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26 July 2017
Network News | Vol 1 No 4 | March 2013
This newsletter is best viewed online.
 
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DRUSSA Network News is distributed quarterly and aims to build awareness of Research Uptake and Research Uptake Management (RUM). You are welcome to forward this to your colleagues. Please suggest that they register as a member of the DRUSSA Network.
 
In this edition of DRUSSA Network News:
 
 
In this issue of Network News, we look at how important it is for universities to make their research prominently visible on their websites, simple to access and easy to read. It seems an obvious thing to do, yet few universities realise the value of their investment in their research in this manner. And very often, when a university does have dedicated online space for research, it is not easy to navigate to from the homepage on the main website -- and this is true even of some very sophisticated universities. Not so, DRUSSA participant the University of Zambia, which last month launched their dedicated research uptake site, UNZAResearch, a subsite of UNZA`s main website
 
We then go a step further and look at how academic publishing has changed and how new forms of publishing necessitate new thinking around how to organise content. This leads into two articles on the institutional repository, what this is and why it is a good idea to have one. We also examine the features of a "good" institutional repository. 
 
Finally, you can read the second part of a blog on open access and how it is affecting impact measurement, as well as get the latest on the DRUSSA postgraduate programme offered by CREST, which started in late February.
 

Leveraging your university`s research
 
by Linda Cilliers
 
One of the smartest ways for a university to raise its profile is to use what many already have in abundance -- research.
 
And the quickest, easiest way of publicising research is to do it through the university`s website. Surely, in terms of getting the biggest return on time and effort invested, this has to be the first and most obvious port of call for those whose job it is to publicise university activities. Yet, you`d be surprised how few universities are in fact seizing the opportunity. This is as true in Africa as it is in the rest of the world, quite possibly even more so.
Promoting research ... gives the university public appeal and credibility
The benefits of promoting research are many -- not only does it raise the institution`s profile, it also raises the profile of the scientists and researchers, attracts funding and recruits research partners and students. Above all, it gives the university public appeal and credibility. In fact, research is central to a "university`s reputation, ranking and ... future funding". So are African universities doing enough to promote and inform the public of their research?
In a comment in DRUSSA`s digital magazine, Round-Up: Research Uptake, systems analyst Julius Logah at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) says that during the short course on Science Communication held in Accra, Ghana, participants were asked to scour the DRUSSA universities` websites for completed and ongoing research. What they found was disappointing, Logah said.

 

"Though there were some news items on research, it was difficult to tell what research was currently going or had been completed recently. It was agreed that most of the universities in Sub-Saharan Africa needed to take a second look at their websites with the aim of enhancing their research information output on it, to make it more accessible to students, funders and the public."

 

A strategic decision

 

A recent article in The Guardian explains how, two years ago, the University of Cambridge made a strategic decision to establish a dedicated research communications team to make sure quality content is generated and published on a regular basis. They`re not alone. The website of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa is another shining example of how the university`s communications team has grabbed the opportunity to use research as an effective content generator.

"Although the media often plays a critical role in telling the public about the fruits of university research, it simply cannot cover everything," head of Cambridge research news and features Tom Kirk is quoted as saying. "We wanted to create a space on the website that represents this wider research culture as fully as possible, and gives readers and viewers the chance to explore subjects that interest them. Hence, as well as news stories, the site carries features, videos and op-eds written by academics themselves."
... the aim was to present Cambridge's research in a way that the public could relate to and understand

He went on to describe the site as a public information service rather than a marketing or promotional tool, saying the aim was to present Cambridge's research in a way that the public could relate to and understand.

 

DRUSSA university takes action

UNZAResearch was launched at a lively planning meeting in mid-January ...
Closer to home, the DRUSSA implementation team at the University of Zambia has been quick to set matters to rights. After attending the short courses for Southern Africa offered in Stellenbosch earlier last year, Research Dissemination Group team leader Sitwe Mkandawire and his team developed an online platform from which to promote research uptake, communication and utilisation.

