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--> Case Studies on the Collection, Management, and Dissemination of Local Information Resources Many STI projects focus less on the technology and more on the management of information and the content of databases. Databases from abroad do not generally give adequate coverage of research efforts in developing countries and African scientists have learned that they cannot depend on such outside sources for the services needed to keep them abreast of local developments in their subject fields. The following group of case studies focuses on efforts made to collect local information, to organize it into usable forms, and then to disseminate it to those who can put it to good use. Thus one case study in this section is about a group of natural products researchers who banded together to form a professional network that unites them through newsletters, conferences, publications, and now, electronic means. The next case study describes how a research institute in Botswana collected local data to produce an indigenous database on socioeconomic information. The project manager learned that she required expertise in subject analysis and indexing, system design, database management, and access to computer hardware. The Kenya Medical Research Institute decided to focus on their institutional needs for information and designed an information system that included all aspects of their data needs. Their case study demonstrates that many management tasks can be aided by automated data processing and that the introduction of computers can aid the decision-making process, provide information about financial and human resources, improve turnaround time for data analysis and report writing; and improve the quality of data organization and analysis. By adding equipment
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--> for desktop publishing and CD-ROM searches they realized the same benefits of other case study authors. The CSIR in Ghana took a serious look at its mandate and designed a system to improve national access to scientific and technological information. National systems are difficult to manage and finance but the rewards can be great, as demonstrated in this final case study.
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--> NAPRECA and Its Role in the Dissemination of Information on Natural Products Research in Africa by Ermias Dagne Ermias Dagne is one of the founders and the immediate past Executive Secretary of NAPRECA. He is an associate professor in the Chemistry Department of Addis Ababa University. He gratefully acknowledges the editorial assistance of Wendimagegn Mammo in writing this paper. Dr. Mammo is also an assistant professor in the same department. Background and Context of the Project This paper describes the background history, objectives, and main activities of the Natural Products Research Network for Eastern and Central Africa, known in short as NAPRECA. We give particular emphasis to the role of the network in improving the scientific and technological information (STI) scene in Africa. Origin and History The Fourteenth IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) International Symposium on the Chemistry of Natural Products was held in July 1984, in Poznan, Poland. Over one thousand participants from all over the world attended that symposium, including six Africans. 1 As we Africans met during the breaks and the social occasions, we realized that there were no such fora in Africa, even though there were many natural products there who could benefit from the exchange of experiences and ideas. Our meetings took on a more formal character as we discussed ways to circumvent the isolation and alienation that African researchers faced. We unanimously resolved to found a network to bring scientists engaged in natural products research in Africa closer together and to link those researchers with colleagues around the world who were involved in tackling research problems of relevance to Africa.
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--> We felt that the task of a network should not be to build infrastructure, new centers, or new laboratories but instead to work towards strengthening national capabilities through regional and international cooperation. We called for the sharing of existing facilities and resources in the sub-region. As a first step in this direction, we agreed to concentrate on information dissemination and exchange of ideas through publications, including a biannual newsletter and other means. These discussions led to the crystallization of the network's constitution. Before the end of the Poznan meeting, we resolved to name the network the Natural Products Research Network for Eastern and Central Africa , or NAPRENCA. Later an ''N" in the acronym was dropped and the Network came to be known in short as NAPRECA. We felt that Africa was too big an area to encompass initially and, for the sake of expediency and modesty, we realistically started with a sub-regional approach. Had there been participants from other parts of Africa in that meeting, the arguments might have been different. In any case, the geographic definition for the network satisfied all those present and the consensus reached heralded the birth of NAPRECA. I was elected Chairman and Editor of the Network's newsletter and we asked Berhanu M. Abegaz of the same department as myself at Addis Ababa University to serve as Secretary and Treasurer. The rationale for this decision was to avoid having the two officers in different countries, a situation that would have paralyzed the Network right from its inception. Project Description Upon returning to our homes, our initial enthusiasm did not wane; on the contrary, all concerned received the idea of founding a regional network for natural products scientists with joy. In Ethiopia, B.M. Abegaz prepared the final version of the constitution and came up with invaluable suggestions and ideas on how to launch NAPRECA and initiate the newsletter. (See Box 1.) The maiden issue of the NAPRECA Newsletter came out in September 1984, immediately after the founding meeting of a NAPRECA branch in Ethiopia. The editorial of that issue stated that: BOX 1 The Chairman as Editor The idea of entrusting the task of editor to the chairman of NAPRECA was judicious. As one of the main tasks of a network is information dissemination, anyone exercising the leadership of a network should take this duty to heart and ensure the continuous flow of information through publication of a newsletter and other circulars. The raison d'etre of a network depends on how well this task is handled. Consequently this was a task that could not be delegated but executed right from NAPRECA's top position.
