Connecting and cultivating knowledge: Stories of impact from Research4Life’s Country Connectors  

Published: Friday 12th April 2024
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Access to information is critical in today’s increasingly interconnected world. Research4Life, a partnership of more than 160 organizations, has been working to bridge the digital divide for low- and middle-income countries by providing access to essential scientific and academic resources.  

At the Elsevier Foundation, we are proud to be the primary funder of the Country Connectors program – an essential part of Research4Life’s, and our Foundation’s, mission. “Over the past 2 decades, the Elsevier Foundation has always looked for ways to support the researchers, librarians, doctors and policymakers that use Research4Life’s invaluable resources,” remarked Ylann Schemm, Executive Director of the Elsevier Foundation. “From the beginning, we understood that it’s not enough to make Elsevier’s journals and books available, we also need to support critical dissemination and training. The Country Connectors program is unique — building on highly skilled champions to offer training, share best practice and ensure that these resources are fully available to their research communities. We’re proud to be an early adopter of this special program and hope that many more funders will join Country Connectors to grow the momentum of this powerful outreach.” 

The latest report shows how the program has made a difference in countries like Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, United Republic of Tanzania, Bhutan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Republic of Moldova, El Salvador, and Ukraine. The Connectors act as focal points, champions, mentors, listening posts and role models, establishing two-way links within a country, and with the Research4Life partner community as a whole. 

Their stories show how access to information has transformed lives and empowered communities – leading to improved research quality and quantity, enhancing the scholarship, teaching and policymaking and practice of faculty, scientists, and medical specialists worldwide. 

Ghana: Embracing Research4Life Resources 

In Ghana, Country Connectors Miriam Akeriwe, Eric Amponsah and Richard Lamptey worked closely with the Ghana Library Association to identify institutions that could benefit from Research4Life resources. They conducted a User Needs survey to understand challenges and provide support, leading to capacity-building workshops for librarians, students, and academic staff: “I am glad that my institution can freely use these resources to improve research in my environment. I am also glad that this workshop served as a train-the-trainer for me to be able to impact others, especially my students and lecturers. Thank you so much,” commented Vivian Amponsah, Librarian at the Christian Service University College in Kumasi. 

To enhance outreach, a list of 36 local journals and a contact mailing list of 150 editorial team members were compiled. A local publishers engagement webinar also provided opportunities for capacity-building and adding journal content to Research4Life, increasing awareness and accessibility of local research. Additionally, Country Connector Dr. Lamptey highlighted the importance of research and the benefits of Research4Life in a live media interview on Joy TV, Ghana’s oldest and most popular TV and radio station.  

Liberia: Overcoming Infrastructure Challenges 

In Liberia, Country Connector Stephen S. Browne conducted outreach activities to 11 education and health institutions. They discovered that access to information was hindered by the lack of infrastructure, such as electricity and Internet connectivity. By collaborating with local partners, these challenges were addressed, enabling institutions to fully utilize Research4Life resources. 

However, the last quarter of 2023 saw interruptions due to general and presidential elections, causing security concerns and partial closures of institutions. After the elections, Stephen conducted an outreach in the Southeast region, an area that is only reachable via a three-day journey through neighboring Cote d’lvoire. The region holds potential for agricultural research, with Tubman University having a large agriculture college and the Liberian government operating an agriculture research center in Harper. 

United Republic of Tanzania: Boosting Local Research Visibility 

In the United Republic of Tanzania, Country Connectors Dr. Grace Msoffe and Agatha Mashindano have focused on enhancing the visibility of local research. They have identified local publishers and organized capacity-building workshops to help them improve the quality of their publications. Collaborating with the Directory of Open Access Journals and Research4Life teams, they have successfully increased the visibility of local research, ensuring that the knowledge produced in Tanzania contributes to the global research community. 

Dr. Grace and Agatha also participated in a national symposium organized by the Tanzania Library Services Board, promoting writing talents, publishing activities, and cultivating a reading culture. The event attracted various stakeholders, and as a result, eight institutions were assisted in registering for Research4Life. 

Kenya: Fostering Research and Collaboration through Research4Life 

In Kenya, Country Connectors Joice Baliddawa and Isabel Musisi-Edebe have demonstrated the potential impact of local collaborations with research and academia in advancing research, knowledge sharing, and academic excellence in Africa through Research4Life. They made efforts to re-engage institutions that had previously stopped using Research4Life resources, and initiated communication with the Kenya Publishers Association and the Kenya Library Association – to raise awareness about Research4Life and initiate a program for all registered librarians.  

Bhutan: Building a Community of Ambassadors 

In Bhutan, Country Connector Phuntsho Norbu have worked to build a network of ambassadors who can promote Research4Life within their institutions. By providing these ambassadors with training and support, they have been able to reach remote regions of the country, ensuring that researchers and students can access the resources they need. 

Ukraine: Strengthening Networks as a Country Connector Associate 

In Ukraine, an agreement with State Scientific and Technical Library of Ukraine made it a Country Connector Associate, a status is for those countries that are currently making good progress and wish to be part of the project network without requiring financial support. Country Connectors Marharyta Tsiura and Olena Rachynska have been actively communicating with institutions and individuals to reduce user queries – using email, social media, phone and Telegram groups to facilitate communication with Ukrainian users.  

The success of the Research4Life Country Connectors program demonstrates the power of collaboration and the importance of access to information in driving sustainable development. By working closely with Program Lead Blessing Mawire and Senior Advisor Lenny Rhine, collaborating with local partners and addressing the unique challenges faced by each country, the Country Connectors have made a tangible impact on the lives of researchers, educators, and students in low- and middle-income countries. 

As Research4Life continues to expand its reach and impact, the Country Connectors program remains a vital part of our shared mission to bridge the digital divide – ultimately contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and advancing equity worldwide.