Author Archives: INASP

Consortium strengthens information access in Kenya

Jacinta Were, an INASP associate based in Kenya, discusses how INASP and the Kenyan library consortium have worked together for well over a decade to support sustainable access to electronic research information in the country.

I’ve known and worked with INASP for the last 15 years, mainly to support research in Africa. When INASP started working in Kenya we had gone for about six years without subscribing to any journals because there was no budget. When we did subscribe to a journal, it was just one at a time, in print form, and it would often take two years to arrive. When INASP arrived and explained what they were planning to do we welcomed them, we said “Yes, this is really the right time!”

I can speak for my country when I say that INASP support has rejuvenated libraries in Kenya, which are now able to support researchers. INASP introduced us to electronic library research literature. We are now able to access over 46,000 electronic journals and books and the researchers; having been reluctant in the beginning, are now hooked on them.

The way INASP works has been a very different approach for us in Kenya, different from the donor-supported projects we are used to. INASP has helped us to take ownership of the whole project. For the last 15 years we’ve been working on making it ours and focusing on sustainability, which has been quite exciting and very successful.

INASP support in Kenya started with subscriptions to online journals. After years, due to the political situation, donors shied away from Kenya and it was at that point that INASP helped us to set up a library consortium – the Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium (KLISC). We’d never dreamt of supporting ourselves, but we now have over 100 members and are self-sustaining in many ways. We are able to subscribe to the journals ourselves as well as to engage in negotiations with publishers. Sustainability is about developing skills and capacity as our financial situation has not changed, so one of KLISC’s strengths is in being able to manage our limited budget to maximum effect.

INASP’s work in Kenya has given us a product in the form of electronic journals, and KLISC is able to supply that product. This has enabled libraries to become organized and visible and to place themselves at the centre of research within the institutions.

The consortium model has been so successful for enabling sustainable access to electronic library resources in Kenya that over the years we have tried to encourage other countries to establish consortia. There is a lot of potential out there; many countries have already started to work within this model. Some are well-developed and others are just starting out. In Africa, Kenya’s library consortium is one of the most developed and we realized that we could support other countries and consortia to grow stronger. With INASP support we have started to collaborate with the Consortium of Ethiopian Academic Research Libraries (CEARL). In the first six months of working together, a team from CEARL visited KLISC in Kenya to meet, learn and network. I then took on the role of a ‘mentor’ for the Ethiopian consortium, communicating between the two organizations and advising CEARL on how to build its strengths. Over the first six months we saw the Ethiopian Consortium grow and become more active; it has been a successful pilot. I would like to see replication of this in other countries to build more strong consortia in Africa. We have in mind the development of an electronic network to provide a platform for people to share South-to-South experiences, challenges and solutions in supporting research across the continent.■


Jacinta Were has over 37 years’ experience of managing libraries, retiring from the University of Nairobi in 2015 where she served as Deputy Director in charge of library electronic services. She led the establishment of library consortia in Eastern and Central Africa including the Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium.

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Turning the gender lens inwards: INASP’s Gender Audit

INASP staff demonstrating their commitments to being gender inclusive on IWD.

Blog post by Ruth Bottomley, Senior Programme Manager, Research Development and Support, INASP

Over the last few years there has been growing recognition within INASP that a commitment to incorporating gender considerations in our work is critical to meeting our mission to support individuals and institutions to produce, share and use research and knowledge, which can transform lives. This commitment to gender equity is clearly outlined in the INASP Strategy, but putting the commitment into practice can be challenging.

We realized that an important step towards helping us to meet this commitment was to turn the gender lens on ourselves to see how well we are addressing gender issues in our work. To do this, we decided to conduct a gender audit of our programmes over a period of six months in 2016.

We wanted the audit to:

  • explore how effectively the particular needs of men and women are accounted for in INASP programmes.
  • identify the gaps and challenges that need to be addressed.
  • enhance staff understanding of the importance of gender issues in the work that we do.
  • result in recommendations and guidance that could help to ensure that gender can be mainstreamed practically and effectively in current and future programme work.

