Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • African academics 'slow to use online journals'

Shares

[NAIROBI] Electronic access to journals is improving dramatically in eastern and southern Africa — but actual use by academics and students is not keeping pace, according to a report.

A study published by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) last month (November) found that availability of the world's top 20 journals across 15 disciplines is approaching that of European universities.

But it also found that problems further down the line mean that papers are not actually getting read.

"Academics often report that poor journals access is a serious barrier to their work but they are not aware of how much is actually already available through their library subscriptions," Jonathan Harle, author of the study and programme officer for research at the ACU, told SciDev.Net.

The report, 'Growing knowledge: Access to research in east and southern African universities', identifies several contributing factors. For example, many postgraduates lack access to, and the skills for working on, computers.

And academics spend little time on research activity because of time and money constraints.

The report identifies "a clear need for better promotion of resources, awareness-raising, and skills development". And it sees developing libraries and librarians as a key to achieving this.

Harle said researchers lack adequate support and information about what their libraries have to offer.

Ruth Oniang'o, editor of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, told SciDev.Net conditions in African universities are not conducive to research and writing.

"African academics are too busy teaching basic courses and are left with little time to do research. They do not go to libraries because what they teach does not require them to visit libraries."

Librarians, according to Oniang'o, are put in a subservient position in which their knowledge and skills for accessing online resources are undervalued.

And Mary Abukutsa, a lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya, said: "Researchers have not realised the importance of the libraries in their research and have a mindset that does not allow them to continuously seek assistance from the libraries."

Academics and librarians should come together regularly to learn from each other, Oniang'o told SciDev.Net. But for this to happen the researchers need to give librarians more power, she said.

Future availability of journals will depend on funding and internet connectivity on the continent, which has been improving with recent high-speed undersea fibre-optic cables but is still limited beyond major cities, the ACU report says.

Link to full 'Growing knowledge: access to research in east and southern African universities' report

Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.