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--> in order for the African scientist to be worthy of the noble name … the current state of isolation has to be combatted and scientific fora created which will contribute to the amelioration of the present dismal state of research and academic activity. This issue also echoed the importance of contacts and exchange of information. The editorial made a strong appeal to all natural products researchers in the region to interact with each other and to initiate programs of mutual interest. It stated, "the birth of an organization per se is not a historic event. What is more significant is whether such an organization will live up to its name." The publication and worldwide distribution of this issue was made possible by contributions from the members in Ethiopia. In Kenya, J. Ogur, senior lecturer of chemistry at the University of Nairobi, brought together a large team of researchers and educators and founded NAPRECA-Kenya, where he emerged as chairman. This branch was formally registered by the Kenya Registrar of Societies in January 1986. Although no Tanzanian took part in the deliberations in Poznan, colleagues at the University of Dar es Salaam were swift in taking up the idea and founded a branch that was registered in October 1985. At the same time a branch was also founded in the Sudan. Colleagues in Zimbabwe decided to merge the NAPRECA concept with an existing association with similar objectives, namely NAPRAZ (Natural Products Association of Zimbabwe). This was fraught with problems from the start. Although an understanding was reached from the outset that NAPRAZ would be like a NAPRECA branch, in reality this never worked. In December 1988, a separate NAPRECA-Z was founded. This turn of events contributed to a weakening of the branch in Zimbabwe, a problem that has not been circumvented to date. In Ethiopia, NAPRECA became affiliated with Addis Ababa University (AAU) and the Chemistry Department served as the seat of the Coordinating Office. This meant that NAPRECA benefited from the administrative framework of the University. Funds for the NAPRECA Coordinating Office were administered by the university as a project account. Since overhead charges are waived on most grant accounts in AAU, this arrangement was greatly appreciated right from the start. The network was also able to use such university facilities as guest houses, halls, and laboratories. In March 1987, John Kingston, a senior officer in the Division of Basic Sciences in UNESCO, came to Addis Ababa leading a mission to the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission. That occasion provided an opportune moment to discuss cooperation between UNESCO and NAPRECA. Jack Canon, an Australian scientist, senior UNESCO advisor, and chairman of the Australian Network for the Chemistry of Biologically Active Natural Products (NCBNP), strongly supported the idea of affiliating NAPRECA to UNESCO. The NAPRECA branches in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe urged their respective UNESCO national commissions to support the motion of affiliation at the UNESCO
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--> General Assembly in November 1987. NAPRECA was formally declared a UNESCO affiliated organization, entitling it to receive direct financial support from UNESCO's regular budget. This recognition boosted the morale of the membership and gave the young network a wider international recognition. Its meager financial resources were also increased. It was then possible to call a meeting of the NAPRECA Coordinating Board, with representatives from each of the then five member countries, namely J.A. Ogur and R.M. Munavu (Kenya); A. Taha (Sudan); H. Weenen (Tanzania); N.Z. Nyazema (Zimbabwe), and, of course, ourselves from Ethiopia. The meeting took place in Addis Ababa in March 1988. NAPRECA was pleased with UNESCO's decision to send the Director of the Division of Scientific Research and Higher Education in Paris and the Director of UNESCO-ROSTA in Nairobi to the March meeting. The International Foundation for Science (IFS) sent its scientific advisor as an observer. J. Ayafor (Cameroon) and J. Mungarulire (Rwanda) came as observers. The latter country joined NAPRECA a year later. 2 At the First Meeting of the NAPRECA Coordinating Board, we adopted the constitution of the network, elected its officers, and decided that Ethiopia would be the seat of the Coordinating Office. I was elected Executive Secretary and B.M. Abegaz was elected Assistant Secretary-Treasurer. H. Guadey3 joined as Program Officer and ex-officio member of the Coordinating Board. Although NAPRECA had existed since 1984, this board meeting heralded the active chapter in the history of the network. Since that time, we have held eight annual meetings and the number of member countries has increased. With the joining of Rwanda, Uganda, and Madagascar in 1988, 1989, and 1990, respectively, our membership rose to eight countries. A day after the first NAPRECA Board Meeting, a scientific session was held. As all of the Board Members and most of the observers were active researchers in the field of natural products, each made a presentation followed by discussions. This hurriedly organized scientific conference was christened the First NAPRECA Symposium on Natural Products. The high quality of the presentations and the enthusiasm with which the one-day symposium was received gave a clear signal that such events in Africa were long overdue. In the same year, the International Program in the Chemical Sciences (IPICS), based in Upsalla, Sweden, started to offer NAPRECA annual grants, particularly in support of the Exchange of Researchers Scheme, the Summer School Programs, and the symposia and specialized workshops. The IPICS grant was kept mainly in Sweden and used for settling expenses directly from there, relying on the efficient secretariat in Uppsalla. We have on many occasions also benefited from the advice and guidance of Rune Liminga, Director of IPICS, who has vast experience in networking in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The main aim of the network as articulated in the constitution is to "initiate, develop and promote research in the area of natural products in the Eastern and
