International Network for the
Availability of Scientific Publications
|No. 16, February 2001 ISSN: 1028-0790|
|In this issue:
Newsletter Editors: Ard Jongsma Neil Pakenham-Walsh (INASP-Health section)
Contributors to this issue: Sulaiman Adebowale, Mike Chivhanga, Linda Crowl, Mike Flood, Maritza Hee Houng, Dick Kawooya, Diana Rosenberg, Vu van Son, Pru Watts-Russell.
Taming the jungle
Online resources are a jungle. For university communities throughout the world, finding relevant high quality information is becoming increasingly frustrating and difficult. In Africa and other developing regions, it is also necessary to question whether the imported new technology is really helping to solve the information famine, whether the resources available online meet information needs and whether they need adaptation or modification.
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INASP is a co-operative network of partners whose aim is to enhance world-wide access to information and knowledge. It has three immediate objectives:
INASP is a programme of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Chairman: Kai-Inge Hillerud Director: Carol Priestley
INASP 27 Park End Street Oxford OX1 1HU, UK Tel: + 44 (0)1865 249 909 Fax: + 44 (0)1865 251 060 Email: <[email protected]> WWW: <www.inasp.info> and also: P.O. Box 2564 London W5 1ZD, UK Tel: + 44 (0)20 8997 3274 Fax: + 44 (0)20 8810 9795
It was to study some of these issues that INASP and PIAC (Programme for Information Access and Connectivity) jointly organised a workshop on Evaluating Online Resources. This took place at Makerere University Library in Uganda in December 2000 and was attended by 22 end-users and librarians from 12 organisations and universities located in 10 African countries. Funding was provided by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa's Working Group on Higher Education. The Workshop was opened by the Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University, Professor P. J. M. Ssebuwufu and closed by Professor Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha, Director of the Inter-University Council of East Africa.
Participants were experts in a number of subject areas - agriculture, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, education, engineering, health sciences, law, mathematics, social sciences, wildlife ecology, veterinary science - and worked in small discipline-based groups. Each group was allocated a computer with an online connection. Various tools were distributed to facilitate the locating and evaluating of relevant Web sites: PIAC's Wired for Information, Journals on the Web and Africa goes Digital; INASP's Links and Resources, Best of the Web and The Internet for the Book Professions. Plenary sessions took place twice a day, in order that participants could compare notes, discuss matters of common interest and reach conclusions and recommendations.
Journal provision is a big problem in African universities. So participants spent a lot of time locating, accessing, using and evaluating various online journal and document delivery sites. Complimentary access had been negotiated with a number of publishers and vendors for the period of the workshop. Also explored were resources which (unlike many journal sites) are free: TOCs and abstracts, free indexing and abstracting services, Web sites of organisations. Sites offering training materials and those providing research materials from or about Africa were also scrutinised.
Ellen Tise, Deputy University Librarian in charge of Client Services at Wits, gave an illuminating presentation on Managing ICT at the University of the Witwatersrand, whilst Prisca Tibenderana provided useful information on Makerere University's experience with IDEAL (The International Digital Electronic Access Library).
Towards the end of the Workshop, participants began to discuss the implications of using online resources, the best ways of providing journal access and the advantages and disadvantages of using online resources, in the context of an African University. Finally, conclusions were reached and recommendations on the best way forward were formulated.
A full report on the Workshop is being made to the Working Group on Higher Education. Professor M. A. H. Maboko, Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Science, University of Dar es Salaam and one of the participants, is also presenting an account of the Workshop at the Association of African Universities 10th General Conference in February 2001. Online resources, which were rated highly by participants, will be included in future editions of PIAC's Wired and INASP's Links and Resources.
Some key recommendations
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By Sulaiman Adebowale
This article is an edited version of a longer, annotated, paper by Sulaiman Adebowale published in INASP's reader on Electronic Journals Publishing. A second completely revised edition of this was published last month. It can be accessed though INASP's web-site at: http://www.inasp.info/psi/ejp/index.html
Thanks to all those involved - author, editor, peer reviewers, copy editors, typesetter, production manager, etc. - the scholarly journal has built an effective sifting system of adding qualitative value to scholarship. In so doing, it has armed itself with the enviable role of determining the direction of scholarship. This system ensures not only that the best scholarship gets published, but also that spurious ones are not disseminated. But like all realities, there are underlying complexities in seemingly benign relationships. In this case, it means the bulk of scholarship produced in the world never gets published and disseminated. Why?
First, concepts like "authoritative scholarship" are too value-laden to be neutral. Reviewers and editors are influenced by a culture that invariably favours the restriction of scholarship and research along boundaries, disciplines, languages, methodologies, schools of thought, etc. The acceptance or rejection of an article for publication will be determined by the weight of each of these variables in the selection process, regardless of whether the actors act consciously or not.