UNZAResearch, a subsite of the university`s main site, was launched at a lively planning meeting in mid-January, during which the team discovered that much had been happening in the field of research dissemination and communication, seminars, capacity building, and research uptake and utilisation. Led by Research and Graduate Studies Director Prof Imasiku Nyambe, the UNZA DRUSSA team agreed on a number of activities for 2013. These included research dissemination through the media (radio, Internet, TV and newspapers), research publications in journals, books, bulletins or magazines, the hosting of academic conventions, public lectures and the lobbying of funds and other resources to run the proposed DRUSSA activities.

 

Of course, to make a success of such an undertaking, resources are needed. Making research available online may well be described as low-hanging fruit, but that doesn`t mean absolutely no effort at all is needed. Fact is, even here, quite a lot of effort is required. Somebody with a high level of skill has to study the research, then rewrite it into ordinary language, and finally, the "translated" story of the research has to be posted and cross-referenced online. More skills needed, more time expended.
 
Commenting on progress at KNUST, Deputy Registrar of University Relations Vincent Ankamah-Lomotey recently said, "It is not only about making research accessible, but also putting research into a language fit for the end user and lay audiences. We are gradually making progress by giving research more prominence on our website. We have started with featuring some of our PhD vivas. We are also working towards creating a centralised database of research activities across the university."
"It is not only about making research accessible, but also putting research into a language fit for the end user and lay audience."

 

UNZA`s online research platform is brand new and this is an exciting development. But where are the others?

 

Linda Cilliers is the DRUSSA Online Editor

 
For best display, read online

 

 

The university press: Reinvigorating an old friend?
 
by Jonathan Harle
 
Academic publishing has undergone such radical shifts over the past several years that it`s become necessary for researchers, funders and publishers to rethink what research communication and publication are about.
What should they publish (e.g. case notes as well as journal articles) and for whom (offering a different format for, say, a rural healthcare practitioner with a narrow focus than for a development consultant wanting information on topics that span fields, disciplines and countries)? To handle, enable and advance this effectively, universities need to respond, adjust policy and procedures accordingly and make sure fit-for-purpose publishing and communication systems are in place.
 
Of course, new forms of publishing -- driven partly by the potential of online platforms, but with open access offering new opportunities -- also suggest new ways of organising content.

As Matt Cockerill of BioMed Central argued at the Berlin10 open access conference held at the University of Stellenbosch late last year, research "rarely falls clearly into discrete disciplinary categories". Open access content can be repurposed, allowing collections to be created according to interests that range beyond a specific journal. Veterinary research and human medical research have common interests, but in traditional journals the research in each field is more easily overlooked. However, cross-journal collaborations that pull together research from a variety of sources are more easily possible in the new environment.

 

African institutional research repositories

 

One of the principal ways in which African universities are making their work available -- in addition to journal publishing -- is through establishing their own institutional repositories, university databases of published outputs, where copies of articles can be deposited and freely accessed (when they go "live" depends on the conditions of particular publishers. Some stipulate a six- or 12-month embargo).

 
The Open Access Repositories Capacity Strengthening Programme (OA-IRCSP) led by the Association of African Universities (AAU) headquartered in Ghana and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Netherlands is an initiative that promotes institutional repositories based on open access principles in Africa. They`ve developed a toolkit for setting up institutional repositories and operate a network of institutional repository managers across the continent.
Of course, universities have long been publishers, so in a way, the modern-day institutional repository marks a return to, if not a reinvigoration of, the traditional university press.

A great benefit of repository style collections is that each academic can be allocated a personal collection of all their published work and many universities integrate the repository with their staff pages. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London is a great example of how this can be done (click on the "Publications" tab).
Universities have long been publishers, so the modern-day institutional repository marks a return to, if not a reinvigoration of, the traditional university press.
And, of course, as bandwidth across the continent improves and access becomes easier, the healthcare worker mentioned earlier will be in a position to access some of this material from any number of mobile sites developed by publishers, using a basic smart phone.
 
