Category Archives: Blog

Ten Videos on Evidence and Policy
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Here are a few of our favourite videos featuring researchers, policymakers and practitioners all over the world discussing key issues in evidence-informed policy: what it is, what the challenges are, and how to address them. Got more to share? Please tell us in the comments! 1 What is EIPM? Here Louise Shaxson of the Overseas Development Institute’s Research and Policy in Development programme draws on her experience with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to explain the concept of evidence-informed policy making, highlighting the role of processes within public institutions: “you can have the best evidence in the world but if you put it through poor processes you won’t get good evidence informed policy making”. At INASP we see these processes as a complex set of structures, relationships and behaviours within public institutions that shape how evidence is gathered, synthesised, appraised and communicated to inform policy. 2) Getting … Continue reading

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Low representation of women in academic publishing is only a reflection of lack of opportunities
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Dr Sabina Bhattarai addressing an international conference on dermatology, 2016.

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

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                                            – 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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Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia
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Participants in Ghana celebrate the end of a productive and inspiring two days.
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Sustainable access to cutting-edge research information is essential for any strong research and knowledge system. Strengthening southern library consortia has been an important component of INASP’s work for many years.

‘Leading in the Library: A learning lab for sustainable access to knowledge in developing countries’ is a collaborative partnership between INASP and Caplor Horizons working with library consortia to inspire organizational change. The project helps strengthen leadership, strategy and influencing skills by providing space for blended learning, where a combination of online, face-to-face and other training approaches are used.

This work will strengthen the organizational effectiveness of institutions (library consortia) that play a pivotal role in the knowledge economies of Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda by enabling access to cutting edge research from around the world.

The ‘learning lab’ is an iterative and constantly evolving approach. It requires a great level of flexibility by the team to develop and adapt the project as it develops in unique ways in each country. However, being able to respond to these emerging themes and challenges is what provides an added dimension of depth and alignment with local needs.

Earlier this month, Ian Williams (Executive Director) and Lorna Pearcey (Director of Development) from Caplor Horizons together with Kemal Shaheen (Programme Manager, INASP) and members of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) reflected upon the current situation at CARLIGH and on the potential barriers and opportunities for future sustainability. The key insights and participant feedback make for an interesting read:

Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia

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Using evidence to mainstream gender in policy making
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Gender Centre for Research and Training running a workshop in training to policymakers on mainstreaming gender in development policies and practices.


– Blog post by Amira Osman, Co-founder of the Gender Centre for Research and Training, Sudan

Gendered evidence is important for policy making because it gives policy makers and development planners a clear picture on the gender needs of the population they are targeting. In recent years, this need has received greater attention. However, there are still numerous barriers and challenges to mainstreaming gender in programmes and policies.

To discuss this, a breakout session was held at the VakaYiko symposium in Accra on 5 October 2016. Policy makers, researchers and civil society organisations from countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe joined the discussion. Also present, was a Regional Director from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Ghana, who shared a practical perspective on challenges and opportunities to mainstreaming gender evidence within government policy. Here are five key things to come out of the discussion:

1. Gender is a socially constructed issue

What we understand by ‘gender’ varies from culture to culture and changes over time. Furthermore, the concept of gender is sometimes seen as a western concept. Therefore the concept needs to be deconstructed and understood in relation to ethnicity, culture, geography, age, disability, religion and social status, making it more relevant to the experiences of people in the local context This is a key to developing a policy that is informed by relevant gender data and gender analysis.

2. Gender is often not seen as a priority

Policy makers at the top of hierarchical decision-making structures – often men – don’t see collecting and using gendered evidence as a priority. As such, adding a gender perspective to their activities challenges the status quo, including their power.

3. Policy making bodies often lack necessary resources, time and skills

Scarce or stretched resources is a major barrier. Even within departments with a specific gender remit – such as Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection – inadequate financial resources to collect gender disaggregated data was raised as a major challenge. The lack of communication between data producers (researchers) and users (policy makers) can further hinder this.

4. Quantitative and qualitative data collection methods are needed

There is often a reliance on quantitative data methods, which tend to favour statistics without paying attention to women’s and men’s different roles in society. For example, quantitative data may tell us about the number of women in a parliament but adding qualitative data will inform us about women’s and men’s experiences/perspectives within such an important decision making body.