The audit process

  1. Recruiting expertise: Fitting a gender audit into our busy day to day working lives was the next challenge. We decided that the best way to do it was to recruit a consultant to lead the work (in fact we had two excellent consultants who worked with us) and to use participatory methods which would involve INASP staff and some of our associates and partners to ensure sensitization and buy-in to the audit process as it proceeded. The very term, “gender audit” can appear confronting, and so we were keen to ensure that the process was conducted in a non-threatening, inclusive and explanatory way, which enabled all involved to raise any concerns and to build their own understanding and awareness.
  2. Facilitate organizational participation: Although we are a relatively small organization, we have three programme teams and three cross-cutting teams, plus a senior management group and several associates based in different countries who support our work. We also wanted to ensure that the perspectives of our partners were included in the process. To get the participation of all of these different actors required an internal coordination process which was provided by our Gender Working Group. This working group was established in 2015 and comprises representatives from across the organization. The group worked closely with the consultants, and acted as the main information channel regarding the audit process to the rest of the staff, the associates and partners.
  3. Develop an audit framework: The methodology for the audit was developed by the consultants in consultation with the Gender Working Group, and included the development of an audit framework identifying the main areas of enquiry, a document review, and focus group discussions and individual interviews with staff, partners and associates. Workshops were held with the staff both to introduce the audit process, to provide some gender sensitization, and to present and discuss the findings.

 Putting the recommendations into action

The audit provided recommendations across different areas of our work. Specifically, the audit recommended that we build on our existing good practices around gender equality, by:

  1. Encouraging shared responsibility for mainstreaming gender throughout the organization,
  2. Building opportunities for capacity building and knowledge sharing on gender both within our organization and our networks,
  3. Ensuring contextual gender analysis in programme planning and inception,
  4. Integrating gender dimensions into our existing Monitoring and Evaluation, capacity development and communications work.

The findings and recommendations were presented and discussed with the staff during the final workshop at the end of the process, and the Gender Working Group, with support from the consultants and in liaison with their respective teams, developed short, medium and longer term action plans based on the recommendations. The short-term action plan covers a six-month period from October 2016 – March 2017 and includes “quick-wins” in terms of relatively easy actions that can be implemented to boost our gender work and profile. The medium term plan is currently being developed and will lay out the key actions for the next year. The action plan progress is monitored by the Gender Working Group on a quarterly basis and the key milestones are included within the INASP Operational Plan.

It is clear that the focus on gender over the last year has boosted our knowledge and confidence regarding gender issues, and there has been a marked positive shift in thinking across the organization. Our own expertise is developing in how to address gender issues within our programme design, in our discussions with partners, and in the way we think and conduct our everyday work.

Some reflections

This gender audit was a first for INASP. Some of the reflections on the process gathered through the staff workshops and Gender Working Group discussions are as follows:

  • Having the support of INASP senior managers and our donors, DFID and Sida, was essential to enabling us to conduct the audit and to feel confident that we would be able to take the recommendations forward.
  • It was important that all INASP staff were involved in the audit process and understood the aims and objectives. The workshops and focus group discussions enabled INASP staff to be involved in the process actively, without taking too much time away from other work. The focus group discussions were particularly effective in enabling people to engage and feel comfortable to raise concerns and opinions.
  • Having external consultants facilitate the process was beneficial as they had the expertise to address any sensitivities and difficult conversations that emerged during the process.
  • The Gender Working Group served an important role as both the main internal liaison group with the consultants, and as the liaison with the different teams. The group continues to play a key role in advancing the gender work within INASP through the action plans.

The gender audit has given all of us in INASP a platform on which to build our future programme work with regards to gender, so that we can really begin to act on our commitment of promoting equity and addressing issues of power within the research and knowledge system. This process also helped us to think about how to approach gender issues with partners. ■

Find out more about how INASP supports gender mainstreaming in higher education.

