How Research4Life has responded to the COVID-19 emergency
In 2020, INASP helped Research4Life to learn more about our users’ needs and challenges by carrying out an extensive survey and evaluation of users across multiple countries and institution types.
The user review was conducted in an unprecedented time. But COVID-19 is not affecting all the Research4Life community in the same way: while around 52% of survey respondents found no change in their use of Research4Life, just over a quarter (26%) reported decreased use, and just under a quarter (23%) reported an increase in the use of Research4Life.
« The most important use of the databases was in the COVID-19 confinement period where I was able to use my Research4Life password to access at home. I have done good research for me and my PhD students. »Professor, Tunisia
When asked to describe the impact COVID-19 had had on their work, 68% of respondents reported a negative impact, 13% a positive impact and 14% no impact on their work. Some of the issues are related to the wider circumstances that researchers are in – for example needing to look after children who would normally have been at school or additional commitments due to working in healthcare.
“I am a frontline health worker: so, I no longer have time to use Research4Life.”Lecturer, Nepal
For others, the pandemic presents additional time for reading and writing research papers. Some users saw huge opportunities opening up for their research: as one respondent notes, “it may open up a vast area for research”.
At the same time, infrastructure and technology present their own set of challenges. Not everyone has computers or internet access at home, and costs for broadband or mobile data can restrict possibilities of use. Restricted access to face-to-face engagement and to field work, laboratories and laboratory output has also deeply impacted the user community.
How has Research4life responded to the pandemic?
1. Monthly webinars. Research4Life regularly organizes webinars in collaboration with our partners and kindred organisations to highlight and explain some of the resources or platforms that they have made available. In 2020, webinars have also covered topics such as Summon search and Google Scholar – but also how researchers can improve their academic skills through platforms such INASP, Researcher Academy and ORCID. All recordings and presentations are available on our webinars page, or our YouTube channel.
2. Research4Life MOOC. The pandemic has disrupted many planned Research4Life training. And with the demand for ongoing training rising throughout 2020, the Research4Life MOOC has proven to be a success story. The fourth and fifth edition of the MOOC saw a total of 3294 enrolled users – while the first edition of a MOOC focusing on Hinari had 1486 enrolled.
“I believe the MOOCs are a good approach, because it gives the librarians a chance to be very well versed with Research4Life resources, navigation, the papers, etc. So when users go to the trainings and orientations, they’re given correct information.”Research4Life User, Kenya
3. Video content. The Journal of Medical Insight (JOMI), gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘journal’ by providing video articles covering surgical procedures step by step. In recent years, the journal’s usage has soared. Especially in the current pandemic, JOMI offers added value to medical students and surgeons worldwide by providing an alternative to in-person shadowing experiences.
4. Opening up backfiles. Research4Life offers access to up to 132,000 academic and professional resources, including journals, books, databases and other reference sources. However, some older content is not available online, only in paper on library shelves. Some publisher partners already offer backfile access as part of their standard offering for Research4Life users. In 2020, several others have decided to give users online access to their full journal archives.
5. Pausing Group B fees. At this difficult moment, for Group B country institutions, the Research4Life partners have agreed that institutions that are not able to make a payment for Research4Life 2020 access will not be required to do so – ensuring the broadest possible access to the available Research4Life content in those countries, areas and territories.