Empowering researchers in low-resource settings to attain SDGs: Bridging the gap with libraries and collaborative networks

Published: mardi 11th juin 2024
Category: Other

In the pursuit of collectively attaining the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the concept of empowering researchers in low-resource settings stands as a critical imperative, necessitating the bridging of formidable gaps through inclusive strategies.

Take a look at the vast expanse of academia, knowledge is propagated as the currency of progress, but there exists a profound imbalance. While researchers in affluent regions abound with resources and opportunities with flourishing knowledge economies that have fundamentally reshaped the landscape of economic growth by introducing new means of production, communication, and innovation.

Their counterparts in low-resource settings often struggle against formidable odds with fledging knowledge economies influenced by a stunted research landscape that synonymously degrades into obtuse modes of production, communication, and innovation.

Challenges and opportunities in global research landscapes

Imperative to note is the transformative power of the industrial and technological revolutions that have left tremendous impact in the Global North research, yet researchers in the Global South struggle to level up due to limited access to resources, technological disparities, financial constraints, infrastructure challenges, capacity building needs, and policy barriers.

Addressing these challenges requires collaborative efforts to invest in infrastructure, capacity building, and supportive policies, empowering researchers to thrive in a competitive global landscape. In 2021, I shared my experience highlighting the Ugandan perspective of the role of libraries in facilitating researchers with tools and resources. The library is an inspiring space for learning and innovation, where professionals act as authentic information gate-openers leveraging collaborative networks and technological advancements.

Professional endeavors and collaborative initiatives

As an impassioned advocate for equitable access to inclusive information sources, I have witnessed the hurdles faced by researchers in underrepresented contexts. I would like to share my professional and volunteer experience reflecting the changing role of the information professional to inform and inspire practice. Leveraging personal traits and professional enthusiasm, I have emerged as a project manager, researcher, academic faculty facilitator, academic lead librarian, mentor, inspirational blogger, corporate leader, patron, UN SDG Action Campaign activist, IFLA In-Country Co-Design SDG Advocacy Facilitator, WIPO Technology and Innovation Support manager and a global intelligence information specialist! My professional trajectory illuminates the indispensable role that information professionals play today in nurturing the research and innovation ecosystem.

Having explored my professional endeavors and the transformative power of initiatives advanced by collaborative networks like IFLA, RENU, Research4Life, AV, INASP, EIFL, and CUUL, it’s clear that efforts are underway to address research disparities and enhance inclusivity. Let’s delve into the heart of research and development disparity, examining the global research divide and its implications for the broader research community. Join me on a journey toward a more inclusive research landscape, where every voice, regardless of geographical origin, resonates with the promise of progress and innovation.

The global research divide: Unveiling inequities

The global landscape of research is marked by a stark contrast, where certain regions, institutions and individuals flourish amidst a wealth of resources, while others languish in the shadows of scarcity. This divide, rooted in systemic inequalities, poses significant barriers to the advancement of knowledge and innovation. Researchers in low-resource settings often face limited access to essential scholarly resources and generous research funding, hindering their ability to conduct impactful research and contribute meaningfully to their fields. Moreover, the disparity extends beyond mere access and funding, to include recognition of experts, opportunities for collaboration, participation in decision making, laboratories, innovation hubs, modern libraries, and incubation centers, perpetuating a cycle of participation marginalization in the global knowledge economy.

Empowering researchers: The role of Research4Life and stakeholders

In the face of these challenges, I have participated in initiatives like Research4Life that have emerged as beacons of hope with stakeholders like libraries, publishers, NRENS, IFLA, Eifl, INASP and WIPO illuminating pathways toward equitable research practices. Through Research4Life’s innovative programs, including HINARI, AGORA, OARE, ARDI, and GOALI, libraries extend a lifeline to researchers in low- and middle-income countries, empowering them with the tools and knowledge needed to drive positive change in their communities. By democratizing access to information, Research4Life, not only fosters a more inclusive research ecosystem but also amplifies the voices of researchers from underrepresented regions on the global stage.

The cornerstone of robust academic discourse lies in the peer review process, a mechanism designed to uphold the standards of scholarly rigor and integrity. However, traditional peer review systems often overlook the perspectives and contributions of researchers from low-resource settings, perpetuating biases and reinforcing existing inequalities. In response, there is a growing call for inclusivity in peer review, advocating for diverse representation and equitable evaluation criteria and overcome the limitations to our understanding of peer review. Similarly, scientific conferences play a pivotal role in shaping research agendas and fostering collaboration.

A call-to-action

The journey toward equitable access to research endeavors is a collective mission that requires concerted action from all stakeholders. As collaborative networks device strategies that empower researchers to transcend geographical boundaries and amplify their impact on a global scale, we must also recognize the importance of supporting a hybrid model of information access. While electronic resources offer unprecedented opportunities for knowledge dissemination, we must not overlook the enduring value of print books, especially in regions where the digital divide persists. Libraries play a pivotal role in narrowing this gap, serving as hubs of knowledge and innovation. Such support is essential for researchers who may lack access to laptops, experience obsolete technology, face power outages, or struggle with expensive and unreliable internet connections. As funders and stakeholders in the research and innovation ecosystem, it is imperative that we prioritize initiatives that guarantee equity for all researchers.

About the author

Andrew Ojulong is a Global Intelligence Information Specialist with a strong background in research support initiatives and a passion for equitable access to research, innovation and learning resources. He is in the final stage of his PhD research and strives to narrow the digital divide and knowledge gaps, and foster global collaboration in the pursuit of sustainable development goals. He is passionate about empowering researchers in low-resource settings to contribute meaningfully to the global knowledge economy and equitably sustain the innovation ecosystem. Read about his research about facilitating research output in Uganda and his interview about skills for emerging library managers.