User Drop-Off Study: Insights to enhance resource usage

Published: lunes 26th junio 2023
Category: News

Research4Life users reported that they value the resources, which help them in their studies, research, and professional practice. However, Research4Life observed a concerning trend: some registered institutions discontinued their use of Research4Life shortly after registration. To address this issue, ITOCA, a capacity development non-profit, was commissioned by Friends of Research4Life to conduct the Research4Life User Drop-off Study between June and November 2022.

The study focused on Research4Life institutions that registered, used, and stopped using the resources or were using them minimally. A small group of successful institutions (i.e., «using» institutions) were selected to learn about the strategies they employed. The study used a combination of desk research, interviews, and surveys across various countries and institution types.

The study aimed to achieve two primary objectives: to understand why users from institutions that had initially registered with Research4Life dropped off, and to identify strategies that institutions could adopt to sustain the usage of Research4Life resources.

By conducting this study, Research4Life aimed to gain insights that would help address the issue of user drop-off and develop effective strategies to ensure the improved use of Research4Life resources, in line with the user-driven vision to 2030 outlined in the latest strategic plan.

Key findings

The study found the following reasons for the user drop-off :

Low awareness of resources: Low awareness of Research4Life among potential users is a key challenge. We found that low use of Research4Life resources correlated with a lack of promotional activities. Although awareness drives usage, a significant number of those aware of the resources also reported not using them. This is an important finding that warrants further research.

Non-existent or minimal quality training for users: Very low training activities at institutions were associated with low usage. Librarians and information specialists at institutions suggested several specific challenges, including:

  1. Lowly-resourced libraries unable to support training.
  2. Low demand for research access due to limited research activities.
  3. Content of interest not accessible through Research4Life or institutions not offering research studies/degrees in specific disciplines available in Research4Life.

Poor user experience: Lack of expertise in content utilization was reported at institutions of all types but were more common at institutions with low usage. Some users reported encountering problems when trying to access Research4Life content. They expressed concerns about the user-friendliness and mobile compatibility of the content portal, particularly for those who are using the portal without any support or introduction. These concerns point to the need for additional user training to ensure comfortable and effective use of the portal, as well as the need for further usability improvement investments. Users also demanded tools to track usage statistics at their institutions and local technical support.

Barriers to access: Several technical and social barriers to Research4Life use were established including limited and unreliable internet access, high data costs, low user skills, information gatekeepers, limitations in content relevance to specific regions and subscription fees in Group B countries.


Respondents have provided a range of recommendations to promote better utilization of Research4Life resources across different types of institutions. They emphasize the importance of building awareness at the institutional level, suggesting that systematic actions embedded within institutions and led by stakeholders are more likely to yield sustainable outcomes. Respondents also propose expanding local technical support networks, such as the Country Connectors project, to enhance user support accessibility at the institutional level.

Expanding training programs at the national and regional levels is also highlighted as a key recommendation. These programs should specifically target enablers within institutions and be implemented through suitable mechanisms. Collaboration with universities, research organizations, academic hospitals, NGOs, and other stakeholders is crucial in designing training. Such collaboration ensures that programs are systematically rolled out and sustainable in the long term.

It is anticipated that implementing these recommendations will improve the use of Research4Life resources to appreciable levels across the different types of institutions and eligible countries.

The User Drop Off study will be presented at the Research4Life General Partners Meeting in July 2023, and will inform decisions on the long-term strategy behind Research4Life’s program development, user training and support and technical upgrades.