A matter of capacity
Certain capacity needs have to be addressed to make a repository effective.
While many universities have begun to establish repositories -- and many involved in DRUSSA -- certain capacity needs have to be addressed to make a repository effective. Helena Asamoah-Hassan, librarian at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), says what is needed are both the development of new skills and securing buy-in from researchers and senior managers so that the repository actually gets used.
What would be interesting to watch as it unfolds across the continent is where the expertise and responsibility for these functions will ultimately be drawn from. In the United States, these days, it is not unusual to see offices of scholarly communication becoming responsible for publishing and associated legal issues, often associated with the library, while the repository may be managed by another department. These offices are typically staffed by people with a library background and some legal understanding, Duke and Harvard Universities being good examples of such modern repositories.
 
A real challenge for institutional repositories is their viability -- both in developing and maintaining them, and as sources of sufficient high-quality content for them to be visited by external users. National or disciplinary repositories may offer a solution. KNUST has been designated the national Ghanaian repository, a number of subject-specific repositories or search tools drawing together resources that have been deposited in a single place. Aside from the African Journals OnLine (AJOL), referred to below in Open access: Driving new ways to measure impact, the Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service offers two Pan-African projects, one to host journals, the other a repository service for universities who can`t or prefer not to host their own.
 
Jonathan Harle () is Programme Manager (Research Capacity) at the Association for Commonwealth Universities
 
For best display, read online.

 

 

Institutional repositories: Packaging outward-facing research
 
by Liam Roberts
 
Getting research into use needs to take several different approaches at once: both the highly precise and the broad-based.

Regarding the precise approach, it is important that Research Uptake Management practitioners are able to engage directly with beneficiaries with specific research outputs, mediating a knowledge interchange between users and producers.

However, the broad-based, comprehensive approach is also crucial in underpinning overall university research. This is where the development of institutional repositories comes in.
 
Defining the institutional research repository
 
Institutional repositories are open-access, comprehensive databases of university research that can be navigated by not only staff, but also by the public and by policymakers. They are designed to ease the approach of external, potential stakeholders into the university research environment.
 
They contain published output ranging from postgraduate theses, to articles and research reports from each department and faculty. In the UK, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee reported that an institutional repository can serve two main purposes: "It allows authors to disseminate their research articles for free over the internet, and it helps to ensure the preservation of those articles in a rapidly changing electronic environment." 
"It allows authors to disseminate their research articles for free over the internet"

 

Stellenbosch University E-Research Repository Manager Ina Smith says the definition given by Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Director Clifford Lynch describes it best and is the most trusted and widely used definition internationally.

The Lynch definition

"In my view, a university-based institutional repository is a set of services that a university offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. It is most essentially an organisational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organisation and access or distribution."

  -- Clifford Lynch
Elaborating on the issue, Smith`s colleague at the University of Stellenbosch, Library and Information Service Director Dr Reggie Raju agrees, saying Lynch`s definition is beyond debate.

"It is my opinion that institutional repositories have grown exponentially over the last few years. It is now becoming evident that there is a need to define the focus areas, such as a research repository, data repository and so on," he says.
 
Raju is currently developing a mandatory submission policy for the "institution`s research content". In this document, he defines the research repository as "the repository that acquires, organises and disseminates the research output (that is formal research output, such as theses and dissertations, peer-reviewed research articles, peer-reviewed conference proceedings) of the university."

Preservation

One great challenge of the digital age is information management. Stakeholders are at risk of being overloaded with a poorly coordinated tidal wave of potentially useful information and knowledge, but it is one of the responsibilities of the research producer to help ensure ease of access if their research is going to stand out. In that regard, an institutional repository is an essential tool.

They benefit the institution as much as the researcher as a means of promoting university research capacity, and giving policymakers and media agents a clear and ready picture of the breadth and depth of research the university incubates. When an industrial or policy leader is able to search and find university research outputs in a well-managed one-stop-university-shop, the university can only benefit. 
 