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--> Central African sub-region." Dissemination of information pertaining to natural products research is one of the major objectives of NAPRECA. The importance of establishing links with counterparts in other parts of the world was emphasized right from the outset, as one of the objectives of the network is to "foster and maintain links with such scientists who are actively working in specific areas of natural products that are pertinent to Africa." The sections that follow will attempt to show to what extent NAPRECA has been successful in putting these aims to practice. Project Experience and Implementation Seven categories of activities will be described in this section. In short, these are: Dissemination of information through publication of a biannual newsletter, monograph series and symposium abstracts; Administration of a postgraduate scholarship program; Implementation of an Exchange of Researchers Scheme; Organization of the Natural Products Summer School; Convening of the Natural Products Symposium once every two years; Conducting training workshops; and Coordination of the UNESCO's Botany 2000 program. Publications The NAPRECA Newsletter is published twice a year. About one thousand copies of each issue are distributed free of charge to readers in various parts of the world. Sometimes the founding of organizations by novices will lead to the launching of some form of publication—invariably designated as Volume 1, Number 1. Too often, Volume 1, Number 2 never sees the light of day and the new organization or association withers to oblivion! When the first issue of the NAPRECA Newsletter came out, we were warned of such a pitfall. But, so far, we have succeeded in maintaining our publishing schedule and we have now distributed 24 issues of the newsletter. Reactions to the maiden issue of the NAPRECA Newsletter were mostly congratulatory, although some people pointed out mistakes and offered advice. Thus Dr. M. William, Executive Secretary of IUPAC wrote: …I was most interested to receive the Maiden Issue of the NAPRECA Newsletter and to learn that the Network arose from the IUPAC symposium held in Poland in July 1984… J.I. Okogun of the Chemistry Department of Ibadan University, Nigeria wrote:
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--> …the Newsletter serves its purpose to inform us all on developments in the area of natural products. We also welcomed criticisms—such as the one by the botanist Tewolde B.G. Egziabher, then President of Asmara University, who wrote: There were some spelling errors in the maiden issue… similar errors should be avoided in the future… I suggest that you check the spelling of every scientific name before you print. Even if you feel you know the scientific name very well, it is worth checking each name routinely every time. The suggestions and criticisms of our readership greatly contributed to sustaining the Newsletter for 12 years. Four years ago NAPRECA began publishing a series of monographs, the first of which was a NAPRECA Year-Book, entitled Eight Years of Existence and Four Years of Intensive Activities, Z. Asfaw (Ed.), 1992. Administration of Postgraduate Scholarship Program A postgraduate scholarship program was born during a visit by the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD) delegation to Addis Ababa in October 1987. A conference for former DAAD fellows was taking place and on one evening during that conference, I happened to sit beside Mr. Richard Jacob, who then headed the Africa desk of DAAD in Bonn. I commented that international organizations like DAAD rarely support initiatives at local levels and that such organizations more often follow the top-down approach. I continued to narrate the story of NAPRECA and how much we would have appreciated it if some DAAD scholarships could have been administered by the network for the purpose of training the young in the natural products field. He suggested that, if we submitted a convincing proposal, his organization would offer the network five scholarships per year. In March of 1988, the German ambassador to Ethiopia, His Excellency Dr. Kurt Stoeckle, personally brought to the Faculty of Science a letter signed by Dr. Berchem, President of DAAD, declaring the award of five scholarships to NAPRECA. Since then, NAPRECA has received a similar letter from the President of DAAD every year. In this DAAD-NAPRECA scholarship program NAPRECA is responsible for selecting the candidates, who must enroll in a postgraduate program in a university outside of their own country. DAAD scholarships cover tuition, research costs, and subsistence allowances of the fellows in universities in the sub-region. The cost of the scholarship per student per annum varies from country to country but is within the range of six to seven thousand U.S. dollars. The first beneficiaries