Qualitative methods such as focus groups and in-depth interviews allow participants, in particular women, to engage in fruitful discussions and to raise issues of concern such as their experiences with domestic violence, which women may not feel comfortable mentioning in a survey conducted by a male interviewer. In this sense, the sex of the interviewers is relevant particularly in contexts where sex segregation is common, i.e. female interviewers are needed for female interviewees and male interviewers are needed for male interviewees.

5. Capacity building on gender disaggregated data and data analysis is a practical step

Capacity building for different stakeholders, such as community leaders, grassroots organisations, civil servants, researchers and policy makers, is needed. Capacity building for stakeholders on gender disaggregated data and gender analysis is a practical step to equip them with relevant skills to mainstream gender in policies and programmes.

To tackle the above key points/challenges, the Gender Centre for Research and Training in Sudan (GCRT), using the VakaYiko grant managed to provide capacity building sessions to mid and high level policy makers from two ministries in Sudan on gender and gender analysis to inform policy. The sessions acted as platforms for dialogue which helped policy makers to raise questions, analyse information and develop plans and policies that address the needs of women, men, boys and girls and to facilitate gender mainstreaming in all programmes.

To tackle the above challenges participants suggested the following:
• Reaching women, girls, boys and men in remote areas and incorporating their perspectives and needs in any gender and capacity building projects targeting them.
• Promote dialogues between policy makers and researchers to enable better collection of sex-disaggregated and qualitative data.
• Develop and sustain a gender perspective and gender analysis in all decision making processes.
• Allocate resources for all of the above suggested activities.

Read an interview with Thywill Eyra Kpe, Regional Director for the Department of Gender (Central Region) in Ghana, on how gender evidence is used to inform regional policy in Ghana.
http://blog.inasp.info/spotlight-evidence-gender-policy-regional-level-ghana/

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Journal publishing in Nepal is challenging
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– Dr. Mina Nath Paudel is Editor In-Chief of the Agronomy Journal of Nepal & Chief of the National Agriculture Genetic Resource Centre (Gene Bank) in Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Nepal. We asked him about his experiences of publishing his society’s journal and using the NepJOL platform.

In this photo, Dr Poudel shows effects of Climate Change on agricultural production in Nepal. Read more about his research in the INASP press release based on his article published on NepJOL. Photo credit: Thakur Amgai

How did your journal start?

The Agronomy Society of Nepal (ASON) was formed in 1994. We started publishing our first journal – ‘Agronomy Journal of Nepal’ – when I became its president in 2010 with an aim to publicize scientific works done by scientists in this field. The first volume of ‘Agronomy Journal of Nepal‘ was published in 2010. This year (2016) we have recently published its fourth volume.

 How did you get online presence?

We wanted the journal to have wider readership in Nepal and abroad. We had limited copies in print and not everyone could afford a subscription. Even this year, we published only 300 copies. So, we wanted to keep it online and give full and free access to anyone who wanted to read it. We registered a website and paid for a year’s hosting. But the account got suspended after a year as we did not have enough funds to renew subscription to the website.

I started searching on the internet for options to put the journal online for free. I landed on the NepJOL platform and found that it was exactly what I was searching for. I looked for the correspondence address. I found Sioux* Cumming’s name and email and I corresponded with her. She replied and offered to help and the journal was uploaded onto NepJOL in February 2013. Ms Sioux was kind enough to keep Agronomy Journal of Nepal (Agron JN) online giving all the help and technical assistance we required. Up to this day this journal is online due to the help and cooperation provided by Ms Sioux and her team at INASP.

What has been the result?

We got more viewers for our journal after we put it online. Many people call and tell me that they have read the articles online and comment about the articles. So much circulation would not have been possible with only hard copies. We have also formed a Google group of agronomists and we have regular discussions about the journal, research articles published on it and other related issues, after a journal is published. I have also received submission enquiries from authors in foreign countries after putting the journal online.

How has INASP supported your journal?

A few years after putting the journal online on NepJOL, I got an opportunity to take a training course on journal editing and publishing with INASP at Tribhuvan University Central Library in Kathmandu. The training was quite fruitful as I learned a lot of new things. In particular, I learned about Digital Object Identifiers (DOI), something I had never heard of before. Likewise, I learned standards of citation. And most importantly, I learned the nuances of plagiarism. In Nepal, although we have heard about plagiarism, we don’t know much about it. I think plagiarism might have affected some of the papers in our journal in the past  despite our efforts  to discourage it.

