Access to Scientific Information Resources (ASIRA) online course for low income countries completed its third edition on July 14th. This online course is run by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with Research4Life. The 4th edition of the online ASIRA course is planned for the upcoming autumn. 
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AGORA team reached out to some ASIRA alumni members for a short interview to hear from them about the ASIRA online course they have successfully completed. AGORA team would like to thank them to accept this invitation and for their willingness to share their experience with the world. We invite you to meet the interviewees and read their stories below !
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The free online course ASIRA ...

... is designed on Moodle open software (an interactive online environment including forums, chat rooms, activities and assignments) to enhance the visibility, accessibility and usability of agricultural data and science particularly in low-income countries.

The course consists of three units of eight lessons including topics from:

  • Scientific publishing landscape to
  • Research metrics,
  • Developing search strategies,
  • Information resources in agriculture,
  • Citing and referencing, and
  • Research ethics and copyright. 

The ASIRA program was first offered in February 2017 and since then, over 300 people from 41 countries have been trained. These countries are from Research4Life group A and B eligible countries.

The participants included mostly researchers and academics, then librarians, students as well as journalists, lab officers.

# As a result of course evaluation survey ...

... overall satisfaction rate of ASIRA alumni was 100% and they all recommend the course to their colleagues both in their local institutions as well as their professional networks. The participants expressed that they enjoyed meeting other colleagues and sharing experience nationally and internationally in the online course environment.

To stay in touch with ASIRA alumni, AGORA maintains a mailing list and keep them updated with the ongoing events, upcoming projects etc. Number of ASIRA alumni grows in time. The course will be run again the autumn and the details will be shared from AGORA and AIMS communication channels.

# Below you can meet some ASIRA alumni ...

... who were shortly interviewed on what they think about the ASIRA's online course and how it can be important not only for them but also for their colleagues and organization.

Ahlam Ismail Musa

Veronica Kibambi

Aristide Carlos Houdegbe

Ali Sawadogo

Wambua Muthui

Head Librarian and manager AGRIS Resources Center of the Sudan, Agricultural Research Corporation – Central Library, Wad Medani – Sudan.

Social scientist working as a librarian, Agricultural Technology Transfer Unit at Mikocheni Agricultural Institute at Dar es- salaam Tanzania.

Research Assistant, MSc, Laboratory of Genetics, Horticulture and Seed Sciences (GBioS), Faculty of Agronomic Sciences (FSA), University of Abomey-Calavi (UAC), Republic of Benin.

Research Engineer, Institute of the Environment and agricultural Research (INERA) - Burkina Faso.

Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme, Tharaka-Nithi County - Kenya

ASIRA: 

What did you like the most about ASIRA Online Course?

Ahlam Ismail Musa: I am grateful to participate in this invaluable online training course and be part of the ASIRA Alumni. I  find this training is of great support to my work and experience and would help to improve the work at my institution. The lessons are up to date to the field and cover all discipline and I find it of invaluable skills to improve our service and support research scientists and students. The lessons and practical work learnt during the training are highly important serve the needs of researcher, librarian and students to become familiar with academic publishing landscape, latest trends on the field and the use of scholarly information resources as well as the legal aspects of the field that include intellectual properties and copyright issues.

During the training activities online meetings and webinars, I met other colleagues of national, regional and international networks and initiatives, discussed our common issues of interest. The platform helped us to exchange lessons and experience and we agreed to develop more effective networks to strengthen sharing of agricultural and related information and knowledge. I share with my colleagues and researchers the outcome of the ASIRA Online training and encourage them to participate in future editions of this training. The training materials are of great support to future institutional training workshops and related activities that would be organized by my institution in collaboration with national, regional and international partner.

Veronica Kibambi: Webinars and discussions in tutorial room, sharing information with the team. The ASIRA training is of great importance to keep us in touch with recent situation and enhance skills and knowledge to provide improved service and continuous sharing and participation in discussion groups and social media of specialized colleagues and professionals.

Aristide Carlos Houdegbe:  First of all, I would like to thank FAO for this initiative which helps strengthen research capacities of low-income countries researchers.  I really appreciate the ASIRA program which is very instructive and informative. I also like the planning and course materials which allow us to apply what we learnt. Especially, I like the Unit 2 of lesson 3 that help me understand what is intellectual property and copyright and the utilizations associated, and the experience sharing among participants. I thank all the organisers and moderators for their availability. 

