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How INASP puts research and knowledge at the heart of development

An interview with Dr Veronika Schaeffler

Laura Montgomery Communications Manager, Taylor & Francis

As a founder member of Publishers for Development, Taylor & Francis Group is committed to ensuring the widest possible distribution of its journals to the research community in developing countries. One of the key development initiatives we support is the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), which helps strengthen research and knowledge systems across the world in order to bring Southern knowledge to bear on local and global challenges.

We asked Veronika Schaeffler, Programme Officer in the Research Access and Higher Education team at INASP to share some insights into their important work.

What does INASP do?

“INASP is Veronika Schaeffler INASPan international development organization with a vision to see research and knowledge at the heart of development. We work across the whole research and knowledge system in Africa, Asia and Latin America to support the production, sharing and use of research and knowledge.”

You work as a Programme Officer. What does this involve?

“I work in INASP’s Research Access and Higher Education (RAHE) team. We support the library consortia in INASP’s partner countries with the provision of access to research information and knowledge. My role involves assistance to library consortia to strengthen their capacity in providing this access. For example, I help with setting up training – face-to-face and online courses – for the consortia members; with collecting and collating usage statistics to assess the usage of electronic literature; or organizing regional events which help them network and share expertise with other library consortia in their region.

I have also been given the opportunity to work in other higher education areas; for example, I am involved in the development of an online self-study programme for students which will help them gain skills in evaluating literature and critical thinking.”

What is the value of access to research literature?

“Allow me to give an example which shows how accessing research literature can change the lives of people. A recent INASP-funded project, carried out by the Co-operative Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre INASP in Tanzania(CEIC) at Moshi Co-operative University in Tanzania, developed an evidence-based approach to improving entrepreneurship and innovation in Tanzania. It did this by training academics and students to access and review the wealth of e-literature available on entrepreneurship innovation.

Through this literature search, the students discovered approaches already being used in Ghana and Nigeria to add value to the growth of cassava. They realized that these approaches had the potential to improve agriculture in Tanzania so they took this knowledge and trained female cassava producers. As well as providing food for the household and feed for livestock, cassava can also be used as the raw material in a wide range of value-added products, including flour. The women benefited hugely from the training. They increased the size of their producer group and the women are now able to give cassava seeds free of charge to other women every season, thereby increasing food production and improving women’s incomes. As the project coordinator explained, “access to INASP-facilitated publications helped […] to use academic resources to improve rural livelihoods”.

For more information on this story, read our case study.”

How does INASP work with publishers?

Publishers for Development 2016“Publishers play an important role in contributing to high-quality library and information services. They are a vital component in the global research communication cycle, by encouraging the wider dissemination of research and expertise. INASP initiated the Publisher for Development forum for information and discussion around the importance of access to information for development. Through a range of activities, it explores some of the unique challenges southern libraries, researchers and publishers experience. It also provides an opportunity for publishers to keep up-to-date and feed their input into the work all parties are undertaking to lessen the digital divide.”

What is your greatest achievement in your role?

“I have been working for almost three years with library consortia in the framework of the Strengthening Research and Knowledge Systems (SRKS) programme. As SRKS INASP Consortia Workshopis coming to an end next year, we initiated a Regional Meeting with four African library consortia to share our learning, celebrate achievements and strengthen the consortia’s collaboration beyond SRKS. Having seen there the abundance of skills and knowledge, the librarians’ team work and confidence when representing their consortia, I feel very proud of having played a role in the consortia’s capacity development during recent years.”

What frustrates you the most in your work?

“Looking for chances and opportunities which one can always find, I’m not a person who gets easily frustrated. But in the third sector in general and specifically in the Global South, finding sufficient support for the implementation of essential development projects, which take time and need resources, is not always easy. Sustainable long-term development is in my opinion too often be neglected in order to gain short-term profits.”

What change would you most like to see?

“Southern universities face diverse barriers when carrying out research work and educating the next generation of academics. We can see not only the daily challenges such as disruptions in internet connectivity and electricity but also obstacles for researchers who want to publish their work in recognized journals or the difficulties in receiving adequate funding for libraries and research work. It needs the joint effort of the research and higher education community to overcome all these barriers. Therefore, I am happy to work with INASP and its partners which bring together stakeholders in the research and higher education community to share ideas, collaborate and use the limited resources for the common goal of solving global problems while creating greater equity for the research and knowledge systems in the Global South.”

What advice would you give to a librarian in an institution in a developing country looking for ways to offer access to research to support of national development?

“First, get in touch with the library consortium or equivalent national organization in your country. Then learn about the service and support which you can get from your consortium and encourage your library to become member of the consortium if not done yet. National consortia support libraries with e-literature access and staff training while making subscriptions more affordable. And finally, get involved in your consortium’s work as you will help with sustainable access for all institutions in your country while gaining useful skills and building valuable relationships for your own career. And if you happen to live in a country without an established consortium, consider a joint effort with other libraries to develop sustainable access.”

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