Secondly, the modes of operation of publishing have until recently depended on a complex structure of expertise that requires a substantial amount of resources, thus limiting the avenues available for authors to be published. Furthermore, publishing effectively depended on an industrial environment which has always flourished in certain parts of the world and has been beset with lack of basic infrastructural connections in some other parts of the world. This imbalance has fostered a situation where the dissemination of scholarship is controlled and shaped by a perpetual cycle of frustration for small journal publishers, which includes the majority of publishers in developing countries. Established and resourceful journals are in the right citation indexes and, marketed more aggressively, attract high quality manuscripts from well-known scholars influenced by the desire to be cited by peers. They earn enough to sustain themselves and acquire efficient managerial capability to keep the journals in the top position. The contrast of this reality is the bane of journal publishers in the developing world: poor journals remain poor in every step of the process. As a result, scholars and scholarship from the developing world have found themselves frustrated by the very structure that is supposed to liberate them.
Does a simple web page hold the panacea to change the balance of power?
The Internet offers possibilities never before seen in publishing. The ability to surmount hitherto challenging obstacles like distance and time gives the Internet an edge over traditional print-on-paper delivery of journals. From the desktop of an author or publisher, material can be disseminated beyond the normal reaches of traditional print-on-paper versions, and much faster.
It is valid that the reliability of internet connectivity is still very poor in many countries in the developing world. But in reality the potential use of electronic journals in the developing world is far greater than one might expect.
First, although there is only one Internet user for every 750 people in Africa, Internet connectivity in Africa and most of the developing world initially took root mainly in academic institutions and among academics. In some parts of Africa, universities and non-governmental organisations were the first to have email and Internet access and there is very little evidence that their interest in information technology has waned. In a survey of users of four journals published by CODESRIA (conducted by Jean Pierre Diouf, 2000), 85% of the researchers and libraries respondents have Internet access. It is noteworthy that 75% of this particular group were from Africa alone. If journal publishers in Africa, and other parts of the developing world, focus their electronic publishing plans on this group they stand a better chance of reaping the benefits of the digital era.
Secondly, the increasing interest for email, discussion lists and conferences by scholars from the developing world suggest that a viable market for electronic publishing does exist, just waiting to be tapped. However, as publishers in this part of the world will certainly have to face, dreams of electronic information will be determined by more complex factors than the level of connectivity.
Whose rights ?
Questions of rights protection and royalty have become more contentious in the last few years. It is true that dissemination through the Internet has limitless possibilities. It is equally valid that flagrant violation of copyright material on the Web risks constraining the acceptance and development of electronic publishing. Although academic publishing is essentially not for profit, as Stevan Harnad (1995; 1999) and others have vociferously argued, the inability to earn adequate returns on investments may further impoverish journal publishing in the developing world. Furthermore, as Richard Balkwill (2000) rightly points out, 'the lack of payment for a good or service in no way invalidates the claim or control of that copyright owner's material'.
At what costs ?
The key to the viability of electronic publishing may lie elsewhere. Studies on the economics of Internet-published scholarly journals, for instance, have convincingly shown that the medium is not cheaper to develop than print-on-paper versions.
Journal publishers in developing countries will be in a better position to survive in the digital era if they forge alliances with other media to support their publishing initiatives. The current mergers between publishers and other industries and media (telephone companies, software and computer manufacturers, Internet service providers etc.) in developed countries can have some benefits if emulated by developing countries.
Secondly, institutional academic publishers in these countries can tap the increased visibility of the Internet to boost their overall objectives and programmes. More opportunities to attract funding and membership from diverse groups and bodies can open up from a Web presence, which may improve avenues to pursue a cost-effective electronic publishing arm.
It is probably advisable for now that journal publishers in the developing world should steer away from web sites that require subscription and payment, given the extra managerial and technical burden of issuing and controlling passwords, payment problems with credit cards, vital for net transactions elsewhere, have not yet taken root in most countries, including countries in Africa.
Moreover, it costs more to develop such sites and the poor bandwidth and Internet access in these countries do not favour richly tagged web sites because of the exceedingly long time taken to download material. Though this problem may be solved by having host sites in developed countries, other issues, like domestic laws, could hinder services being provided.
WAP technology holds some interest for users in the developing world and the growth of cell phone users in these countries over the last five years has been astonishing. But if the thought of reading journals on cell phones may appear too futuristic, e-books have more potential in the developing world as the technology improves. The length of journal articles seems more suitable for dissemination electronically than books; furthermore, e-books may have more advantage in academic publishing than web site postings. For academia, as the e-book becomes cheaper and more available across platforms, it can make more impact than web sites.
Sulaiman Adebowale CODESRIA Av Cheikh Anta Diop x canal 4 BP 3304 Dakar, Senegal
The illustrations on this page are the covers of CODESRIA journals included in African Journals Online http://www.inasp.info/ajol/
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By Pru Watts-Russell
In conjunction with the Ghana Book Fair, held in November 2000, INASP organised an open forum meeting to discuss activities related to the new Carnegie Corporation initiative 'Revitalising public libraries in Africa' and to disseminate the findings of the review Public Libraries in Africa: Report and Annotated Bibliography, which INASP produced for Carnegie in early 2000 (see also our Newsletters of May and November 2000).
Invitations to relevant organisations and their staff were sent out in advance of the meeting along with copies of the review Public Libraries in Africa, so that those attending would already come with some background knowledge of the programme. Invitees included staff from the Ghana Library Board, both from Accra and the regions, staff at community libraries, district assemblies and representatives of professional book associations.