Ali Sawadogo: ASIRA is a high-level course that builds capacities and skills. The content of the courses was in English easy for a better understanding. To enhance understanding, I liked the course that was accompanied by:

  • Access to the online discussion forum where questions can be posed and various aspects of the course discussed.

  • Access to webinars, a session offered at least once a week. During this session a possibility is given to the learner to ask questions and interact with a facilitator and / or other participants. All webinar sessions are recorded and made available to the learners on the platform.

  • Additional Resources: References to additional documents and additional resources deemed relevant are available for "Additional Reading".

Without forgetting that the course was coordinated by a dynamic and pro-active facilitation team, which did not even seem to be an online course, so we automatically had the answers to the concerns. 

Wambua Muthui: I liked the entire presentation methodologies. They were well designed and conducive for adult learning. The timing (1 hour) was also suitable for busy professionals‎ and the timely reminders by facilitators made sure participants don’t miss out on major activities.

# ASIRA:

How do you think this course can be important not only for you but also for your collegues and organisations

Ahlam Ismail Musa: ASIRA training program highlights major programs and projects and provide platform for learning and discussions to enhance visibility, accessibility and usability of agricultural data and science to support research and development goals. The lessons and practical work learnt during the training are highly important serve the needs of researcher, librarian and students to become familiar with academic publishing landscape, latest trends on the field and the use of scholarly information resources as well as the legal aspects of the field that include intellectual properties and copyright issues. Then, we can say that the ASIRA training is of great importance to keep us in touch with recent situation and enhance skills and knowledge to provide improved service and continuous sharing and participation in discussion groups and social media of specialized colleagues and professionals.

 

The Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC) organized a number of collaborative training activities with national, regional and international partners such as FAO, ASARECA and FARA-RAILS, ICARDA, ITOCA and TEEAL under Research4life programs.The ASIRA online training is of great support to these efforts and provide platform to highlight all collaborative programs to support the global information and knowledge projects and activities to gain our common goals and objective. This would of course support daily practice and help researchers and students to gain required skills and provides understanding and awareness about the recent developments of the field and how to use it to support research programs for development.

Veronica Kibambi: As Information Manager I am now aware of free content providers, open access resources and programmes such as AGORA which is very useful to agricultural scientists.  I am now familiar with different techniques used to assist researchers in identifying different types of information sources, what tools and resources to be used to retrieve the best search results and evaluating the information source. Use of search results in writing paper, publishing and training of researchers, students and other agricultural stakeholders how to filter from the surplus agricultural information available in order to integrate them in their professional life. I am familiar with the online free trainings in different research work for instance mentoring support, networking and collaboration. Aware of challenges in a digital world- licensing issues which are necessary to be managed carefully explained to users.

28-30/06/2017 there was a technical meeting at our institute and I provided the information obtained from ASIRA course to my fellow researchers that will be of course very helpful for their work. We are using TEEAL and AGORA so it will be easy to share the available resources which are important in research. Researchers are publishing their work, writing scientific papers, and training students, farmers and other agricultural stakeholders. Hence being up to date is imperative for quality, efficient and valid agricultural informations.

Aristide Carlos Houdegbe: Through this course, I have discovered new database for getting high quality scientific information (e.g TEEAL, PubAg) and how to search for specific topic and importance of librarian. I learnt how to evaluate information resources, how to use the information (what should I avoid when writing or citing) and I have discover a new reference management tool like Zotero. Finally, now I understand the opportunities offered by Research4Life and the importance of Open Data. I shared the course materials with all my colleagues and I hope that they will built their information search capacities. I plan to organise a restitution session for them. One of outcomes is that some of my colleagues have published their research in F1000Research that we discovered through the course webinar.

Ali Sawadogo: The information we learned during this training is relevant to our daily practices. Indeed, every researcher needs access to scientific information for the writing of scientific articles of high quality on the one hand. Whatever the specialty in agriculture, ASIRA offers practical access to scientific information resources. And especially how to proceed when using these scientific results. On the other hand, for the need for publication, through this training, ASIRA offers a complete view of scientific publishers especially in the field of agricultural sciences. Through ASIRA training, one easily becomes part of a network of researchers for a sharing of knowledge and experiences in this quest for knowledge for the improvement of the living conditions of our populations.  ASIRA impacts the results of the researchers who participate in it and hence their institution of belonging. This to talk about the possible importance of this course on myself, my colleagues as well as my institution. 

Wambua Muthui: There are many sources of genuine agricultural information out there that are still unknown to researchers in less developed countries.

If you have any questions about ASIRA online course, please contact: agora@fao.org

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