With all the research that is now available online, why are academics still saying that they don’t have access to journals? This was the starting question of a research project initiated by ACU in east and southern Africa. Four campus case studies later the report "Growing Knowledge: Access to research in east and southern African universities"(1) was published.
Findings: “These resources simply weren’t being used”
In the article "Breaking down the barriers: Building an African working group on research information"(2) in the INASP Newsletter, Jonathan Harle writes the following about the findings:
“Availability of major academic journals was excellent across all four universities. The problem didn’t seem to be availability, but access. These resources simply weren’t being used. There were some technical reasons for this such as broadband speeds and insufficient computers available to students for example. However, technical issues were not the only reason — much of the issue came down to people.”
In the report a series of interrelated issues are explored to help to explain why availability has not yet translated into high levels of access and use is explored, like technology and connectivity, but also library leadership and staff development, and relationships within the university.
It also offers a series of recommendations for librarians, ICT staff, university managers and external support and funding organisations, suggesting practical ways in which they can help to strengthen research and teaching by encouraging greater use of available online resources.
The project was comissioned by Arcadia, undertaken by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) with the University of Nairobi, the University of Malawi, the University of Dar es Salaam, and the National University of Rwanda. Valuable support and advice was provided by INASP and the UK Open University.
(1) Jonathan Harle, Growing Knowledge: Access to research in east and southern African universities (London : The Association of Commonwealth Universities, 2011)
(2) Jonathan Harle, Breaking down the barriers: Building an African working group on research information, INASP Newsletter 46, Winter (2011): 1-2