Following a brief summary, by Pru Watts-Russell, of the Carnegie programme to date and INASP's role within it, seven country presentations were given. These included reports from the host country Ghana; from those countries included in the pilot phase of the programme: Botswana, Kenya and South Africa; and from three invited countries in the region: The Gambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
As Acting Director of the Ghana Library Board, Ms Rose Bofah gave a brief report outlining the current status of public libraries in Ghana.
Whilst admitting that the public library system in Ghana has in recent years severely suffered from inadequate provision of resources, Ms Bofah spoke of efforts being made to revamp the service. Financial resources are to be made available under the newly established Ghana Education Trust Fund, with which the Ghana Library Board hopes to re-introduce the mobile library service to rural areas, to have additional funds to replenish book stocks, and be in a better position to train and retain more staff. It is also seeking funding from donors to computerise its services.
Mrs Ntlamelang Baratedi informed the meeting of the planning study on which we reported in the November 2000 issue of the Newsletter.
As part of the work plan, a seminar of stakeholders with an interest in public library provision was held from 20 to 24 November. Its aims were to bring together all those parties with a vested interest in library and information provision, to share ideas and develop strategies to revitalise the Botswana Public Library System, to identify areas that need to be reformed (while building on existing strengths) and to investigate areas of co-operation between key players.
The findings of the seminar will be reinforced by local user needs surveys recently carried out to identify the particular information needs of the communities being served. Mrs Keoleletse Kolaatamo reported on the results of surveys carried out at Shoshong Village. It is intended that this new library will be established as a model library.
Mr Stanley Ng'anga described the background behind the Carnegie initiative and the Kenya National Library Service's (KNLS) involvement in it. This was followed by a detailed breakdown of the approach used in implementing the Planning Project proposal.
Launched on 1 July 2000, the Planning Project covered a Consultative Planning Seminar, the design and extensive testing of a survey for data collection and a series of meetings to discuss these before the proposal was submitted to Carnegie in December last year.
The areas identified as needing to be addressed urgently cover the whole spectrum of library development, from national library policy and its legal framework, through physical improvement of library facilities and stocks, to staff training and management.
To put the grant proposal for support to the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) in perspective, Mr Tommy Mathee introduced his presentation by describing the historical development of library associations in South Africa. LIASA, essentially a merger of three Library Associations was launched in 1997. Whilst much progress has been made since then, LIASA has been handicapped by a lack of financial and human resources.
In April this year, LIASA submitted a grant proposal to the Carnegie Corporation. The focus of their bid was a request for funding of an executive director post, a professional assistant, and supporting infrastructure. In addition funds were asked for carrying out surveys. A grant of US$249,000 was approved and a new executive director has been appointed.1)
Mr Abdou Mbye started by setting the scene and providing background information of the Republic of the Gambia. The Gambia National Library Service is a semi-autonomous body under the Department of State for Education. It is administered by the Gambia Library Board through the Chief Librarian.
GNLS offers the range of services expected of a public library service but is severely handicapped by financial constraints, receiving a mere US$14,000 per annum for books. Use of UNESCO coupons facilitates the purchase of books, mainly from the UK. The service has become reliant on support from Book Aid International.
Although the library has a computer, which is used for email and internet searching, computerisation on a larger scale is currently unrealisable.
The acute shortage of staff presents a huge problem. A service which at one time had 5 graduate librarians and 4 semi-professionals can now claim only one qualified member of staff. Only one of the two branch libraries remains open and the mobile library service ceased in 1997.
Mrs Marian Lisk gave a brief historical account and overview of the Sierra Leone public library service from the time the Sierra Leone Library Board was established in 1959 up until the present day. The dire situation created by rebel activity during civil war in the country in the last few years has caused devastation. With buildings and their facilities either burnt down, vandalised or looted there has been no option but to close many of its libraries. In spite of this and against all odds, SLLB endeavours to continue to function and to offer the customary services with its central library in Freetown acting both as public library provider and national/legal depository library.
The service is severely handicapped in all it tries to do by the shortage of staff, poor stock with the Board almost totally reliant on donor support, and lack of adequate space and accommodation. It only has one computer.
However, with the war coming to an end it is hoped that the situation will improve and the Sierra Leone Government will begin providing adequate financial support to the Board that - along with funds raised from other sources - will allow for future growth and expansion.
Professor Chukwuemeka Ike reported on the development of the Nigerian Book Foundation. The NBF is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation that was established in 1991 in response to the perceived crisis facing the book industry.
The NBF organises Annual National Book Weeks, each with a specific theme.
The Book Data Centre was set up as a clearinghouse on all matters relating to book development in Nigeria. In 1998, it published the maiden edition of the Directory of Nigerian Book Development, a comprehensive listing of authors, publishing houses, book printing presses, bookshops and book distribution organisations and libraries in Nigeria.
On occasion, short meetings are organised. A Forum on Books held in Ibadan resulted, for example, in the formulation of a code of conduct to govern relationships between authors and publishers.
NBF has over the last five years been implementing a programme for the promotion of the culture of reading books. This has entailed setting up three reading units located in the east, west and north of the country for the purpose of organising mobile reading centres in different rural and urban locations.
More information from the INASP Secretariat.