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Low representation of women in academic publishing is only a reflection of lack of opportunities

Dr Sabina Bhattarai addressing an international conference on dermatology, 2016.


Dr Sabina Bhattarai is an Associate Professor and Vice Principal at Kathmandu Medical College, Sinamangal and Editor-in-Chief, Nepal Journal of Dermatology, Venereology & Leprology. The Journal is published in NepJOL, supported by INASP. We asked her about her experience in journal publishing in Nepal and the challenges she faces as a female journal editor.

– Interview by Thakur Amgai

When and how did you get into research and academic publishing?

 I have been doing research for a long time now. It’s part of my job. All professionals in medical fields do research as part of their job. Apart from the regular medical practice of consulting patients and providing them treatment advice, I am also a teacher in a medical school, which requires me to do more research. Writing and editing is my passion. I remember enjoying writing even as a child. I used to participate and be awarded in writing contests at school. Perhaps, that’s the reason that my teachers and friends recommended me whenever opportunities to publish wall magazines, chart papers, or bulletins came up. This continued and even flourished when I passed high school and joined university. And here I am now – editing a professional journal.

That sounds very inspiring. How is it that you got such good opportunity as a female child at that time in a country where many parents marry off their daughters before they turn 18?

I was lucky in that matter. I was born and I grew up in central Kathmandu’s Baneshwar area in an educated liberal family. I got the same equal opportunity as my brother for education. My mother was a scientist at Nepal Agriculture Research Council. She always encouraged me to study. I got the best of education available in Nepal at that time. It was much later in life that I witnessed the unbelievable discrimination and harsh life girls were facing in the country.

Could you tell me about your current work in research publication and how you got there?

Currently, I am an Associate Professor of Dermatology & Venereology and Vice Principal at Kathmandu Medical College, Sinamangal. That’s my full time occupation. Apart from that, I am the Editor-in-Chief of Nepal Journal of Dermatology, Venerealogy & Leprology. We have formed a society of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology in Nepal, of which I am a member. The society publishes this journal. I have been its chief editor for eight years now. Before that I used to contribute to it actively.

What challenges do you face as a female editor-in-chief of the journal?

There are challenges that all journal publishers in Nepal face irrespective of gender. I have experienced that external mobility is a bit challenging especially at odd hours.  Having to go to the printing press and sit behind the layout designer looking for errors on the copy for long hours is not an easy job. But this challenge would be there even for a male.  Being a female hasn’t affected the process and output of the journal in anyway.

In general women face a lot of challenge in workplaces in Nepal. However, the situation is quite the opposite where I work. Unlike many other academic institutions women are in the majority at Kathmandu Medical College. Both men and women at KMC are very supportive here.

Do you think that the gender roles in Nepalese society hinder women from coming forwards and succeeding in their academic career?

Of course! It is not just the academic career ̶ women in general face challenges in everyday life. I also face challenges despite being privileged and receiving equal opportunities in terms of my education and upbringing. For example, once I was driving on the road and a bus hit my car from behind and ran away. Although the bus driver had caused the accident, he would not accept fault. When he finally had to accept after eyewitness accounts he said, “how would someone who must have been doing dishes drive well?” That is the kind of perception of some men in the society even today.

Do you think the representation of women on editorial boards is changing?  

There are very few women engaged in academic publishing but a lot has changed lately. You can see three of the top positions of the country – president, speaker of the house and the chief justice – are women. And 33% of the MPs are women. All women need is opportunity and a little bit of confidence.

I believe that an environment of collaboration and sharing among women writers and editors would benefit all. At present even the few women writers and editors in this industry are working on their own without any support.

Do you see gender bias in the composition of editorial boards in journals published in Nepal? 

Of course, there are a low number of females in editorial boards of all journals (with a few exceptions). However, this bias did not originate at academic publishing level. It is just a proportional representation of other areas. What I mean is, the ratio of female to male who complete further studies is low. Then, the ratio of female to male who work in this industry is low. So, the number of women in journal publishing is proportional to the number of educated women in Nepal but disproportional to their total population.

