Humphrey Kombe Keah on access to research, the SDGs and challenges in Kenya

Humphrey Kombe Keah is an Information Management and Digital Services Specialist at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.  He will be speaking with Dr Beatrice Odera-Kwach on issues relating to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the national supply of information in Kenya at the Publishers for Development meeting on 13 September.

What is your main area of work?

My main area of work is in research support through information management and facilitating access to online electronic resources.

How does your work relate to the SDGs or international development more generally?

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 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.

Since the CGIAR was a participant in setting a number of the UN SDGs and defining associated targets and indicators, our researchers were involved in the process. This means the World Agroforestry Centre’s research agenda ultimately aligns with the SDGs. The centre collaborates globally with relevant partners to achieve the SDGs.

How CGIAR goals align with SDGs

How CGIAR goals align with SDGs

What are the key challenges in the research and knowledge sector in Kenya?

There are different categories of challenge facing the research and knowledge sector in Kenya. The first is concerned with human capacity to use and access research. For instance, there is little appreciation among top government agencies of the importance of the role of information. Researchers are limited in their knowledge of the power of emerging ICT research skills, meaning that they face personal challenges in accessing materials, they also suffer from not knowing the best place to publish papers and findings.

The second major challenge facing the sector is simple accessibility of the relevant copyrighted materials; often down to cost and connectivity.

The third challenge is a lack of clear standards or policy. There is no policy to enforce data availability in digital form; there are no standards for data management and sharing or for data preservation in trusted repositories.

Which forms of access to published research are the most effective in supporting international development?

I see two ways in which researchers can support international development by choosing where they publish. This is through publishing in open-access journals, which provide immediate access to published scholarly works for free, and publishing in open-access repositories where institutions provide open access to their research outputs. These routes to access facilitate international development because more researchers are able to access the information, re-use it and share it with collaborators. This not only alleviates research costs but quickens the research process, encouraging more innovation as a result of an efficient research workflow. This in turn encourages donor funding, which serves to enhance economic development.

What would improve the ways that researchers in Kenya are able to access research?

There are a number of high-level ways that could improve access in the country. The first is an increased level of trust and recognition from the government of the role of the information profession. This could be led by the National Council for Science and Technology or the Ministry of Education, for instance. Part of this is placing more responsibility in the Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium (KLISC) and allowing them to lead in national matters of access to research information, for example dealing with publishers.
Generally there is a need for an increased knowledge of licensing and copyright issues to facilitate better access. In conjunction with this, researchers need training on what electronic resources are available to them free of charge, and how to make use of them.
There is a necessity for the development of policies to enforce data availability in digital form and standards for data management and sharing.

Who has inspired you in your work and why?

My current boss inspires in me in my work because he is a person with a great quest for knowledge and has been very supportive in terms of encouraging my professional development. He has been instrumental in the acquisition of several latest books on Information Management which are relevant to my work and also which I intend to use to develop my proposal to enrol for PhD studies later in the year if I happen to get a good part-time PhD programme.


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