1) Carnegie has just launched a Competitive Grants Program called Gateways to Information for all of South Africa's public library systems through which a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 provincial and metropolitan systems each, will be supported.
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By Linda Crowl
The South Pacific Trade Commission (SPTC) was established by the South Pacific Forum (now Pacific Islands Forum) to assist businesses in the region to market their products abroad. The Trade Commission has offices in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. In 1994, as Publications Fellow at the Institute of Pacific Studies (IPS) of the University of the South Pacific, Linda Crowl asked the Trade Commission's office in Australia to sponsor a book show in Sydney. The Trade Commission responded positively and hosted a one-day event at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. From the success of the book show and the enthusiasm of individuals and groups interested in South Pacific books germinated the idea of an association.
The Trade Commission has been a consistent supporter of the book industry in the South Pacific. After the 1994 show, they organised for Pacific publishers to attend the Australian Book Fair in 1996. We contacted other publishers and volunteered to show books for them at the Australian fair. Besides our own houses, we represented a host of publishers from the region.
Samoa hosted the Seventh Festival of Pacific Arts and publishers from the region were invited to sell their books in the craft grounds. They were also able to display their books for library visitors. The festival included nightly book events, such as readings and performances.
The South Pacific Trade Commission once again hosted a book show for Pacific Islands publishers in 1997 and sponsored their attendance at the Australian Book Fair in 1998. At both, publishers made further moves to consolidate a South Pacific book development group, polling visitors to the book events, then drafting guidelines and objectives for the group.
In 1998, UNESCO sponsored a workshop on Creating a Reading Environment. Publishers and ministry officials attended. During the course of the workshop, they resolved to participate in a survey (since published as Book Provision in the Pacific Islands [UNESCO and IPS, 1999]), to promote a book fair at the Eighth Festival of Pacific Arts and to initiate national book policies in their own countries.
A year later, the University of the South Pacific hosted the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Languages and Literature conference. It included a session on publishing and preserving indigenous languages. Discussion continued well into the lunch hour and reiterated the need for an association to assist publishers' networking and for lifting the profile of a small but invaluable industry. Mrs Bargh subsequently drafted a network proposal which she and I continued to work on via email over the next year as time in their publishing businesses permitted.
Efforts to have a book fair at the Eighth Festival of Pacific Arts in New Caledonia were slow in coming and modest in achievement, but have put the Pacific Islands Publishers' Network on firmer ground. We now hope for an annual book fair, to be held in a different country each year, so that we may solidify built contacts and generate new ones. In addition to displays, sales and networking, we hope to establish Pacific Islands prizes for publishing, writing, and illustration, and to offer workshops on significant topics for Pacific Islands publishers, such as marketing, finance, and copyright.
Given the small and under-educated populations spread over vast oceanic distances and divided by 1,200 indigenous and four colonial languages, Pacific Islands publishers have overcome immense obstacles to initiate such an association. The beginnings of the Pacific Islands Publishers' Network have been time-consuming and incremental but publishers throughout the region are united in their vision for the future, one that focuses on providing books from local perspectives to meet the needs of indigenous peoples.
More information from: Linda S. Crowl Institute of Pacific Studies University of the South Pacific Suva, FIJI Tel: + 679 212248 Fax: + 679 301594 Email: [email protected]
|INASP-Health Update||Go to top|
|Between October 1999 and November 2000, WHO's Department of
Information Management and Dissemination worked with participants of
the Health Information Forum to elaborate ways in which WHO and other
health information organizations might work together more effectively
to improve access to information for healthcare workers in developing
and transitional countries. This is one of several initiatives in
which WHO is working with partners to improve access to health
information for particular target audiences. Based on a series of
five structured meetings and a questionnaire survey of health
information organizations, the following document from the WHO-HIF
collaboration is intended as a basis for the cooperative development
of needs-driven action plans in each of six priority areas.
Proceedings of meetings and survey reports are available at
Working together to improve access to information for healthcare workers in developing and transitional countries
In many countries, healthcare workers have little or no access to basic practical information. There are few materials available, even for basic training. Such materials are often out of date or irrelevant to local circumstances, and there is little opportunity to harness the many rich sources of local information. Libraries and local publishers, where present, are chronically underfunded, and imported books are largely unaffordable or inappropriate. Access to the internet is available to very few, particularly in the poorest countries, and there is little practical on-line information that is relevant to district healthcare workers in developing and transitional countries. Consequently, many healthcare workers have little opportunity to improve their knowledge and performance, or to share their knowledge with others.
Many organizations worldwide are seeking to improve access to information for healthcare workers. These international agencies, non-governmental organizations, publishers, libraries, and others bring a range of skills and specializations to the health information field but their work is often uncoordinated and marked by duplication, poor distribution, and lack of a shared understanding of needs, priorities, and cultural factors.
In view of this situation, WHO's Department of Health Information Management and Dissemination (IMD) collaborated with the Health Information Forum (HIF), a participatory initiative that is coordinated by INASP-Health, to develop a basis for more effective collaboration. HIF is a focal point for dialogue and exchange of experience and ideas among organizations aiming to improve access to information for healthcare workers in developing and transitional countries. Many of these organizations are NGOs, publishers, libraries, academic institutions,and others based in developed countries, but HIF is attracting substantial and increasing input directly from professionals in developing and transitional countries.