What can an international institution like INASP do to promote career of female researchers?

Organizations like INASP could help bring women together on a platform to facilitate sharing and learning, which would ultimately help raise awareness and increase their confidence.

I have taken part in an INASP workshop on publishing earlier and have found it to be very useful. If there is an opportunity, I would love to be a part of INSAP gender programmes in Nepal which would help enhance career of female researchers/editors as we definitely need to have more representation of women in academic publishing and of course it is not that you cannot work as well as men, it’s just a matter of opportunity.

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How are Higher Education institutions addressing gender issues?

AuthorAID sponsored gender sensitization workshop creates gender awareness in the work of PASGR staff and partners in Nairobi.


                                            – Blog post by Christine Laustsen, Programme Assistant, INASP

Women often face far more barriers in pursuing research and academic careers than their male counterparts. Constraining family expectations and balancing multiple roles as wives, mothers and researchers can negatively affect women’s academic career advancement. At institutional level barriers can often include policies that fail to address women’s needs, lack of senior female mentors, campus safety issues, and difficulty in breaking through the glass ceiling of promotion.

Over the last year INASP’s AuthorAID project has focused on supporting women in research to address gender inequality in academia.  As part of this work we have awarded a total of 22 grants to support researchers to present gendered research at conferences or organize a gender workshop in their own institution.

Raising the visibility of gender sensitive research

The AuthorAID gender travel grants have enabled researchers from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Palestine, Cameroon, India, Cambodia and Vietnam to travel to international conferences to present gendered research on a variety of topics. Our travel grants have supported researchers directly addressing gender inequalities in higher education as well as research on other topics with a strong focus on sex and gender differences.

Supporting researchers to raise the visibility of gender sensitive research is important in that it helps to ensure that research is inclusive and produces quality outcomes for men and women alike.

“It offered me the occasion to meet researchers, in the area, share ideas and obtain amazing contributions and new ideas on how to proceed with my PhD thesis. The conference was a revelation and the knowledge gained is not going to serve my personal career only but also my department.” – AuthorAID travel grant recipient

“Attending this conference offered me the opportunity not only to do a presentation but to also meet researchers in my area of interest…. My poster session was very engaging and fruitful as we discussed issues such as what specific gender differences occur with TB and whether gender affects treatment outcomes of patients. We also discussed issues around gender and TB in pregnant women.”

Kingsley Nnanna Ukwaja,  presenting research on gender differences in the profile and treatment outcomes of tuberculosis 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health

Increasing gender awareness within Higher Education institutions

Similar to travel grants, our workshop grants have enabled many researchers to conduct gender related workshops in their institutions. In the first two grant calls for gender workshops we invited applicants to submit a proposal for a workshop on any gender topic they found relevant to their institution. Receiving these proposals has given us an insight into priority gender issues and topics within higher education and research institutions of lower and middle income countries, thereby increasing our understanding of the needs and challenges many of our partner institutions face.

We have received applications mainly on gender mainstreaming in higher education for which we have awarded 7 grants. Other AuthorAID supported workshops have focused on gender based violence, gender inclusion in proposal writing, gender and agricultural development and women in STEM.

“Participants discussed the levels of gender equality, distinguishing between material inequality and that which often takes a subtle ideological and systemic form”. – Dr. Pauline Ngimwa from Partnership for African Social and Governance Research

These workshops have helped increase gender awareness and initiate institutional conversations about gender inequalities in academia and higher education.

