7 February 2013

Kenya's Top University Opens Up Its Research

Nairobi — One of Kenya's leading universities, the University of Nairobi, has adopted an open access policy to research articles and other academic materials produced by its staff.

By placing all scholarly articles in an online 'digital repository', the university aims to increase the visibility of its research output and enhance collaboration with researchers in other parts of the world.

The university adopted its open access policy in December.

Rosemary Otando, a senior librarian at the university, says there is a vast amount of the data and knowledge waiting to be discovered, but this is only possible when research literature is not constrained by access barriers.

"The university attracts funds worth tens of millions of US dollars for research, but the findings have, in the past, only been accessed by a privileged few since most of them are published in costly peer-reviewed journals and the high internet subscription fees mean that users in developing countries cannot access the information they need to rise to the challenges of development," Otando tells SciDev.Net.

The open access policy, she adds, is intended to ensure that research and other relevant work reaches many and has a direct impact on policies and practices in Kenya, Africa and worldwide.

It is also designed to increase citations, reduce the knowledge divide, maximise the visibility of the university's academic output and ensure its preservation.

As part of the initiative, the university encourages its academic staff to publish their work in peer-reviewed open access journals.

"Since the cost barrier has been eliminated, everybody is free to access the resources. Therefore open access will ensure that relevant research findings can be used to help those in need says Otando.

Materials that can be added to the online depository include journal articles, research data, books, audio and video files, theses, presentations, images and conference proceedings.

Nerisa Kamar, assistant librarian at the Nairobi-based UN-HABITAT, the UN agency for human settlements, thinks the initiative will "promote the relevancy and enhance the dissemination of in-house publications and resources, enable the sharing of data and help to reduce research duplication and the resulting waste of resources".

According to Kamar, the open access policy will also market the institution's research programmes, assist in reducing plagiarism and act as a quality assurance tool to help the university meet the international standards on what should be available on the OA database and the goal of becoming a world-class university.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk. 

Link to digital repository

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