Between October 1999 and November 2000, IMD worked with representatives of HIF to elaborate ways in which WHO and other health information organizations can better work together to improve access to information for healthcare workers in developing and transitional countries.
INASP-Health is a co-operative network created by health information providers, for health information providers. Its goal is to facilitate co-operation across the health information community towards universal access to reliable information for health professionals in developing and transitional countries.
The network currently involves more than 600 participants, North and South, representing non-governmental organisations, international agencies, library services, publishers (print and electronic), and others. Visit our website at: www.inasp.info for further information about our range of services and activities.
We welcome all those who are willing to share their experience and expertise with others to improve access to reliable information. Participation is free of charge and without obligation. Please write to:
Dr Neil Pakenham-Walsh Programme Manager
Tel: + 44 (0)1865 249 909
We are grateful to the following organisations for their support:
A questionnaire survey of HIF participants showed a wide variety of activities related to improving access to reliable, relevant information for healthcare workers. Some provide health information directly to end users, others support the capacity of local publishers and information services. Some address the information needs of rural healthcare workers, others those of medical students or researchers. Some focus on the printed poster or newsletter, others on the production of computer-based learning materials. Most have a global or multiregional focus.
Past collaboration between WHO and HIF participants in the area of health information has included the development, dissemination and evaluation of publications, and WHO financial support, particularly for international meetings relating to health information. HIF participants indicated that WHO has an important facilitating role in health information - adding weight to projects, influencing policy-makers, and promoting government involvement in local activities.
Collaborative projects are seen to offer a powerful means to address health information needs in developing countries. Resources can be used effectively when groups combine their efforts and complement each other's work and the final product is usually better than either party alone could have achieved. Some projects, by their nature, can only be done collaboratively.
What are the priority areas for action?
Taking the above issues into consideration, six general areas were identified for collaboration:
1. Strengthen the local production, translation, adaptation, and
dissemination process in resource-poor countries
2. Strengthen library and information services in resource-poor countries
3. Facilitate global sharing of experience and lessons learned
4. Improve access to information about existing materials
5. Maximize the impact of information technology
6. Develop an enabling environment for health information activities
How will the priority areas be addressed?
The process has indicated potential activities relating to each of the six priority areas. Some of these are activities that are already being undertaken by various organizations but require further support. Others are new activities that might be facilitated and/or undertaken collaboratively by WHO and other organizations.
1. Strengthen the local production, translation, adaptation, and dissemination process in resource-poor countries
2. Strengthen library and information services in resource-poor countries
3. Facilitate global sharing of experience and lessons learned
4. Improve access to information about existing materials
5. Maximize the impact of information technology
6. Develop an enabling environment for health information activities
The WHO-HIF group agreed on a two-track process for the further development of health information activities.
One track should comprise immediate actions that have practical benefit for healthcare workers in developing countries. The intention is that WHO and other health information organizations should collaborate on specific country-focused or region-focused projects to achieve this.
At the same time, it is important that the other track should also be pursued - moving beyond the WHO-HIF group to involve a wider range of interested parties. Here the aim should be a range of broad-based international actions, taking into account the needs in each of the six priority areas for action identified by the WHO-HIF group. Careful preparatory work will be needed to secure the involvement and commitment of a wide group of international and national stakeholders.
As this process continues, IMD will examine internal factors that facilitate or hinder collaboration, with a view to increasing the number and quality of collaborative projects undertaken in the area of health information. Evaluation of the process will be essential.
In conclusion, the group felt that the process laid the foundation for more effective collaboration in improving access to information for healthcare workers in developing and transitional countries.
WHO-HIF Cooperation Group December 2000
To keep informed of developments in the above and other health information activities, subscribe to 'HIF-net at WHO', the global email discussion list dedicated to issues of health information access in resource-poor settings.
To join, send an email message directly to the list moderator, Neil Pakenham-Walsh, at [email protected]. Please include your name, affiliation, and professional interests.
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A proposed free access gateway to information about science and
technology for developing countries
SciDev.Net is being developed by staff members of Nature in collaboration with the Third World Academy of Sciences, and the support of the UK Department for International Development.
The temporary web-site of SciDev.Net can be accessed at: www.scidev.net
To address the gap that exists in access to scientific knowledge between rich and poor countries, plans are being developed to create, under the guidance of Nature and with the collaboration of the Third World Academy of Sciences, a free-access internet-based information network devoted to exploring the linkages between science, technology, innovation and development.
The goal of this network, will be to provide a key point of access to information about science and technology for all those interested in and concerned about such linkages. The plan is to do this by creating an 'intelligent gateway' to the world's scientific achievements, publications and debates.
The core of the network is intended to be a regularly updated web-site, operating essentially as an electronic news magazine. This will include news items and feature articles prepared by professional science journalists, search facilities providing access to information and contacts on particular scientific and technical topics, links to other relevant sites, a listing of meetings, research grants and job opportunities, and other features considered relevant to the overall goals of the network. The audience for such a web-site will not be limited to research scientists in developing countries, but will include all those with either a professional or personal interest in the role of science and technology in development.
