14 July 2009

Open Access to AgInfo in Kenya faces many barriers

A paper at the 2009 IFLA Congress identifies many barriers to the adoption of open access (OA) initiatives in scientific research communication, with particular reference to agricultural information in Kenya. The study by Florence Muinde and Gary Gorman concludes that "progress in capitalizing on OA initiatives to enhance accessibility and visibility to Kenyan/African research has been slow. 

At the beginning they highlight one crucial issue: The researchers they interviewed argued that "the priority need in agricultural and scientific research in Kenya was reinforcement of strategic research communication capacity to first ensure there was a message that can be communicated either OA or otherwise." As the authors later conclude: "The availability of appropriate content remains crucial."

Other findings include:

"Many researchers in the public institutions, especially the universities, were yet to come to terms with e-communication processes in research, including e-publishing and the open access initiatives and software that can aid free sharing of scientific research information. "

"Computer-mediated ICT, on which OA is predicated, had not been integrated into work routines."

"Lack of institutional framework and policy regulations to guide online communication of government information made scientists unwilling to share research information online."

"Both research communication and ICT were not a priority in budget allocation, resulting in infrastructural problems that discouraged OA initiatives. Also, disconnect between the policy-making wing and the research community resulted in lack of enforcement to communicate research and so no efforts to spearhead open access initiatives that could facilitate access to scientific information."

"Researchers lacked skills to search and manipulate online information systems, write, speak, organize and present their research."

"There were no institutional repositories that could provide a platform for scientific knowledge sharing and full text open access journals were limited. "

OA is hindered by "conflicting institutional mandates and government regulations where those who produce scientific information are not charged with dissemination and those supposed to disseminate are unfacilitated." 

"The study recommends the need for massive awareness campaigns on available OA initiatives and introduction of institutional frameworks and strategies on harnessing OA initiatives to communicate local research outputs. This should be in addition to revision of prohibitive government policy and legislation and introduction of new policy legislation that creates an enabling environment for online communication of agricultural and scientific information. Capacity building, both in communication and ICT capability, should be enhanced. Above all, there is need for both government and donor and other agencies to increase support for research and ICT infrastructure to ensure sustainability."

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