 Putting plans into action

Workshops are a significant first step towards increasing awareness of gender issues and inequalities at institutional level. However, we also recognize the importance of taking this initial work forward. We have awarded follow-up grants to three of our recipients to enable the organization of further activities to build on outcomes and lessons learned:

  • Strategic Applications International in Kenya, who previously organized a policy conference to raise awareness of sexual and gender based violence at university campuses, has been awarded a second grant to work with university institutions to implement recommendations from the conference.
  • Institute of Computer Science at Mbarara University in Uganda will use a second grant to scale up work focused on increasing girls’ engagement in STEM.
  • Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) in Kenya is using a second grant to pilot training focused on gendering social science research.

Supporting such gender workshops helps us to increase our understanding of what it means to address gender issues and inequalities in academia at an institutional level. This is something we can build on in our other work focused on supporting women in research to address gender inequality in academia. ■

Find out more about how INASP supports gender mainstreaming in higher education.

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In their own words: challenges and opportunities for Tanzanian women researchers

Women researchers from Dodoma University, AuthorAID project meeting, December 2016, Tanzania.

– Blog post by Jennifer Chapin, Programme Manager, Research and Communication, AuthorAID

“Everyone had noticed the issues women faced but no one had talked about it before. Only when all of the women came together to discuss it as a group did they realise they all had the same experiences.” – Ruth Bottomley, discussing the Gender workshop at University of Dodoma, 2015

In December 2016, the AuthorAID team had the opportunity to talk to women researchers in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

We spoke to women who are senior lecturers, field researchers and teachers, from universities in Dar es Salaam and in other cities in Tanzania. They told us about their experiences and they spent time thoughtfully answering our questions. We were interested to know what obstacles they saw in progressing in their careers, and in what ways their experiences differed from their male counterparts.

Many women told us that the challenges start at home. Household activities are women’s activities and this means that weekends are full of laundry, cleaning dishes, cooking, looking after children and ensuring their children do their homework: “there is no time for taking online courses or doing experiments; weekends are taken up with children and chores.” This was chorused by other women who said that there are stereotypical views on “work for women” and “work for men.” Some told us about how their male supervisors were biased against the recruitment of women, explaining that women are not suited to do the field research needed because it involves dealing with livestock (“too difficult”) or collecting samples at night (“not right for women”).

Within universities and research institutes, women feel that the odds are stacked against them, so that they are already trying to catch up to men from the very start. Many told us that they had to work twice as hard to be recognized for achieving the same results. One academic told us that her supervisor criticised her paper harshly in front of a group of people in a way he would never have done if it had been a man’s paper instead. She said: “If it were a man he would have put it in a different way, because how would a man react to that statement?”. Other women shared similar situations, instances where their paper or data was disregarded because of their gender and because they were not seen as capable as men. “The data I collected was excluded from the final report,” she claimed.

Some women explained their feelings of loneliness being one in a small group of women in their male-dominated fields, particularly in the maths and sciences: “sometimes you realise you are the only woman there. There may only be one woman in 50 men.” This shows that women’s networks across institutions are crucial. Yet, many told us that groups or networks for women are rare, and so there are very few platforms for women to share their experiences with each other.

Most women also saw a gap in being able to access a female mentor, someone more senior in their field or university, “we could use a mentor – someone who has been there before.” In reality, very few of the senior women lecturers in their institution expressed an interest, or had the time, to mentor the younger generation.

With all of these challenges, many women still felt hopeful for the future, and they expressed an interest in developing women’s groups or networks, in empowering younger women in science, and in supporting women through the AuthorAID network by signing up as a mentor. One woman echoed the thoughts of all the women we met by expressing how she empowers herself, “I say to myself that ‘I give confidence to myself’ so that I feel confident that I have what I need to move forward despite the challenges.” ■

Find out more about gender gaps in higher education institutions in Tanzania: Why not me? Why not us? Tackling the gender gap in Tanzania, A video developed by INASP, in partnership with University of Dodoma (UDOM), Tanzania.

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AuthorAID partners meeting reveals shared optimism for the future of research capacity building

AuthorAID partners meeting, Tanzania, December 2016.

–  Blog post by Jennifer Chapin, Programme Manager, Research and Communication, AuthorAID

In December, for the first time, we held a two-day meeting of the six African AuthorAID partner institutions that are embedding AuthorAID research-writing training into their institutions.