Such groups will hopefully include government decision-makers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), research administrators, journalists, science teachers, and officials in professional scientific and technical organisations and multilateral and bilateral aid agencies - indeed all those in a position to make use of the information that it will provide.
A key role of the web-site, will be to work with communities already engaged in various aspects of sustainable development, scientific and technical capacity building and poverty alleviation, in order to help meet their needs for information and thus improve the effectiveness of their efforts.
To help achieve this, and also to provide a mechanism for transmitting web-based information to the wider community, close links will be established with journalists and their organisations, as well as non-governmental organisations keen to promote knowledge-based activism and advocacy. With the needs of the latter in mind, as well as those of government decision-makers, substantial efforts will be made to develop the use of the web-site as a source of policy-relevant scientific and technical information in a timely and accessible manner.
David Dickson is the editor of Nature
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By Mike Flood
In the November 2000 issue of our Newsletter, Mike Flood, Director of Powerful Information, described the work of this small, UK-based NGO. In this second part of his contribution he introduces the reader to the public mentality in the countries where Powerful Information works and about the practical difficulties that NGOs in central and eastern Europe face in their day-to-day work. In the insets, he describes some of the unusual techniques Powerful Information has been developing with colleagues in Romania and Lithuania.
It is not difficult to see why, for many people living in former Soviet Bloc countries, social and environmental problems are so often seen as someone else's problem, someone else's responsibility. It will take years for these attitudes to change, especially amongst the older generation. Fragile economies, inefficient industrial processes and practices, high levels of unemployment and rapid inflation contribute to people's feeling of impotence and detachment. And whilst so many things are changing across the region, official processes and procedures still seem hopelessly bureaucratic, almost designed to obstruct and frustrate initiative. Corruption is also rife.
The situation is not helped by an education system based on rote learning which stifles creative thought and individual expression, and reduces people's confidence in their ability to influence anything. An unhealthy deference towards experts is another problem especially when many experts lack the ability (and often the desire) to communicate with those outside of their peer group.
Running an NGO under these circumstances requires enormous energy and dedication: co-ordinators confront not only the problem of finding resources and office space, but the daily frustration of working with old equipment (where they have equipment) and poor communication services, power spikes and mains failure, and nasty computer viruses. They have to cope with risky banking services, suspicious officials and a sceptical public people struggling to make ends meet find it difficult to understand why anyone should volunteer: those working for NGOs must therefore be 'on the make'. Politicians and officials can be equally dismissive, often failing to understand or appreciate the role that NGOs can play in evolving democracies.
Some groups don't help their case by making incautious public pronouncements or adopting a confrontational style especially groups that are fixated on campaigning against so many aspects of modern life private cars, waste-incinerators, nuclear power, processed food, GMOs etc. This approach may shock some people into caring (or worrying), but for many it is a real turn-off. (Some things should be challenged, but this is much more effectively done as part of a constructive programme.)
It is perhaps worth adding that those of us privileged to live in more affluent countries often take for granted being able to find the information we want by reaching for a book, making a 'phone call, going into a public library, or doing a quick search on the Internet. In many countries data is not easy to track down, and even if one finds something, the chances are that it will be hopelessly out-of-date or difficult to interpret. We commissioned one of our colleagues in Bucharest to prepare a report for us on aspects of carrying out public opinion research in Romania. Her report was revealing. Amongst other things, it explains just how difficult it is to gather even the most basic information because information "circulates in a wildly chaotic way". She gives the mundane examples of trying to pay a telephone bill or contact someone in the police station.
The lack of reliable information raises serious problems for campaigning groups not to mention policy-makers, planners and politicians who must often work on the basis of little more than educated guesses. This view has been reinforced by various scandals concerning bogus NGOs. In Romania a few years ago a number of 'NGOs' were set up specifically to import second hand cars and exploit a loophole in the tax laws. At one school we know, a teacher warned her class not to have anything to do with NGOs. Parents refused to let their children volunteer for one of our partners until they had been to interview the co-ordinator!
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Book Marketing and Promotion: A Handbook of Good Practice
In our Newsletter of May 1999 and subsequent issues we announced that a handbook on book marketing and promotion was in preparation. The book has now been published and is being distributed by the African Books Collective (ABC).
Written by Hans Zell, the Handbook is a compendium of practical advice on all aspects of marketing and promotion for book publishers, especially those in the developing world. It aims to assist not only publishing houses but also NGOs and other organisations and networks with publishing programmes.
ABC has received a generous grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for complementary distribution to Africa. They are also handling all marketing and sales.
All requests for complementary copies and any orders for purchase should be passed to ABC.
A Practical Guide to Marketing and Promotion for Agricultural and Rural Development Publications
A joint INASP/CTA volume, this Practical Guide is particularly aimed at assisting NGOs and small publishers. The material is presented in an attractive, simple, easy-to-follow style. Bridget Impey. Bridget Impey (South Africa) has co-ordinated preparation of the manuscript. She was assisted by Maritza Hee Houng (Caribbean) and Peter Walton (Pacific).
A complementary volume, the Guidebook on Journal Publishing for Agricultural and Rural Development will be published in spring.
Distribution of these two publications is also being handled by the African Books Collective.
