– Humphrey Kombe Keah – Information Management and Digital Services Specialist at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya – discusses the opportunities and challenges of strengthening the research and knowledge sector in Kenya for the advancement of national development.
I work as an Information Management and Digital Services Specialist at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. My main area of work is in research support through information management and facilitating access to online electronic resources.
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is part of a Consortium of 15 international agricultural research centres known as the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The CGIAR’s mission is to advance agricultural science and innovation to enable poor people, especially women, to better nourish their families and to improve productivity and resilience so that they can share in economic growth and manage natural resources in the face of climate change and other challenges.
The researchers of CGIAR were involved in setting a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and defining associated targets and indicators. The centre collaborates globally with relevant partners to achieve these goals as they align closely with our mission.
Challenges in the research and knowledge sector in Kenya
In order to be able to support the mission of ICRAF, our researchers need access to up-to-date published research. However, the research and knowledge sector in Kenya faces different categories of challenges..
On a top level, there is sometimes little appreciation among government agencies of the importance of the role of information. An increased level of trust and recognition from the government of the role of the information profession would improve access in the country. This could be led by the National Council for Science and Technology or the Ministry of Education, for instance. Part of this is fully recognizing the Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium (KLISC) as leading in national matters of access to research information, including negotiations with publishers. With the support of INASP, KLISC has developed into a strong organization ready and capable of taking on this responsibility. Subscriptions through KLISC help to overcome the barrier of affordability of subscription content for the member institutions.
On a policy level, there is a lack of clarity and standards. There is no policy to enforce data availability in digital form and there are no standards for data management and sharing or for data preservation in trusted repositories. It would therefore be good to develop repository enhancement features. This would be particularly useful when publishing institutional research outputs and datasets as Linked Open Data, as it would make open-access research more discoverable through the Semantic Web.
Finally, researchers have limited knowledge of the power of emerging ICT research skills, meaning that they face challenges in accessing material. They therefore need training on what electronic resources are available to them, be it subscribed or open-access content, and how to make use of them. In addition to having developed the skills for negotiating with publishers, KLISC has also worked with INASP to develop the organizational capacity and facilitation skills to be able to provide training for its members in a range of areas including how to discover and use electronic resources.
Humphrey Kombe Keah is an Information Management and Digital Services Specialist at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. He will be speaking at the Publishers for Development conference in July 2017.