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--> were two Ethiopians who, in September 1988, joined the MSc program of the University of Nairobi and three Kenyans who came to Addis Ababa to join postgraduate programs in biology and chemistry. A total of 39 scholarships have so far been awarded to selected individuals. Of these, 15 have completed their MSc studies; eight, including two PhD candidates, discontinued or were dismissed on academic grounds; and 16 are still pursuing their studies. A follow-up conference was organized in cooperation with DAAD in November 1993. Former fellows were invited to interact with their peers and former instructors. Despite the problems, briefly dealt with in Section 5, we faced in implementing this program, we are of the opinion that the DAAD-NAPRECA fellowship program was one of the most rewarding offshoots of the network. Implementing the Exchange of Researchers Scheme In an early issue of the NAPRECA Newsletter, we described the problems faced by African scientists as: "Isolation, lack of contact with each other as well as with peers elsewhere, absence of conducive atmosphere of research, coupled with meager resources…" We thought that an Exchange Scheme might be one of the best remedies of these ills. NAPRECA, therefore, invested considerable energy and resources in implementing this scheme, thanks in particular to the financial support of two organizations, UNESCO and IPICS. Many junior as well as senior scientists have benefited from this scheme. Under the Exchange Scheme, a selected fellow is granted the opportunity to spend a month or two in a laboratory within the sub-region. Preference is given to candidates who are able to find funds for travel and then the research and subsistence expenses are covered by NAPRECA. So far 32 individuals have benefited from the exchange, with an average stay of one and half months in a regional laboratory. (See Box 2.) Organizing the Natural Products Summer School One of the regular activities of NAPRECA is the organization and implementation of Natural Products Summer Schools. Six Summer Schools were organized between 1988 and 1994. The main aim of the Summer School is to enhance the research capabilities of participants, in particular in chromatographic, spectroscopic, and bioassay techniques. Research scientists and technical assistants working for various institutions in the region have used the opportunity to improve upon their laboratory skills. Usually about a dozen participants take part in the Summer School; half of these come from outside the country where the program takes place.
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--> BOX 2 Benefits of the Exchange Scheme One of the recent participants in the Exchange of Researchers program was Ildephonse Murengezi, Chairman of NAPRECA-Rwanda. Our efforts to locate him after the tragic events in that country led us to the refugee camp in Goma on the border to Zaire. At the beginning of 1995, as soon as the Ethiopian Airlines resumed flights to Kigali, we sent him a ticket and invited him to come to Addis Ababa as an Exchange Fellow, where he stayed for six months working in a natural products laboratory [See NAPRECA Newsletter, Vol. 12, No. 1] Each Summer School was rated highly by the participants. Particularly those researchers who had little or no exposure to modern research settings have found this program highly beneficial. Natural Products Symposia As the NAPRECA concept got off the ground in an IUPAC Symposium on Natural Products, it is only natural for the network to pay special attention to organizing similar conferences in Africa. So far six natural products symposia have been organized in the five member countries. The first symposium was indeed a modest one, convened immediately after the first meeting of the Coordinating Board in March 1988. No book of abstracts came out of that event. As our Kenyan colleagues were very keen about organizing a conference, the second was held quickly thereafter in Nairobi in September 1988. Sixteen participants came from outside of Kenya to the second symposium. We published a booklet with nearly 20 brief abstracts in advance of the symposium. We included pictures of the speakers at the end of the book, a feature that has been kept in subsequent symposia booklets. The third symposium was held in Arusha, Tanzania, in May 1989. It drew over 40 participants from outside of the host country and the local organizers were able to publish an impressive book of proceedings, with 22 full papers and nearly as many abstracts. The Arusha symposium set a high standard not only in terms of the quality of the scientific presentations but also in the excellent way in which it was organized. In the Third Coordinating Board meeting that took place in Arusha, we agreed to organize subsequent symposia every two years. That led to the fourth symposium in Addis Ababa, in December 1991. The increased number of papers required, for the first time, the holding of parallel sessions. The Symposium Book, published prior to the conference, was of high quality with 28 papers appearing as extended abstracts. In retrospect that was indeed a good decision. The preparation of conference proceedings is a thankless job, because it is done after the event is over. Extended abstracts published in advance of the conference, make it easier to