To order copies of either Book Marketing and Promotion: A Handbook of Good Practice, or A Practical Guide to Marketing and Promotion for Agricultural and Rural Development Publications, contact:
Electronic Journal Publishing: A Reader
This reader covers the potential and development of the electronic format as a medium to provide easier production, access and availability of journals. It is available in electronic and print format. This is a completely revised edition, published in January 2001. Hard-copies can be ordered from INASP. the electronic document or individual papers from it can be downloaded from: www.inasp.info/psi/ejp/
More details on all publications on this page can be found at: www.inasp.info/psi/index.html
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By Mike Chivhanga
In the next issue of the Newsletter we will publish Part 2 of this article in which Mike Chivhanga gives details of the web design methodology. In this issue he shares with our readers the results of the workshops where the information needs of Zambian farmers were assessed.
Early last year, the Internet Studies Research Group (ISRG), an interdisciplinary research group in the Department of Information Science, City University, London, was awarded a grant by the International Institute for Communications and Development (IICD) to undertake a 6-month pilot project (May - October, 2000) in Zambia. The general aim of the project was to evaluate the impact of Internet technologies in an African setting, with a focus on the agricultural sector, and to build a web design methodology that can be used to produce web information resources for development purposes.
Three workshops were convened in Zambia. Among the local organisations that participated in the project were Women in Business, the Export Board of Zambia (EBZ), the Zambia Export Growers Association (ZEGA) and the Agriculture Market Information Centre - a section of the Market Development Branch of the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
The workshops in Zambia had a heavy Internet training component with a focus on 'The Internet and Your Business'. They also included two practical sessions - group discussions (focus studies), individual interviews and formal completion of questionnaires. All these practical exercises were geared towards gathering data on the information needs of people and organisations in the agricultural sector and further refining a Participatory Web Design Methodology.
The workshop in Lusaka involved individual participants filling in the information needs assessment questionnaire, while three focus groups convened separately to discuss a number of issues pertinent to the project. They were required to identify the key sources of information for businesses in the sector they represented, the type of information needed, any problems experienced and offer recommendations that could be implemented in the next 6 to 12 months.
The focus group on agriculture, consisting of 10 workshop participants, identified the following agricultural subsectors that constituted their organisations' main business activities:
The group pointed out that newspapers, people, telephone calls, faxes, the Internet and other organisations were key sources of new agricultural information. The type of information they needed was mainly trade and market information. They also needed information about forthcoming seminars, workshops, conferences, trade and exhibition shows.
The group agreed that lack of knowledge about the Internet and how to make the most use of the technology was a major inhibiting factor, while access to the technology itself was an even greater problem. Other associated problems they mentioned were lack of funds to attend meetings, to purchase more powerful computers, to make long distance calls and to travel in search of new markets. They categorically voiced their concern that public institutions that should serve their interests are nearly always difficult to get information from.
Their strategic action plan for the next 6 to 12 months included training members, especially about the Internet and establishing a telecentre nearer their business.
Their recommendations, particularly those pertaining to improving information services, included: increasing transparency in both the acquisition and dissemination of information; generating regularly appearing publications about changes in their respective industries; and encouraging their organisations to build web presence, which could be used to provide up-to-date information and pertinent news items relating to their industry.
A preliminary survey of the main sources of print-based agricultural information in Zambia showed the availability of publications such as The Farmer, The Zambian Farmer, The Farmer Weekly and Vegetable Grower. The Farmer and The Zambian Farmer are Zambian publications. The rest are published overseas and The Farmer Weekly is published in South Africa. It gives information on agro-equipment to purchase, producer prices, warnings on impending seasonal diseases and general farming activities in South Africa, with a small coverage of agricultural activities in Southern Africa. The Farmer Weekly and Vegetable Grower are produced in America and only large-scale commercial farmers and farmers' organisations can afford to pay the subscriptions. The Journal of Fresh Produce is a monthly publication produced in the UK and provides trade and market information on fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers (horticulture). Other publications like newsletters are produced by farmer organisations such as Zambian Export Growers Association (ZEGA), Zambian Farmers Union and Conservation Farming Unit - their publications are free and made available to their members and any interested farmers who visit their offices.
Even though these publications are available, problems still abound as the results from 40 questionnaires that were filled in by farmers visited on their premises and by those that attended the two workshops in Lusaka and Ndola reveal. (See inset.)
Batsirai Mike Chivhanga,
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School libraries feature at 1st Annual Library and Information Science Conference for Uganda
By Dick Kawooya
In November last year, the Uganda Library Association (ULA) organised the first ever national conference for Library and Information Science professionals in the country. The highly successful conference on the theme, "Building An Information Driven Economy", attracted over 160 participants from all over Uganda. The purpose of the conference was to initiate a process for formulating an integrated national library and information science policy for Uganda. The conference was made possible by generous contributions from the British Council and the American Centre.
A draft school library service policy for Uganda was presented for discussion and approval by the participants. The draft school library policy streamlines the running of libraries in schools, both at primary and secondary levels. It also sets minimum standards to ensure efficient and effective operation of libraries in schools. Other issues addressed are library staff, minimum qualifications, salaries for school library staff, library collections, and basic library facilities and services to be rendered by school libraries. The policy is to be enforced in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports that has already expressed strong support for it.
