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Getting in the access loop: Enabling more health researchers in Africa to publish effectively

On 1 June 2012, The Humanitarian Centre will be hosting a seminar/webinar  to explore real ways in which African research and researchers can have greater representation in journal publications.  The discussion will take place from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge, and concurrently, over the web using Elluminate Live!, so that colleagues in Africa, and in other places, can join and share ideas about how to increase accessibility to African research.  This seminar is generously sponsored by PLoS, and will have representation in Cambridge from PLoS, THRiVE, BioMed Central, Cambridge to Africa and others.  HIFA2015 and the University of Iowa are supporting the live webinar.  For more information on how to participate in the webinar, please click here.

The seminar aims are outlined below, and you can download them in a word document here.  If you would like to contribute to this important conversation, please register to attend here.  We’d love to hear your questions and ideas for discussion–please use the comments section below to start the conversation now.  All are welcome, please feel free to share this link with others who may be interested in contributing.

Please contact Anne Radl with any questions and proposals:

Seminar Aims and Outputs

The aim of the seminar is to share ideas and experience in overcoming barriers to joining the access loop of international publishing, to think about new ways to improve the publishing process and to enable greater representation from African researchers in the published literature. Based on preliminary planning, three areas have been identified where focused discussion may generate new approaches to challenges faced:

1) Technology

  • What examples are there of technology being used effectively to overcome barriers to access: e.g. technology that addresses low bandwidth, intermittent power supply and connectivity, attention to interface design, use of smart phones and SMS to disseminate information, and issues of language barriers?
  • What technological barriers to access remain, and what can we do, to address these?

2) Quality

  • How can we reconcile different value judgments of ‘quality’ that affect a) what does and does not get published and b) where it is published?  Do different cultural values exist between “Northern-based” international publishers and African researchers—for example, prioritising “original” research for publication? What are the key differences that need to be identified for successful publication?
  • What lessons can be drawn from mentoring programmes for young African researchers–both in terms of what has been effective, and what has been less effective?
  • Are there still misconceptions about OA, or issues (for example funding) that affect submissions to OA journals, thus restricting publications from African researchers?  What outreach can be—and is being—done to change this?

3) Strengthening Pathways for Dialogue

  • Going forward, can we build an infrastructure for dialogue and collaboration that engenders conversations which are accessible (not closed) and actionable?  Rather than beginning new dialogues, how can we build on existing conversations and bring others in to them—particularly those researchers working in isolation?  Can we use OA sites (such as blogs) to record, progress and follow-up on ideas and actions?
  • Can we build measurement of impact into this infrastructure?  What measures would allow us to track increased quantity of publications from Africa, increased influence of publications from Africa, as well as begin to understand broader contextual questions that affect publications: such as the varying incentives to publish in different ways and places according to where you are from and what your career structure is?
  • What role do funders have in supporting dialogue?

The ideas and plans generated in this seminar will be captured in a series of blog pieces commissioned from participants.

Background and Audience

This is a ‘hands-on’ seminar to explore real ways in which African research and researchers can have greater representation in journal publications. The seminar will take place in Cambridge, and we will be joined virtually by colleagues in Africa.

So we may pursue ideas for action in the two hours we have together, the seminar is based on three foundational assumptions:

1)     Building local African health research capacity is crucial to improving health, welfare and livelihoods in Africa.

2)     Collaborative networks of researchers, academics, developers and others, both within Africa and beyond, are needed to improve dialogue and infrastructure for this capacity building work.

3)     When we speak about sharing results and ideas through journal publications, Open Access (OA) is implied.  The content of OA journals are not only free to read but are also free to reuse, and thus OA journals vastly enlarge the scope and depth of health research available in African institutions, allow for increased access to African research, and enable collaborative international research and funding[1].

We anticipate that participants will include:

  • African health researchers, academics and HE administrators
  • individuals and organisations in and outside of Africa whose work will benefit from increased access to African research
  • individuals and organisations invested in the development of African institutions and the improvement of African health and livelihoods.

Participants in the seminar may be physically present in the seminar room, or present virtually.  The seminar discussion will be broadcast live over the internet, and a representative will be dedicated to monitoring questions, ideas and concerns that are brought into the seminar over the webby twitter, chat, or skype/elluminate live.  Further information about how to participate virtually will be publicised to potential attendees before the seminar date.

The questions for discussion presume prior knowledge or experience of research capacity building and open access publishing.  This is intended to help participants to advance quickly to an active “problem-solving” conversation, and, hopefully, to come away from the seminar with some concrete plans to increase access to publishing.  However, all are welcome to attend; there is ample room to observe, listen and learn[2]—both in the seminar room and over the web.

Participants are welcome to propose alternative focus areas and questions for discussion—preferably before 11 May 2012, so that we may share their questions with the other participants.

We are very grateful to PLoS for their sponsorship of this event,
and to the HIFA2015 Campaign and the University of Iowa for their support of the webinar.





[1] Helena Asamoah-Hassan, University Librarian, KNUST, Ghana, “Case studies of open access initiatives for access to information in developing countries” Open Access Africa 2011 Conference, by BioMedCentral on Nov 02, 2011

[2] If you would like to attend and observe, but would first like an introduction to the topics on the table, the Open Access Africa 2011 Conference held by BioMed Central has excellent presentations that are available for viewing on slideshare and youtube. Wikipedia also provides background information about OA.

  1. Lucille permalink

    I would like to have the print-out of the seminar

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