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--> put pressure on participants to submit papers of reasonable standard. This has made the NAPRECA Symposium Extended Abstracts frequently cited sources of information. The fifth symposium held in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in September 1993, enabled a large contingent of researchers from South Africa to participate for the first time in a NAPRECA activity. Prior to this meeting, it was not possible for scientists from South Africa to mingle with their counterparts from other African countries. Nearly a dozen well known South African scientists came to the symposium and this had an impact on the quality of the oral as well as poster presentations. It was humorous to hear a South African professor say at the beginning of his lecture that he was extremely pleased because he was "for the first time in Africa." As Madagascar was a Francophone country there were several participants who came from Francophone Africa and France, and one parallel session was dominated by papers presented in French. The sixth symposium that took place in Kampala, Uganda, in September 1995. This symposium attracted about 80 participants who came from various countries in Africa, Europe and North America. The scientific meeting covered 12 general and 28 parallel session lectures, as well as 32 poster presentations. A book of extended abstracts was published and distributed at the opening session of the symposium. Three pre-symposium short courses on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Mass Spectrometry, and Organic Synthesis were held at the same venue. The courses were designed to upgrade the skills of young researchers in applying or interpreting the results of these modern techniques in their own research. A total of 27 participants coming from seven African countries participated in the three short courses. Participants' assessments of the symposium were very positive and some were unreserved with their kind words of praise. "…The very successfully organized NAPRECA's sixth symposium was an event that one would wish to witness again…"wrote Gizachew Alemayehu, Ethiopia. A leading natural products chemist, Joe Connolly, Glasgow, UK, commented: "…Congratulations for the excellently organized NAPRECA's sixth symposium and the pre-symposium short courses…It was great to be in Kampala with your team." I realize how far-reaching the impact of these symposia are when a Kenyan colleague who was sitting next to me during a session in the sixth symposium pointed to a group of scientists from Europe, and said: "These people did not take us seriously when we started holding such conferences in Africa some years back, but now they listen to us attentively when we make scientific presentations."
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--> BOX 1 Staff Mobility Staff mobility and turnover has largely been a one-way—from the public library to the special or university library. In recent times however, as a result of a certain degree of saturation, especially at NASTLIC, there has been some exodus to financial institutions and to a large oil exploration company. economy and the competitive salaries of librarians as compared to salaries of university lecturers and researchers. (See Box 1.) Information and Communication Technologies The project has received various items of equipment, most of which were gifts. One personal computer, donated by a local computer company, developed a problem with the motherboard after only six months and it took several months to have it replaced. During the last three years, the project has acquired a total of eight personal computers. The computers are mainly IBM personal computers, or clones running MS-DOS, that have capacities ranging from 50 to 120 megabyte hard disks. There are two laser printers and two dot matrix printers. All the computers operate on DOS with Windows and they have VGA color monitors. Other equipment includes a CD-ROM drive, a Telebit 1000 modem, and two mouses. We have four CD-ROM databases namely, the CAB International Abstracts, AGRIS, TropAg and Rural, the Maize Germplasm Databank, and a couple of demonstration disks. We currently use standard software, including WordPerfect Version 5.2, Lotus 123, Borland Reflex for DOS version 2.0, Dbase 4, Aldus Pagemaker, and CDS-ISIS Version 3.1. There is also a Fidonet-based communication software, Frontdoor, used for electronic mail exchange with the Association for Progressive Communications in London. The equipment and software are used for database management, word processing, desktop publishing, accounting, and electronic mail. All the software is user-friendly, although some observers complain that CDS-ISIS often poses problems and that its operation is sometimes cumbersome.1 Technical support for the equipment has posed rather serious problems in the past, partly because of the lack of information about local suppliers, their products, and their competence in the repair and maintenance of electronic equipment. (See Box 2.) Although technical support is now available, it is rather expensive. Lately, however, with the establishment of a repair unit in a local research institution, there appear to be prospects for much cheaper rates and more reliable arrangements for maintenance. Another bit of good news is that October 1995 the import duty on personal computers was lifted.
