Research4Life in Nairobi

Visit reveals success of programmes that provide free or little cost access to current research.

Shira Tabachnikoff, Director of Corporate Relations for Elsevier recently visited several institutes in Nairobi, Kenya that use Research4Life programmes. She was joined by colleagues from partner organsiations Microsoft and STM.

Research4Life brings together the world’s leading publishers to enable countries with the fewest resources to build their scientific capabilities and solve key challenges. Research4Life’s three programmes provide access to information on health (Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative - HINARI), agriculture (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture - AGORA) and the environment (Online Access to Research in the Environment - OARE).

The success of the Research4Life programmes are dependent on training users (librarians, scientists and doctors) how to use and leverage their access to work efficiently. The team observed part of a three-day ITOCA (Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa) training at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. The training days also promoted the programme by inviting high-level politicians and academic leaders to attend the opening ceremony. Permanent Secretary of Health Services Professor James Kiyapi, a former scientist himself, attended the opening ceremony and commented that the programmes “could not have come at a better time” and that they will help Kenya “translate information into impact as knowledge leads to innovation.” Shira and her colleagues met many of the trainees, all of whom are studying science. They shared the importance of being able to access current research and have ambitions to publish in internationally recognised high-impact journals. Throughout the opening ceremony, the power supply was intermittent, a sign that although the digital divide is collapsing, there is still a long way to go to overcome infrastructure obstacles.

At the Kenya Institute of Medical Research, Shira and other Research4Life partners met with the librarian and interviewed a young female biochemist who uses HINARI daily. She gave excellent feedback on some of the challenges she faces getting the information she needs, which will hopefully lead to programme improvements. Colleagues from Microsoft will visit her shortly to better understand how to improve the technology needed to improve the usability.

Shira also met with Dr. Weru at the Kenyatta Hospital Hospice, a frequent user of HINARI, it is his main resource for research on palliative care, an area that is not yet developed in Kenya. He is a leader in introducing this field and thanks to the research available he can teach and train others. He didn’t know that his hospice could register for the Research4Life programmes as he had been travelling to a Research Centre to download articles.

The team ended their visit confident that Research4Life is supporting science and development in Nairobi, offering resources that allow dedicated researchers to take their work many steps further than was previously possible. It is important that training continue to take place regularly and that the users themselves continue to be trained to teach others as well – and promote the programs to all institutes that are eligible.

Shira reports, “the short visit revealed the beauty and intelligence of Africa, and the vital role that Research4Life plays in helping ambitious, bright people further their education and careers, as well as make contributions to science and their communities.”

To see a short video about Research4Life programmes in Nairobi:

For more information visit launching May, 2009