Learning About Digital Institutional Repositories (LEADIRS) is a grouping of Information Management experts and leaders, who wrote a highly informative and easy-to-use handbook on the design and maintenance of effective institutional repositories. Their piece, Creating an Institutional Repository, is available -- in the spirit of open-access -- online for free.
 

Liam Roberts () is a Programme Officer (Policy) at the Association of Commonwealth Universities

 
For best display, read online.

 

 

What does a good repository look like? The DSpace example


by Liam Roberts

 

Since this issue is devoted to discussing the role of institutional repositories in aiding the communication of university research, it is worth looking at good practice in the design of such repositories.
 
DSpace at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom is one outstanding example of how such repositories can be designed and used to advance public awareness of and engagement with university research outputs.
 
Launched in 2006, DSpace operates with a "self-archiving" model, whereby academics register their research outputs and published work. Rather than stick with a simpler platform that would seek only to promote traditional research papers or articles, DSpace includes research outputs of other types as well, including datasets, images, audio and video, conference presentations, as well as theses and working papers that cannot be easily captured in traditional academic journals.
 
The underpinning philosophy behind the design is that publicly-funded research ought to be accessible to members of the public -- indeed, this is the approach at the heart of Open Access.


DSpace is organised into a range of "Communities" and "Collections", allowing end users to search by specific producers of research
 
DSpace goes further than some designs in the breadth of research types it can include, although contributing research outputs to it remains the prerogative of the individual researcher -- departments do not mandate the registration of research on the platform, and so the breadth of content is partially achieved through its inclusivity of research forms.
 
To aid with navigation, DSpace is organised into a range of "Communities" and "Collections", allowing end users to search by specific producers of research (different centres, departments or units at the university), as well as allowing users to filter their searches to recall peer-reviewed papers only, focusing on particular subjects as well as by cross-referencing research output type.

DSpace collaborates with the Digital Preservation Coalition, a UK-based advocacy group that raises awareness and promotes the development of digital archiving of, open access to and public engagement with research. Collaborations such as these are key to the success of any institutional repository -- to effectively promote research outside of traditional higher education spheres, strategies for actively reaching out will form an important part of what the repository does -- indeed, it can increase the likelihood of researchers making contributions.

Visit the DSpace repository on the University of Cambridge website to get an idea of how it works. 
 
Liam Roberts () is a Programme Officer (Policy) at the Association of Commonwealth Universities
 
For best display, read online.

 

 

Open access part II: Driving new ways to measure impact
 
In the December 2012 issue of  Network News (Vol 1 No 3), Jonathan Harle looked at open access and its implications for research uptake. Here, he takes the discourse further and looks at how open access drives developments in the ways the "impact" of research can be measured.

The open access approach to publishing, coupled with the explosion in social media use, is driving some interesting developments in the ways in which the "impact" of research can be measured. For many years the Impact Factor -- a measure of the average number of citations of articles in a particular journal -- has been the most commonly used proxy for the impact of research. The limitations of the Impact Factor have been well set out, specifically that a measure designed for a journal has come to be applied to individual papers and the people who write them, and is now used to judge grants and promotions and a whole host of things.
Much African research never makes it into the ISI database and loses visibility as a result.
In an African context, it`s particularly problematic, as Scholarly Communication in Africa Programme director Eve Gray explains, because it includes only journals identified as "international" by the Thomson Reuters ISI database. "Local" or national journals -- and so many African titles -- are excluded. Much African research therefore never makes it into the ISI database, and loses visibility as a result.
Happily we have AJOL (African Journals OnLine). Over the past decade this platform has done much to both increase the visibility of African content -- hosting 450 peer-reviewed African journals -- and to make African publishing more viable and professional. It is the world`s largest collection of peer-reviewed African-published journals, the aim being to make research of African origin available not only to Africans but to the rest of the world.

   
Beyond journals?
 
