Dr Joel Sam spoke at the recent Publishers for Development conference, where he urged publishers to work more closely with library consortia. Here, he discusses some of INASP’s Principles for Responsible Engagement in the context of Ghana.
Access to current and up-to-date information for research scientists used to be an issue in Ghana from the late 1980s to early 2000s. One of the reasons for this was lack of funds within individual research institutes and universities to procure database access. However, since the mid-2000s, these issues have receded as a result of partnerships with international development agencies, such as INASP, which support developing country research scientists with access to current information on a continuous basis.
This improvement began largely through INASP’s work on behalf of various consortia in negotiations with publishers. The Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) was formed in 2004 to promote and facilitate the sharing of library and information resources to support teaching, learning and research through acquiring print and electronic resources. CARLIGH has been very important in working towards sustainable access in Ghana. Since 2010, CARLIGH has been able to negotiate successfully for most of its own e-resources.
With more electronic resources being available and accessible to research scientists and lecturers, they have improved their teaching, learning and research. This must continue so that the country can develop; access needs to be affordable and continuous.
This will be possible if CARLIGH and publishers can engage responsibly in negotiations for electronic resources rather than publishers choosing to deal directly with individual member institutions. This is why we in CARLIGH are in full support of INASP’s principles of responsible engagement.
Working with consortia: a win-win situation
We appreciate that publishers are in business to make returns on their investments. For us, engaging responsibly should be a win-win situation where publishers get good returns on their investment and the research output impacts positively on the lives of the people. Our view is that it is better to engage with the consortium instead of engaging with individual members of the consortium. There are gains to be made by both the publishers and the consortium.
For the publishers, they will be assured of continuity in the use of their resources and longevity in contracts instead of dealing with individual institutions that might be able to pay for subscription for a short period only and not continue. There have been situations where publishers have dealt directly with individual institutions that had donor funding to subscribe to a database but are now facing difficulties in paying after the funds run out. These institutions and the publishers are now trying to come back to the consortium for support in acquiring the database. This is not good for consortium-building or relationships within the organization.
Understanding country context leads to better business
Publishers should try to understand the country situation while working with a consortium. Understanding the country properly will also mean taking a critical look at economic indicators which may not reflect the actual situation on the ground. When the economic situation is not analyzed robustly it has led to price quotations that are well above the means of the country. Some publishers have quoted very high prices when dealing with the consortium – in some cases three or four times what they quoted while negotiating with INASP. This has stalled negotiations for two years and the publisher has resorted to dealing directly with individual institutions. This, we think, is not the best approach to resolving the issue. Let us think together and work together. Publishers’ interests can be assured and they will make good returns on their investment by working with the consortium.
Let the consortium take the lead
We also do not think that it is in the best interest of any party for publishers to engage directly with government ministers, ministries, vice-chancellors without first discussing the issues with the consortium and enabling them to take up the issues with the appropriate authority. Publishers may make good sales, but for how long? The direct approach affects the lobbying and advocacy of the consortium. Publishers should engage with the consortium and follow INASP’s principles for responsible engagement so that together we will be the winners.
Dr Joel Sam was a speaker at the recent Publishers for Development conference.
Dr. Sam has been the Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (CSIR-INSTI), Ghana since July 2010. Prior to his current position, Joel served as the Coordinator of the Ghana Agricultural Information Network System (GAINS). He is currently the key contact for INASP in Ghana and Country Coordinator for EIFL and also serves as the Chairperson of the Management Boards of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) and the Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS).