Calling for a systems approach to research impact

Livestock keepers in Morogoro, Tanzania examine a poster used to obtain informed consent for research
Livestock keepers in Morogoro, Tanzania examine a poster used to obtain informed consent for research (photo: ILRI/Tarni Cooper).

Investors in research-for-development are nowadays increasingly calling for the programs and projects they fund to demonstrate impact at scale. However, this push for impact has led to research becoming more producer-focused, something Nick Perkins, the director of SciDev.Net, considers to be the wrong approach to research impact.

Instead, Perkins advocates for a user-focused, systems-based approach to research that makes use of independent knowledge brokers and experts in the field of research uptake. This, he says, will enable us “learn more effectively about what works when research gets put to use”.

Read the editorial by Nick Perkins, The wrong approach to research impactposted on SciDev.Net on 4 April 2016).

#ABBC2015: Sharing ILRI’s experiences with using social media to communicate research

Earlier this week (13-14 April), I took part in a 2-day international conference on Agri-Biotechnology and Biosafety Communication (ABBC 2015) at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi. It was organised by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) Africenter. The conference theme was “Agri-biotech communications and evolving trends” and the general objective was to provide a platform for sharing of global experiences and identification of best practices in agri-biotech communications.

Over 100 people from 29 countries were in attendance. I was honoured to represent the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at the conference. On the second day, I gave a case study presentation on ILRI’s experiences with using social media to communicate research, under the conference sub-theme on the use of new media and campaigns in agri-biotech and biosafety communications.

On the first day, speaker after speaker highlighted the need to appropriately package (and repackage) technical information, so that evening, I decided to tweak my presentation a bit;  I dropped the slides I’d prepared on ‘monitoring metrics’ [since I had only 10 minutes to speak] and instead gave an example of how infographics can help visualize complex concepts and how sharing infographics on Slideshare and Flickr can enhance online visibility and re-usability of the content.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation adopts Open Access policy

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it has adopted an Open Access policy that enables the unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets.

“As of January 1, 2015 our Open Access policy will be effective for all new agreements. During a two-year transition period, publishers will be permitted to apply up to a 12 month embargo period on the accessibility of the publication and its underlying data sets. This embargo period will no longer be allowed after January 1, 2017,” said a statement on the foundation’s website.

Listed below are the elements of the Open Access policy:

  • Publications Are Discoverable and Accessible Online
  • Publication Will Be On “Open Access” Terms
  • Foundation Will Pay Necessary Fees
  • Publications Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately
  • Data Underlying Published Research Results Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately

Read more in this post by Trevor Mundel on the foundation’s Impatient Optimists blog: Knowledge is Power: Sharing Information Can Accelerate Global Health Impact

Open Access Week 2014

Open Access bannerThis year, Open Access Week was marked from 20 to 26 October 2014. Open Access Week, a global event now entering its eighth year, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they have learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.

Providing open access to research results and data can greatly enhance the impact of research on agricultural development. CGIAR’s Open Access mandate has been in place since March 2012, when the CGIAR Consortium approved the CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets, committing to making its data and research outputs open and harvestable.

Check out some CGIAR activities from Open Access Week 2014.

World Health Organization goes open access

The World Health Organization (WHO) has rolled out its open access policy which comes into effect from 1 July 2014. Under the policy, research authored or co-authored by staff of WHO or funded by WHO will have to be published in an open-access journal or a hybrid open-access journal (a subscription journal that gives authors provision to pay to have their articles published as open access, under a creative commons licence).

Without a doubt, the new WHO open access policy is a step in the right direction as it will make the organization’s health research outputs more accessible for use by governments, policymakers, researchers and community health practitioners, among other audience groups.

In fact, one may argue that, from a moral standpoint, WHO’s research findings on health should, by default, be freely available and accessible for the benefit and well-being of society, bearing in mind what WHO is responsible for: “providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends”.

Sharing ILRI’s open research at Mozilla Science Lab meeting

Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to take part in a Mozilla Science Lab community call where I talked briefly about some of our work at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on open access to research outputs, code and data. [Evening, because the call was at 1100 hours Eastern Time, which was 1800 hours in Kenya].

Kaitlin Thaney, the director of Mozilla Science Lab, was also a speaker at the workshop I attended last week on discoverability of African scholarship, and she kindly invited me to speak at this month’s Mozilla Science community call and share a bit about ILRI’s work on open research.

The Mozilla Science Lab meetings are normally held monthly and provide a forum for the team to discuss the latest developments and projects around open science. It’s essentially a telephone conference combined with the use of Etherpad, an online real-time editing platform, to type notes or questions in the course of the meeting.

Participants dial into a toll-free 1-800 number, enter a password and a conference room number and then listen in to the call. When you dial in to the call, you are automatically on mute to reduce background noise. To speak, you press *1 on your keypad to unmute, then *1 again to mute once you’re done speaking.

It was my first time to participate in a conference call of this nature, and I found the Etherpad  interface a bit strange at first. In addition to the main section for live editing and note-taking, there is a chat box on the right side of the page, so it was a bit distracting at first trying to follow the live notes and chats and focus on the speaker but all went well in the end:)

Also on the call was Michelle Willmers, the program manager of the OpenUCT Initiative, who organized the two-day #scholarAfrica workshop in collaboration with Carnegie Corporation.

You can check out the meeting notes on the Etherpad.

I’m grateful to Kaitlin for the opportunity to share, and I look forward to continued conversations and information sharing!


#scholarAfrica workshop: Learning and sharing about online discoverability of African research

#scholarAfrica Discoverability Workshop group photo
Great workshop on discoverability of African scholarship thanks to @openuct and @CarnegieCorp #scholarAfrica (photo credit: @iHubResearch)

Back to the office today after a very fruitful 2-day workshop on strategies to enhance the online discoverability of African scholarship. It was great to meet new people from different countries (Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Mexico, UK, Uganda and USA) and I felt really privileged for having been given the opportunity to share the experiences of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) communications team in using social media to communicate our research.

Research agencies represented included the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), TrustAfrica, the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), the African Leadership Centre, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and ILRI.

The OpenUCT Initiative organized the workshop in collaboration with Carnegie Corporation.

The Twitter hash tag for the workshop was #scholarAfrica and we noted quite a buzz on Twitter on the subject of online visibility of research from Africa and related issues such as open access to outputs and datasets. We plan to keep the #scholarAfrica hash tag going, as the end of the workshop should not mean the end of the conversations:-)

Highlights of the discussions were curated on Storify by Nanjira of iHub Research. Check out the summaries of Day 1 and Day 2We published the presentations on Zenodo (this was the first I heard of this online publishing channel which automatically assigns a DOI, thereby permanently curating the presentations — cool!)

Access the individual presentations via the links below.

And finally… some photos of the event.

Towards increased discoverability of African scholarship

Some time in January this year, I accepted an invitation to take part in a workshop in Nairobi on promoting the discoverability of African scholarship online.

Well, the 2-day workshop starts tomorrow and is organized by the OpenUCT Initiative of the University of Cape Town in collaboration with the Carnegie Corporation. It’s primarily targeted at Africa-based Carnegie grantee organizations involved in research in agriculture, health and social sciences.

Interestingly, the invitation to participate in the workshop came via a direct-message tweet from Michelle Willmers, program manager of the OpenUCT Initiative! A few tweets, emails and a Skype call later and I was all set to participate as one of the speakers. Social media is surely changing the dynamics of how we work, network and achieve results!

The Open Access movement is growing steadily  and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the organization I work for, is committed to making its research outputs freely open and accessible, so I’m happy to be contributing to the workshop as one of the speakers.

I’ll be addressing the issue of discoverability in the local context, drawing on our experiences at ILRI of using social media as part of a research communication strategy to complement our open access institutional repository.

Looking forward to it… two days of learning, networking, meeting new people and putting faces to Twitter handles!

University of Nairobi goes all-out on open access

UoN e-repository notice to alumni

In today’s Standard newspaper, the University of Nairobi has an announcement to its alumni regarding the University’s electronic repository. All students — past and present — are called upon to provide electronic copies of their theses and other research outputs for uploading into the repository.

“The exercise is in line with the University’s Open Access Policy which was adopted in December 2012 and whose objective is to increase the visibility and impact of the University’s research output,” the statement reads in part.

Kudos, UoN! This is a step in the right direction… hopefully other universities and university colleges will follow suit in making their scholarly outputs readily available and accessible.

Open Access Week 2013: Redefining Impact

OpenAccessWeek2013Open Access Week is upon us again. From 21 to 27 October 2013, the worldwide community of Open Access advocates will commemorate this global event, now in its sixth year, to promote Open Access as a new norm in scholarship and research. The theme of this year’s Open Access Week is “Redefining Impact”.  I’m interested to glean ideas on how researchers can use Open Access to enhance the impact of their research.

Open Access refers to the free, immediate, online access to the results or outputs of scholarly research for use or re-use as required. The two main routes towards Open Access are publishing research articles in Open Access journals and posting research outputs in an online institutional repository or archive.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out the Open Access Week website for a variety of updates on Open Access events, blog posts and discussions from around the world as well as links to various resources. You can also sign up to become a member of Open Access Week and join in the online discussion forums. On Twitter, you can follow the hash tag #oaweek.

It’s good to see that the University of Nairobi has a number of Open Access awareness activities lined up during Library Open Days that will be held at the Main Campus, Upper Kabete Campus and School of Law.

Happy Open Access Week!