AuthorAID picks up Hidden REF award


AuthorAID online courses have been recognised in a new competition. Andy Nobes, who leads AuthorAID, explains a bit more about the project and its impact.

We are delighted to share that AuthorAID MOOCs have been selected as winner in the Practices category of the first Hidden REF.

Hidden REF is an initiative in the UK set up in recognition that the ways in which the research impact is judged overlooks many of the people who are vital to the success of research. The hidden REF was set up to celebrate all research outputs and recognise everyone who contributes to their creation.

The winners were announced in an online awards ceremony on 2 September.

The choice of AuthorAID as winner of the Practices category recognises the impact made since 2015 when we first started running free research-writing massive open online courses (MOOCs) using the Moodle platform.

Why our MOOCs are needed

Researchers in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) face many challenges in communicating their work, including lack of familiarity with global scholarly publishing; lack of experienced colleagues to advise on publishing; inexperience of scientific writing; and language barriers, in addition to inherent biases in global scholarship. 

AuthorAID MOOCs are designed to address these challenges in ways that are appropriate to the context that participants work in. Many countries struggle with low internet bandwidth and intermittent power so courses are designed to be bandwidth efficient, have resources that can be used offline, and optimised for mobile devices. Delivery of the MOOCs is supported by a network of facilitators around the world, some of whom were previous course participants. 

To date, around 30,000 early-career researchers in LMICs have benefitted from support in research writing via the courses. Participants come from all over the world, from Bangladesh to Cambodia, to Guatemala, to Mexico, to Nigeria, to Somalia, to Uganda to Vietnam. It is these participants who make the AuthorAID MOOCs so energetic and interactive for everybody, sharing great questions, peer learning with other participants, and sharing pictures of them in action doing research in their own country, even during the pandemic.

Tracking the impact

AuthorAID MOOCs are particularly effective at reaching women researchers, who can find face-to-face training harder due to childcare commitments and cultural expectations. We have also seen participants from fragile and conflict countries, as well as researchers who self-identify as refugees. Such support is essential for ensuring equity in global research. AuthorAID MOOCs have an average completion rate of 48%, very high for MOOCs, and close to 50:50 gender participation. 

Respondents report a 50% increase in research writing confidence on completion. We often hear from researchers about the difference that participation has had to them, their academic careers, their colleagues, and their ability to share their research findings clearly with a wider audience, locally and nationally.

The research writing MOOCs have been not only a launchpad for participants to go on and publish research in quality journals, or successfully applying for funding;  but also a springboard to further learning and helping others. This includes becoming facilitators themselves, getting involved in mentoring (or eventually becoming a mentor), starting their own journal clubs, or writing for the AuthorAID website, as well as taking things they have learnt back to their own institutions.

In accepting this award on behalf of the project, I want to thank all the facilitators and participants, as well as the small AuthorAID team at INASP who ensure that the technology works, that registrations are processed and that the content continues to be relevant and accessible to the participants. We also want to thank Sida and others who fund, and have funded, this work.

Andy Nobes
Andy Nobes is a Programme Coordinator at INASP.

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