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--> BOX 2 Repairing Modems We had an interesting experience with our modems. We could not find a local company that could repair them so we took two modems across Africa to far-away Nairobi and Addis Ababa, where we were attending conferences. We could not repair the modems in either place, however, because they were not accompanied by their corresponding cables. So they went back across Africa and remained broken until, by sheer coincidence, a staff member complained casually to a relative. This person was able to fix one of the modems merely by inserting a pointed object into one of its pin-holes. Attempts at developing a national policy on informatics are currently in progress. Over the years, certain major issues have been identified as being pertinent to a national policy on information technology. Some of the issues include: recognition of the importance for ministerial responsibility for informatics; the establishment of professional training centers for software and hardware applications; better methods for disseminating public information and raising awareness about information issues; the need to review trade restrictions and other legislation, regarding standardization and improvement in telecommunications infrastructure; the need for greater reliability of electricity supply; support for local manufacture and assembly of computer equipment; ways to promote investment in the information sector; and the establishment of a system for effective monitoring of trends in the industry. Systems and Processes The systems and procedures of the project arise from its objectives, functions, and activities. The activities have been assigned to six sections: Administration and Finance; Collection Development; Technical Services; Information Technology; Marketing, Publicity and User Service; and Reprography and Conservation. These activities ensure logical work flow and smooth communication among the various sections. Financial Aspects The project is funded predominantly from central government sources but it has benefited from funds provided by the International Development Research
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--> Centre (IDRC) of Canada and the World Bank. The World Bank supports the National Agricultural Research Project (NARP), which is developing the library and information system for agriculture—the Ghana National Agricultural Information Network (GAINS). GAINS is a sub-network of GHASTINET. Another source of funding is from the photocopying service, but this is rather meager and covers only the cost of paper. We also hope to cover the costs of providing email service. In this regard, our revenue has been limited by an increasing number of email service providers in the country, some of whom are offering service free-of-charge—at least in the short term. With the installation of desktop publishing software and a microfilm facility, we plan to generate some additional income. There are also plans to introduce charges for literature searches provided to industrial or commercial firms. We increasingly feel the need for a vigorous marketing and publicity campaign to attract customers for these services. Our effort to generate income falls squarely in line with the CSIR's new policy directives that require all its institutes to commercialize as much as possible. Project Experience and Implementation The first phase of the project developed, equipped, and strengthened the national focal point to a level that enabled it to lead the gradual establishment and growth of the entire national network. To do this, we: developed an efficient system for the bibliographic control of indigenous STI; created computerized databases for indigenous STI, ongoing research projects, high-level scientific and technical manpower, and a union list of S&T periodicals; from these databases, generated and produced publications and other promotional material; established a facility for microfilming indigenous STI; arranged training programs and workshops for network participants; and promoted the implementation of the network and its services. By its various activities, the project is expected to arouse the awareness of information personnel to the importance of science and technology information. With the ultimate objective of providing STI to assist in the socioeconomic development of the country, the project envisages carrying out a national survey to find out the information needs of various user categories including the research and academic; the government and public policy makers and planners; the private or public commercial and industrial houses; and the small-scale and cottage entrepreneurs and peasant farmers. Ghanaians are innovative as reflected by the ingenuity shown among the small-scale or cottage industrialists. Attitude to information and knowledge is very positive, especially if the information has direct relevance to needs and if it is cheap
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--> BOX 3 Acceptance of Technology Generally, Ghanaians as a whole value education and learning. This attitude and the desire for high economic attainment has however seemed to wane. In the last decade, there has been a slight drop in the respect accorded to education and schooling. Attitude towards the new technology is positive but not many are willing to take risks, especially among the very highly educated. A case in point is my own attitude: for fear of it catching fire, I would not risk leaving a computer on overnight for electronic mail purposes. and easily accessible. There is a tendency to give up the chase if information is hard to get or if it is not cheap. This attitude stems partly because information may not be easily accessible—either because it is not known to exist, because its location or source is not known, or because it has not been packaged or organized in a readily useable form. There is also a general attitude of wanting things free-of-charge. This is even more acute in the case of information, probably because it has always been provided free or because it tends to be taken for granted, unless it is a matter of ''life and death." (See Box 3.) Information Transfer In many areas of science and technology activity, especially in agriculture, environment, and health, there are instances where information has played a vital role in the alleviation of problems. For several years, Ghana had experienced the problem of low-yield of local maize varieties and their high susceptibility to serious insect