Towards improved access to scientific information: The Case for Transforming Scholarly Communication Model in the African Region
Kavulya, Joseph M.
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Scientific information is the most critical resource as well as product of in research and innovation. Access and sharing current, high quality, scientific information enables researchers to base their own work on current advancements in their disciplines which leads to quality and relevant research that can help solve the urgent problems facing the society. It also leads to greater efficiency in research through collaboration and avoidance of duplication of efforts. This is critical to the adoption of innovations by various consumers and therefore an important factor in improvements in areas such as business, health, agriculture, education and training. Particularly, sharing information between the researchers and the public sector is a prerequisite to setting forward-looking national policies, development programmes and their implementation and therefore the best way to guarantee sustainable development and a brighter future for communities. Despite the centrality of scientific information, available evidence indicates that scientists, research institutions and communities in many parts of the developing countries including the African region have limited access to this vital commodity due to a variety of problems facing scholarly communication. The overarching problems are models of scholarly communication that engender high cost of scientific information, stagnation of technological applications, lack of collaboration and information exchange among key stakeholders, duplication of research efforts, and low impact of research on national policy and development. This paper examines the current status of scholarly communication in the African region so as to provide a better understanding of its prospects and challenges. The paper will propose a new model of scholarly communication which can bring down costs, improved access, dissemination and sharing of scientific information among various stakeholders. This new model will involve adoption of new practices such as e-publishing and access to digital scholarly resources, information sharing and consortia access to scientific information, open access, digital curation (digital knowledge repositories, multimedia content creation) and capacity building through information literacy. The overall impact of such a model is to improve practice of scientific research and its impact in national policy making application in innovation and development programme activities.