Plagiarism & Journal Quality in Nepal

Plagiarism is, arguably, the single biggest challenge in journal publishing in Nepal. Many articles submitted for publication are poorly presented, do not follow the prescribed format and submission guidelines and are heavily plagiarized. Often submitters, especially students, are unaware that ‘plagiarism’ is wrong. They are unaware on how to present a research article because they may not have been taught about it in university. Most of the students graduating in Nepal don’t know what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. Plagiarism is still an issue even in research articles submitted by university teachers and other researchers. Editors, too, face a problem in quality control because they may not be fully aware of plagiarism checking tools.

Presentation of journal articles is another big issue. Often Nepali writers of journal articles present the results and skip the discussion part, thinking that discussion is not required when the results are presented. The discussion or the analysis is the core of any research findings, but many Nepali authors just present the tables and data and move directly into the conclusions without presenting the discussion.

The problem is not unique to Nepal. It is a common trend among many developing countries including South Asian countries. This is the reason that professors in many reputed universities advise their students against citing journal articles published in these countries barring exceptional cases.

What is the situation of publishing and being published in Nepal?

Journal publishing in Nepal is not easy. The awareness level is low and journal publishing and writing for journals is not considered highly even in research and teaching institutions. It is often considered to be a chore. Students at Masters’ Level and Doctorate level write journal articles for academic purposes; university teachers and other academicians write articles or publish journals for promotion or other career gains. Carrying out research, writing journal articles and publishing journals with the pure intention of contributing to the enrichment of knowledge in a field of study is not seen to be high priority. There are exceptions to it as well and one can find dedicated and bonafide researchers in Nepal too.

Resource constraint is a big challenge in publishing journals. Professional societies and universities alike lack funds to publish good journals. Researchers lack funds to carry out good research. The lack of resources is reflected in the quality of journal articles. As a result, journals don’t receive good articles for publishing while authors find it difficult to get published because they don’t meet the standard criteria.

What positive signs are there?

Given Nepal’s short history of journal publishing – spanning only about half a century – the progress is quite impressive, although we still have a long way to go to elevate Nepal’s journals to an international standard.

Researchers should be encouraged in Nepal. Reviewers must get some incentives. With better training opportunities and exposure, researchers will be better motivated. Opportunities to present their papers in national and international seminars will incentivize them to work harder on it. It’s a gradual process, and it will progress in coming days. We have come a long way since the publication of the first journal in Nepal, which, interestingly, also happens to be a journal in agriculture – Agriculture Journal of Nepal. Unfortunately, this journal has now ceased to publish. Personally, I have strong interest and commitment to improve journal quality in Nepal and I will continue working on it even after my retirement from office.

Any final words?

I am happy that INASP has taken the initiative to promote research articles by writing their press releases and circulating to the media for wider coverage. It is the first time I have been approached this way for comments on a research article published on our journal, and for sharing my experience in journal writing and publishing in Nepal. It’s a big boost to the morale of researchers and journal publishers like us.

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About Dr Mina Nath Paudel

Mina Nath Paudel is a leading agronomist in Nepal. He is a Principal Scientist at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council. Currently he is posted as the chief of the National Agriculture Genetic Resource Centre (Gene Bank). He has been the President of the Agronomy Society of Nepal (ASoN) since 2010. He is the Editor-In-Chief of the Agronomy Journal of Nepal (Agron JN), a peered reviewed professional journal published jointly by ASoN and Crop Development Directorate. Dr Paudel holds a PhD in Crop Production and Management from the University of the Philippines at Los banos (UPLB) in Philippines and MS in Agriculture Planning and Management from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok.


* Sioux Cumming
is a Programme Manager, Journals Online at INASP. She has worked on and managed INASP’s Journals Online project since 2003. During this time she has helped establish and maintain eight JOLs platforms, which together host over 340 journals. Her role involves identifying new journals for the project; recording and publishing usage statistics; working with the editors of the journals to load new issues; and keeping the information about the journals as up to date as possible.


This interview was conducted by Thakur Amgai, Communications Consultant at INASP, on September 27, 2016 in Lalitpur, Nepal.

 

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