10 years of ARDI: How it all started, and where we are now
Once a year, people from across Research4Life travel from all corners of the world to meet in person and discuss what is happening in the partnership and into which direction we’re moving. This year’s meeting took place in July in Geneva at the headquarters of the World Intellectual Property Organization, one of the five UN partners of Research4Life.
The location was made extra special because this year also marked the 10th anniversary of WIPO’s ARDI programme. Exactly ten years earlier, information specialists at WIPO formalized their plan to make patent databases and related scientific literature available to developing countries. The aim? To diminish the knowledge gap and digital divide that continue to separate the rich and poor nations of the world and ensure that innovators in developing countries have access to the information they need to participate effectively in the global knowledge economy.
While the team could build on freely available patent databases, it was not apparent how to similarly ensure affordable access to scientific books and journals. “At the time, we didn’t really know what to do”, said Alejandro Roca Campana, Senior Director of WIPO’s Innovation and Knowledge Infrastructure Department. “We just set our sights on facilitating access to a selection of 100 scientific journals, which seemed like an ambitious goal to us.” They contacted publishers and other relevant people in their network. “Finally, one contact suggested we reach out to Kimberly Parker, and the rest is history.”
Kimberly manages the Hinari programme of Research4Life and has nearly two decades of experience with the partnership. The introduction finally resulted in the launch of a new Research4Life programme, ARDI, covering journals in the fields of life sciences, engineering, applied physics and chemistry.
Over the years, the institutions that use the ARDI programme has risen exponentially, from only a few at the start, to nearly 1900 in 2018.
The goal initially set of facilitating access to 100 scientific journals was quickly surpassed. Today, up to 8,000 journals and up to 33,000 books can be accessed through ARDI’s catalog in the Research4Life portal.
Access to scientific and technical literature is critical to the innovation process, as it complements the information contained in patent documents. Particularly in fields such as biotechnology and organic chemistry, much of the most recent and relevant information is published in academic journals, which are therefore indispensable for understanding the latest innovations in these fields.
“Having access to the journals available in ARDI helped us to create a student information platform at our university,” said John Okuonzi, lecturer at Kyambogo University in Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Okuonzi was present at the Research4Life partner meeting to share his experience as a user of the platform. The new system as allowed the university to substantially reduce the time required to register a student, which could previously take up to three days.
“It is wonderful to see the content and registered institutions grow so exponentially. It is a fantastic achievement that we can offer free or low-cost access to students and researchers in the eligible countries, for which we are grateful to all our partners,” said Andrew Czajkowski, Director of WIPO’s Technology and Innovation Support Division. “We look forward to building on the achievements of the past ten years to ensure that inventors, researchers, and entrepreneurs around the world can reach their full innovative potential.”