop for librarian trainers takes place in Uganda – INASP News, June 18, 2015

#inaspPrinciples for publishers 2: Respect a country’s wish to negotiate as a consortium – Practising Development, June 16, 2015

Experiences from Kenya (#inaspPrinciples) – Publishers for Development, June 16, 2015

Tip of the Week #238 – AuthorAID, June 16, 2015

  1. External coverage

Notes & News: Free Editorial Services for Researchers – The African Book Publishing Record, May 26, 2015

A Decade of Formal Library and Information Science Education in Malawi: the Case of Mzuzu University – IFLA.org, June 7, 2015

Evidence into Action Team: Programme Guide – DfiD, June 16, 2015

Beyond Open: Expanding Access to Scholarly Content – The Journal of Electronic Publishing, June 18, 2015

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