Sharing research for development and transformation – part 2

Promoting Southern publishing, supporting routes to share Southern research with wider audiences and embedding skills within institutions are all part of INASP’s vision of ‘research and knowledge at the heart of development’.

In my last blog post, I wrote about some of what we have been doing through INASP’s AuthorAID project and how we will build on this in coming months and years, in line with INASP’s new five-year strategy.

Supporting researchers in their research writing is not the only way that INASP helps Southern research to be shared. As we support early-career researchers to prepare their work for academic publication, we also support academic journals. While Northern journals tend to dominate the international publishing scene, in many developing countries there is a thriving local publishing sector, and academic journals are published by universities, professional associations and small publishers. These journals are a key way to get local research published.

Through our Journals Online project, we currently support five online journal platforms in Asia and Central America, and work closely with African Journals Online, a platform set up by INASP in 1998 and transferred to African management in 2005. These platforms host country or region-specific journals and increase their online presence, helping them to reach a wider international as well as local audience.

We are increasingly focusing on supporting the journal publishers in our partner countries to improve their publishing practices and standards, something they are keen to do. We provide ongoing mentoring and face-to-face training and are in the process of developing an online course for journal quality, which we believe will enable cost-effective and regular training for editors. We have also set up communities of practice for both editors and journal managers for peer learning. And we are working closely with AJOL to develop Journal Publishing Practices and Standards, a process that will enable Southern journals to work towards international publishing standards.

Our commitment to strengthening the visibility and quality of Southern published research remains a key part of the work we will do as we move forward in this new strategic period.

Reaching other audiences

While academic publishing can establish the credibility of the research and support the career of the researcher, academic writing can be dense and difficult for practitioners and policymakers to translate into findings that inform their work. So for researchers to really ensure that their research will contribute to development challenges, they need to be able to communicate to these non-academic audiences and ensure their research is relevant to the problems that need to be solved. As Jon Harle noted in his recent blog post, it is important that research is not developed in academic isolation, but in ways that enable civil society, practitioners and policymakers to work together. This happens at the beginning of the research process, finding out what are the relevant policy and development issues, but also at the end in ensuring that the research and findings are communicated in appropriate ways.

We will build on our experience and networks from AuthorAID and also our evidence-informed policy work, which my colleague Clara Richards will talk about in a future blog post, to support researchers to better communicate work to non-academic audiences and to connect the users and producers of research to encourage greater alignment and increase the relevance of research evidence.

Building institutional capacity

All of this work to share and communicate research cannot take place in a vacuum. It has to be embedded within the universities and research institutions producing the research, leaving behind the skills and supporting environment to ensure that this work continues in the future. We are currently supporting institutions, such as national science foundations and academies, to manage and host the Journals Online platforms, and we also work with a number of universities and research institutions in African and Asia to embed research-writing courses into their curricula and professional-development programmes. With our partners, we are continually learning about what works in terms of supporting them to embed work and develop and adapt processes and policies. As part of our new strategy, we will carry this learning and experience forward with us to ensure that national institutions take centre stage in communicating and sharing their country research.

In keeping with the spirit of partnership, universality and inclusiveness of the Sustainable Development Goals, we hope this work will contribute to raising the voices of the southern researchers, ensuring their research is as visible and accessible as research produced in the North.

Ruth Bottomley

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