Gray asserts that we`re talking too much about journals, and that open access also starts to open our eyes to new ways of publishing and communicating research, particularly the impact that other forms of research outputs have -- and perhaps before and in addition to the "version of record". Incentives and policies -- at university level and, possibly more importantly, in national systems -- are critical here, of course. As long as criteria for promotion and advancement rely on publication, and particularly publication in ISI-ranked, so-called "international" journals, it`s hard to see academics, particularly early in their careers, taking the risk of releasing their work in new ways.
As long as criteria for promotion and advancement rely on publication ... it`s hard to see academics ... taking the risk of releasing their work in new ways.

While visiting Accra in April last year this author heard from researchers -- most of whom were just setting out on their academic careers -- that their senior colleagues often refused to acknowledge a journal article as part of an application for promotion unless they could actually produce the hard copy (printed) version. And it wasn`t just open-access journals that were being overlooked, but anything published in electronic form.

When time is pressured, writing op-eds for papers, taking part in radio debates or science cafes, or digesting research findings into forms more useful to practitioners or policymakers ... are likely to slip down a researcher`s priority list
But the system of academic reward and the incentives it creates also has broader implications for getting research into use. Placing the emphasis (for career progression, the ability to secure research grants or status in the wider research community) on journal publishing means that researchers are discouraged from investing their time in other channels of communication or "uptake" activities. When time is pressured, writing op-eds for local papers, taking part in radio debates or science cafes, or digesting research findings into forms more useful to practitioners or policymakers -- all of which may not be formally recognised or rewarded by their institutions -- are likely to slip down a researcher`s priority list, if they appeared there at all.
 
In the DRUSSA universities this contradiction between universities` mandate to contribute to their nation`s socioeconomic development and their internal promotion policies is being flagged as perhaps the most important to attend to. The driver for change is undoubtedly funders` insistence that research evidence should demonstrably have impact for the users of research.
New ways of measuring impact?

Open access has helped drive what`s known as the altmetrics movement -- an attempt to use a greater range of data to track and assess how well used a particular article has been. Rather than simply tracking citations in other academic journals, we can now begin to see how often a piece of work is linked to online, how often it is Tweeted and blogged about, bookmarked or incorporated elsewhere online. There are even new tools to track this, such as ImpactStory.
 
These are still early days, but the potential is clearly significant. In his presentation at Berlin10, PLOS advocacy director Cameron Neylon asserted that, at its most simple, impact was about research being reused and this was what we needed to track and measure (with the application of, commercialisation of, engagement with and of course traditional citation of research also indicating reuse). What`s particularly significant about these new metrics is that they start to show how research is being used before it ever gets formally cited, which can take months, if not years.
 

Jonathan Harle () is Programme Manager (Research Capacity) at the Association for Commonwealth Universities
 
For best display, read online.

 

 

DRUSSA MPhil and PhD bursaries awarded
 
DRUSSA`s MPhil and PhD programme in Science and Technology Studies (Specialisation: Research Uptake), accredited by Stellenbosch University, got off to a good start during the last week of February. Feedback from candidates has been positive. The degree programmes are delivered by the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST). CREST is attached to the University of Stellenbosch and is one of the three DRUSSA partner organisations.
The 13 candidates are recipients of the DRUSSA bursaries.
Thirteen candidates (seven MPhil and six PhD ) from nine DRUSSA universities attended the first two modules of the degrees. The topics were Research Evaluation and Research Impact Design. The 13 candidates are recipients of the DRUSSA bursaries. A further selection round will take place later this year for the 2014 intake.

The 2013 bursary holders are from the following DRUSSA universities: the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa (2), Kigali Health Institute, Rwanda (1), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana (1); National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe (1), Obafemi Awolowo University, NIGERIA (1), University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1), University of Nairobi, Kenya (1), University of Limpopo, South Africa (1), and University of Zambia, Zambia (1).

 
For best display, read online.

 

 
 
 
DRUSSA Network News is published quarterly. It is available on the DRUSSA blogsite, the DRUSSA App (register here to get the app) and via email (if you`re registered on the DRUSSA Network).
 
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