attack, both onand off-farm. The role of information in alleviating these problems is not so much in the form of publications, but rather in the form of effective knowledge transfer and communication between the Crops Research Institute, the Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, and farmers and maize consumers. The solutions most commonly proposed for the above problem include knowledge transfer through effective extension and communication with farmers whose confidence is thereby won. By this means, information and feedback are easily obtained from experiences of the farmers who are generally illiterate and whose attitude to research may be one of suspicion or mistrust. Other means of solving the researchers' problems include faster and easier access to foreign journals or publications and inexpensive communication with their peers in other countries, as well as with other agencies like the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Both the researcher and the farmer have interchanging roles as providers and users of information and they therefore exhibit certain patterns in the information life cycles in which they are involved. They both generate information either through
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--> research or from experience. The farmer produces and distributes information mainly orally and by demonstration. Researchers publish papers in journals or other media. They may distribute information at conferences or seminars, through invisible colleges among peers, or in electronic form on diskettes, tapes, and CD-ROM. They can also communicate by means of electronic mail or bulletin boards. These media also provide the means of storage and easy retrieval and facilitate wider dissemination in a relatively short time. Modern electronic media can be used to capture, store, and communicate the farmer's orally delivered or demonstrable experiences. The mode of acquisition for both user types ranges from word of mouth and demonstration for the farmer, to document procurement by the individual researcher or a library and information center through gift, exchange, or purchase. User Reaction Users who have reacted positively to the project are predominantly the research scientists of institutes and academic staff and students of universities. Their reaction is initially one of approbation of the objectives of the project, especially with regard to the databases and the publicizing of the collection of indigenous STI. The policy makers and planners in government and public organizations who know about the project also approve of the objective of the databases, especially those that cover ongoing research and high-level manpower. Researchers and academic staff however express disappointment with the poor availability of current journals and with difficulties in obtaining full-text articles when searches are conducted from CD-ROM databases. They also complain about the high cost of photocopies and lack of translations of materials in foreign languages, especially French. Industrialists hardly use the services of the project because they are not aware of it, and the small-scale and cottage industries do not have any direct contact with the project as yet. This is partly because they do not know about it and also because, even if they did, the information would not be easily assimilable since it has to be repackaged. It is also partly because of the general perception that libraries only have storybooks and not information or technical information for that matter. This state of affairs calls for sound information repackaging and marketing. Information Marketing Marketing of the services and products of the project has been minimal and this is being remedied with the recent appointment of an Information Marketing and Publicity Officer. So far, the only marketing methods adopted are announcements in the project's GHASTINET Newsletter. Other publication outlets include a
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--> BOX 4 Popularizing Science As part of the CSIR program to popularize science, a new radio program is in the pipeline. This program, "From the Research Files," is expected to start in August or September 1995. As part of the World Science Renaissance Day of Africa, which is celebrated on 30th June every year, NASTLIC participated in this year's program. It compiled a directory from a computerized database of small-scale industries in a suburb of Accra and distributed it to various agencies engaged in supporting or promoting small-scale enterprises. GHASTINET Brochure, a flier advertising the project, and another advertising the electronic mail service. There is also a Ghana Science Abstracts Bulletin issued bimonthly, in which summaries of indigenous STI are provided and distributed to research and academic institutions. We are in the process of planning effective marketing of the project and its services. Popularizing Science Following the creation of a Ministry for Environment, Science and Technology and the concern of government for the need to market research results and to popularize science and technology, the CSIR has embarked on developing programs for this purpose. Accordingly, I am chairing a special committee on science popularization and we have held preliminary meetings with the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and all public relations personnel in the CSIR. During the last six months, we have prepared a set of proposals in a project document. The proposals have been discussed with the CSIR Director-General and officials of the local secretariat of UNESCO. A short request for basic equipment, including a video camera, has been submitted to UNESCO for consideration in 1996. (See Box 4.) With regard to user education and training in information searching, not much has been done. Formally, only a couple of demonstrations of CD-ROM have been organized for selected user audiences. The major one was conducted among all agricultural research institutions, stations, and university faculties. It was combined with an interactive survey on user preferences and on their perceptions and opinions on services being provided. Following a full-day seminar and demonstration of CD-ROM to about forty researchers and academic staff, our expectation that we would be inundated with demands for searches proved to be a pipe dream—requests for searches remained as before. We have also taken advantage of national fairs and exhibitions to give demonstrations on the use of CD-ROM and of electronic messaging.