Other activities during the conference included launching the Association's web-site (see below). Hosted by Oklahoma University, the web-site will be an important medium of communication of ULA's programmes and activities to its membership and the general public. Certificates were also awarded to students that had successfully completed a ULA co-ordinated internship programme. Most of them had worked in school libraries. ULA will continue to co-ordinate this program and therefore calls upon schools to take up interns in their libraries, registries or information centres whenever they are approached. Makerere University Bookshop and Kamalu-Longman mounted a book exhibition that granted the conference participants an opportunity to buy the latest publications available on the market for their libraries.
Mr. Robert Ikoja Odongo, Senior Lecturer at the East African School of Library and Information Science, Makerere University, presented a paper outlining a framework for a national information policy for Uganda.
Hon. Omony Ogaba who represented Prime Minister Prof. Apolo Nsibambi closed the ULA conference.
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By Vu Van Son
VASTID is a social and professional organisation of volunteers who work or have worked directly or indirectly in the field of economic, scientific, or technological information and documentation, including science and technology libraries. It forms part of the Vietnam Union of Scientific & Technical Associations (VUSTA).
The objectives of the association include a commitment to help and support its members in their jobs, encouraging them to share ability, knowledge and experience with others in their field, and promoting the profession while diversifying scientific and technological information and documentation activities in support of the socio-economic development of Vietnam.
VASTID has set itself the task of helping members understand and implement guidelines and policies of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Vietnamese government in the field of information and documentation. It promotes research projects on information and library science and IT application in professional practice. It will help members to improve and update their professional qualifications and knowledge and aims to help discover and foster young talents in the field of information and documentation. VASTID is committed to co-operation with partners, both at home and abroad, in the dissemination of scientific, technological and environmental information.
Marketing of information
VASTID will promote the marketing of information and documentation products and services, and will study and propose to national authorities ideas and recommendations on the formulation, regulation and extension of policies in the field of information and documentation.
VASTID membership consists of personal and corporate members. Vietnamese citizens and organisations working directly or indirectly in the field of economic, scientific or technological information and documentation, can apply for VASTID membership if they agree to the VASTID Regulations. They can voluntarily participate in its activities. The latter will include research, professional training, seminars, topical presentations, exhibitions, consultancy, and publishing.
The first seminar in the pipeline is on the subject of exchange formats and will be organised later this year.
After its foundation, VASTID has received quite a lot of applications for membership. It has published its first newsletter and prepared for the organisation of some advanced training courses and for the establishment of its service centres in the months ahead.
For more information, contact: VASTID Headquarters Office 24, Ly Thuong Kiet Str. Hanoi, Vietnam Tel.: + 84 4 8256203 Fax: + 84 4 9349127 Email: [email protected]
|The INASP Newsletter Notice Board is a public
forum for organisations and institutions wishing to
advertise their projects, activities, offers or requests.
Short contributions can be sent to the editor at INASP.
WIT CD-ROM Libraries
From World Information Transfer, INASP has received multiple copies of two CD ROMs for complimentary distribution to partners in developing countries. These are the Human Development Library 2.2 and the Medical and Health Library 1.1. Information on both can be found on www.worldinfo.org.
The Human Development Library 2.2 contains 1,230 publications in fields related to human development. The publications are classified into 24 subject categories and come from 70 organisations.
The Medical and Health Library 1.1 contains 300 publications in the field of Medicine and Health.
If you would like to receive copies of the above CD-ROMs, please write to INASP.
Health Research Ethics
Acta Tropica has published a supplement based on a seminar in Arusha, Tanzania, entitled: Seminar on Health Research Ethics in Africa. This meeting was organised by the African Malaria Vaccine Testing Network (AMVTN) with support from the EU, WHO, Wellcome Trust, NIH, UNESCO and several other organisations. The issue, Volume 78 Suppl.1, January 2001, has been kindly guest-edited by J.B. Rugemalila and W.L. Kilama.
Free full text access to this supplement can be obtained using the Parasitology Online web-site at www.parasitology-online.com and clicking on 'Special Issues'.
ICSU Navigator for Primary Scientific Publications
ICSU Press has initiated and sponsored the development of the ICSU Navigator for Primary Scientific Publications. The main goal of this project is to create a representative source of information on primary scientific publications in all disciplines covered by the International Council for Science (ICSU).
Eventually, the database will include descriptions of, and links to, materials which are considered primary scientific publications published or approved by ICSU bodies as publications containing real science.
A pilot version of the Navigator covering earth sciences is now ready for use.
It contains descriptions of near 1,500 titles of primary publications in Earth Sciences (journals and serials), prepared by qualified librarians, and software for searching, editing, and administering the system. Search capabilities include context search and keyword search, the latter based on IGBP Valid Keyword List.
The developers are looking to co-operate with librarians, publishers, and other interested parties in expanding and updating the ICSU Navigator database.
The URL is: http://eos.wdcb.ru/icsu/navigator/
|The next INASP Newsletter will be published in June 2001. If you would like to contribute to its contents, please write to the editorial address on the front page of this issue. Contributions must be received by 15 May 2001.|
|The International Network for the Availability of
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