“Research4Life is an incredible community”

Published: Thursday 9th February 2023
Category: Blog

Fundraising is vital to the sustainability of Research4Life, as the work we do to provide access to resources, training and support to users in the 11,500+ institutions we serve. Through Friends of Research4Life we hope to raise the necessary funds to continue this critical work. We are grateful to our donors, and this series spotlights individuals and organizations who have chosen to donate, allowing Research4Life to expand and better support users everywhere.

Today we speak with Ylann Schemm, Director of the Elsevier Foundation and VP of Corporate Responsibility at Elsevier.

Ylann Schemm

What is the Country Connectors project?

In 2021 we conducted an extensive Research4Life user review to support the new strategic plan. We learned that while Research4Life has a powerful effect on the quality of research in institutions where users are aware and trained, many are simply unaware of the incredible trove of Research4Life resources. And that’s where the Country Connectors come in.

Country Connectors is a new training program stemming directly from the 2022 Research4Life strategic plan, reflecting the growing urgency to work with Research4Life users as producers of knowledge, increasing their participation in the globalresearch community, and supporting local networks in developing research capacity. With support from the Elsevier Foundation, it has launched in six pilot countries – to date, Bhutan, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the United Republic of Tanzania – establishing focal points and promoting access to research. We hope that many funders will soon follow suit to increase the reach across more Research4Life countries.

Why did Elsevier decide to support it?

For us, it just made perfect sense and reflected the longstanding support the Elsevier Foundation have given to Librarians without Borders – a collaboration with the Medical Library Association and Research4Life. From 2007-2020, Librarians without Borders provided extensive resource training to researchers, healthcare professionals, librarians and more – for a total of 90+ workshops across 45+ countries!

Phuntsho Norbu presenting to Royal University of Bhutan officials. 

Country Connectors is a perfect successor to that program. It provides South-to-South knowledge transfer by Research4Life users who are are truly embedded, accountable and driving change in their own communities.

We see that Country Connectors are creating a tailored approach to networking, promotion and information skills building. Many of them are already delivering targeted workshops, building networks with libraries consortia, linking with accreditation boards, and so on. For example in Bhutan, Phuntsho Norbu, Head of the Central Library of the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences, is working to raise awareness. 

Why is Research4Life important to you, personally?

Ylann Schemm passing the Executive Council Chair bell to Gracian Chimwaza, during the 2022 Research4Life GPM.

Research4Life has been part of my life for fifteen years. I first got involved with the Partnership back in 2008, when I was supporting the big rebrand to Research4Life, moving from individual program references — Hinari, AGORA, OARE and ARDI at the time — to one unified partnership. This was officially launched at the 2009 General Partners Meeting hosted by the UN in New York – the first one I attended. I went on to Co-Chair the Marketing & Communications team 2014-2019, and then had the honor of Chairing the Executive Council 2020-2022, a pivotal time in creating our new strategic plan. I’ve never stopped learning from this fascinating public-private partnership working so hard to build research equity.

What’s so inspiring for me personally is the incredible community around Research4life: so many likeminded partners and dedicated trainers committed to ensuring that the research reaches the users who need them. Our trainers include librarians, doctors and researchers who, on top of their very busy roles, get involved and support Research4Life and its users all over the world — 125 countries and territories to be precise!

Research4Life is far reaching and impressive, but it mostly runs on goodwill and volunteers. With the launch of Friends of Research4Life in 2022, we hope to build on that incredible spirit and ensure its sustainability to advance our common goals around research equity.

Why are we fundraising for Research4Life?

While we have accomplished a tremendous amount through volunteer efforts and in-kind contributions, scaling-up remains challenging.