“The whole country benefits from access to Research4Life”
Pascal Soubeiga, from the Institut des Sciences et Techniques de l’information documentaire (ISTID) Ouagadougou, started a 3-years term as Research4Life user representative for Group A countries – following Prof. Tandi Lwoga, from the College of Business Education in Dar es salaam, Tanzania. We caught up with him to learn more about his work in Burkina Faso.
A vocation for helping others
Pascal has decades of experience as an information research consultant, and has provided over 300 training courses on Research4Life. He started working as an archivist and in 1999 joined the WHO African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) in Burkina Faso – managing both archives and academic records as a librarian for 15 years. At the beginning, APOC provide physical academic records to African researchers: it took up to 6 months to send documents. Towards the early 2000s, the digitization of academic content meant easier access to information and increased reach to support researchers from African countries.
After 2015, Mr. Soubeiga started teaching and providing trainings on information and library sciences in universities and schools in Burkina Faso, working with librarians to increase the reach and usage of Research4Life.
“When I managed to provide researchers with the content that they had been researching – it brought me enormous moral satisfaction. I discovered that I always wanted to support people find information, and I still have desire to help.”
Research4Life access and training in Burkina Faso
The country counts 19 public universities, 103 private ones and 50 research institutes – amounting to a total of 190,000 students and 23,500 teachers who need access to research and scientific information on a daily basis.
Research4Life activities started in September 2008 in Burkina Faso: the first training session that Pascal attended was focused on Agora, HINARI and OARE, and saw more than 50 participants, most of which teachers. Building off this first one, the university of Ouagadougou, the university of Bobo Dioulasso and the University of Koudougou continued Research4Life trainings, followed by institutions e.g. CREPA, INERA, ISTID and the UN Technology Bank DAR programme – leading to a total of more than 2,250 individuals trained. It is with funding from DAR that Pascal started formal Research4Life trainings in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Madagascar.
To date, more than 20,000 individuals have been trained in Burkina Faso either in person or through MOOCs – and thousands of students have been able to produce high quality research and theses with literature from Research4Life. Doctors can offer better healthcare, teachers can update their syllabi through current and diversified information, and are able to move to a senior rank at the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education (CAMES) through the trainings received on publications drafting and research publishing.
“In the end, 22 million Burkinabe benefit from the aftermath of this access to information through high quality of content, teaching excellence, and research .”
Challenges and way forward
Language should not be a barrier in research, says Pascal. He notes that while anglophone countries seem to be ‘advancing’ more than francophone ones in Africa, they all have the same fundamental problems. For example, there is a great need for updated, factual information in French for nurses and other healthcare officers, particularly in remote areas. And enabling automatic translation in platforms is a helpful solution – but more trainings on how to access translated abstracts might be needed.
And while Burkina Faso has increased the number or Research4Life registered institutions, it also has ca. 50% of inactive users: Mr. Soubeiga says that a study on users drop-off is needed to understand causes and proposed effective solutions.
At the same time, with the growing number of users and institutions, it will be important to ensure trainers’ motivation, says Mr. Soubeiga, supporting their advocacy, extending training to more universities and organizing MOOCs for advanced training.
“We’re afraid that as a Global South country these priorities might be forgotten. With the increasing life costs and if we continue with this time of crises – it is important to not deprioritize access to information as it constitutes the basis of knowledge and it is only through that that we can come out of theses crisis.”