Working more closely together will help research institutions in Tanzania and beyond to tackle the many challenges facing African higher education today – challenges such as addressing gender equity, getting research published in reputable and appropriate journals, and training early career researchers in ways that are appropriate for their situations and their institutions. This was one of the highlights of the AuthorAID partners meeting that was held in Dar Es Salaam in December 2016.

Our embedding partners represent a cross-section of academics and researchers, ranging from large multi-college universities, to smaller universities that focus on distance education, to research institutes that work closely with key policymakers in government. The six partner institutions in Africa include the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute, St John’s University, Tanzania Muhumbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, University of Dodoma, Open University Tanzania and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana.

The partners represented a network of like-minded researchers

Each partner institution has developed a plan with INASP/AuthorAID to embed research-writing skills and communication across the institution. What this means in practice is that we work closely with them in undertaking training of trainers, developing and running writing workshops, implementing online courses and identifying any obstacles to success (such as issues with senior leadership or issues affecting women researchers).

Most of the meeting was devoted to group discussions, sharing ideas and networking. What was interesting was how much everyone relished the opportunity to talk to each other – we had assumed that the majority of the group would know each other through the grapevine (so to speak), either within the Tanzania university network, or through the AuthorAID online network. But this wasn’t necessarily the case. In many instances, partners mentioned how much they wanted a network for regular interaction and support, but how they struggled to find the time or the contacts to do so. This helped the AuthorAID team to see how important we are in providing a forum to do so.

A common understanding of what works

At the end of the first day, it was pretty clear that our partners had similar experiences in many ways, and had come to similar conclusions about the elements of institutionalizing training in research writing:

  • Blended training was by far considered the best format for training. The combination of an online course (with flexibility of location and timing) and a face-to-face workshop (providing practical time devoted to writing and presenting research) provided the best of both worlds.
  • With some struggles with online course completion by the participants, the partners agreed that the prestige factor of having an external facilitator was important in promoting engagement. This does not necessarily have to be someone from outside the country. Everyone agreed that a facilitator from another university within the country would build enough interest to encourage engagement.
  • Everyone agreed that the embedding process is more successful when there is buy-in from someone in a leadership role within the institution. Likewise, the team running the training should have the ear of senior leadership as needed so that they can change elements of the training when it’s not working properly.
  • The demand for training will always be there – with the influx of new students and staff every year comes more demand for this type of training.

 Shared challenges and some solutions…

  • There were some shared frustrations about running online courses, in particular that it cannot be guaranteed that course participants will be confident about using online technology. This can have adverse effects on the completion rates. Suggestions to combat this issue were to run a pre-course sensitization session and to better advertise the benefits of completing the course (such as publishing more and increased opportunities for funding).
  • Time constraints were a continuous issue, with many people expressing how difficult it is to find time to run workshops and courses when there are so many other competing priorities. Others shared that they have successfully lobbied their dean or chancellor to protect time for this as a priority, and to provide opportunities for promotion as a result of undertaking more training.
  • Every institution mentioned the degree to which poor internet connectivity slows progress. This started a great discussion on ways to solve this problem. For online courses in particular, we discussed spending more time ensuring course materials are fully downloadable and that Moodle courses are fully compatible with mobile phones.

At the end of the two days, it felt like everyone had learnt a lot from their peers, and we all had long lists of ideas and things to do upon returning home.

Each partner took away notes on improving sustainability, solutions to some of the common obstacles, and ideas on new areas of training, such as a desire to understand better on how to communicate science to journalists and policymakers. Everyone agreed they could do much more to keep the network they had built together ongoing. There were suggestions of holding annual networking meetings, developing an online group, and sharing online course facilitators between institutions.

Within the AuthorAID team, we will do our best to develop this and implement the list of priorities over the next year. Lastly, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of the partners for making this such a successful meeting!

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