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--> BOX 5 Importance of Science and Technology The project has made an indirect contribution to the increased recognition of research as a necessary tool for development. Science and technology research has received considerable recognition and as a result, a Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology has been established. Hitherto science and technology did not have such prominence. Results, Impact, and Benefits of the Project On the whole, we can say that the project has been of limited benefit to users in the various categories targeted. More could have been achieved if we had developed a vigorous and sustained information marketing program. The responses we obtained during the survey of users in agricultural research institutions indicated the benefits derived and the impact of the project, even though the demonstration did not result in an increase in requests for CD-ROM searches. These benefits included skills in using thesauri, abstracting and indexing journals, and in CD-ROM searches. For many, the project provided a first opportunity to use a computer database and for some, a first opportunity to use printed abstracts. We are placing a great deal of emphasis on how to get science and technology to contribute to national development objectives and on ways and means of providing adequate funding for research. (See Box 5.) The former Minister of Science and Technology consulted with his peers and senior personnel in other ministries to determine areas in their programs to which science and technology could contribute. Ghana has also taken steps to establish a National Science and Technology Fund (NASTEF). Expected contributions from industrialists may raise the funding for research in science and technology to close to the target of one percent of GDP by the year 2000, as suggested in the Lagos Plan of Action. (The level of S&T funding since 1992 is only about 0.3 percent of GDP.) As part of the effort to maximize the impact of science and technology and the contribution it can make to society, the legislation establishing the CSIR is being amended to give it a wider scope in commercializing research results. The CSIR Council is also being restructured to make it less cumbersome and more effective. A recent development was the invitation to the Director-General of CSIR and some institute directors (including myself) to a special session with the Parliamentary sub-Committee on Science and Technology. We discussed issues relating to how well S&T had been covered in a Presidential Report to Parliament. The report, which is entitled Ghana-Vision 2020: The First Step, seeks, in the President's words, "to provide a framework within which we can realize the long-term vision of raising Ghana into the ranks of the middle-income countries of the world."
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--> One notable impact of the project at the national focal point has been the increased awareness and the newly acquired skills of staff in the application of new technologies, especially computers, CD-ROM, and electronic mail. They accomplish assignments faster and their information products are more impressive, especially the publications produced by desktop publishing. Staff have become computer literate and their understanding of modern information work has been heightened considerably. The information literacy of users has also increased considerably, especially as a result of their exposure to CD-ROM and electronic mail facilities. It is, however, too early to determine if users' information query formulation has also improved since rather few users are physically present during searches. However, as a result of their exposure to these new information technologies, both staff and users are better able to cope and feel more confident in handling the technologies, and they have become much more aware, not only of a wider scope and volume of information sources, but also of the potentials offered by the new technologies. Benefits The users who have been exposed to services offered by the project have benefited in a variety of ways. For example, those who have used the email facility have been able to contact their colleagues overseas for information or for some solution to a problem. The project staff have benefited because they have learned new skills in computer use, database creation and maintenance, word processing, desktop publishing, spreadsheets, CD-ROM searching, and electronic mailing. The CSIR as a whole has benefited from the introduction of computers into the organization. As a result, some secretarial staff at the headquarters had their first exposure to computers and this encouraged them to seek training in applications of word processing and spreadsheets. CSIR now appreciates the potential of the technology and is taking steps to have the project provide assistance for the development of a management information systems (MIS) and in automating accounts in the CSIR. Nationally, the project attracted the attention of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, which designated NASTLIC as the national organization responsible for matters relating to the General Information Programme (PGI) and the Intergovernmental Informatics Programme (IIP). Accordingly, the CSIR Council has approved proposals by NASTLIC to set up a Special Committee to handle issues on informatics. The Committee is expected to be inaugurated early in 1996. NASTLIC also attracted the attention of the government's National Development Planning Commission and as a result it is represented on a special committee known as the Information Technology Planning Group.
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--> Analysis of Lessons Learned Major Success Factors Human, financial, and external support factors contributed to the success of this project. Essential human factors include the perceptiveness of authorities in the parent organization; their understanding and appreciation of the role and value of information in their work; and the commitment and dedication of staff on the project. Added to this is the vision for the project, with its clear and well-articulated plan, objectives, and expected benefits. The most significant human factor in this connection is the mutual understanding between authorities of the parent organization and the project leader. Another factor derived from this is good management practice, involving planning and constant review and evaluation. Funding, especially from the Ghana government, has not been easily forthcoming; however, the limited funding that was available and the support of IDRC in the form of equipment and training, have contributed immensely to the success of the project. In fact, the external support has always served as bait for obtaining government funding and very often it has been used as a threat to withhold external assistance if government funding was not forthcoming. In spite of the generally weak economic situation of the country, even the rather meager government funding can be considered as a success factor simply because it serves as evidence of government interest in the project. In this connection, another success factor has been the sometimes unorthodox public relations approach of project staff, especially at the individual level, to government officials in the funding ministry. This personal and informal approach helped drive home more effectively the not easily recognizable principle that STI is a vital ingredient to national development. My persistent reference to the importance of information at virtually any meeting of CSIR directors often led to remarks like "Oh yes, there goes the information man." The issue of funding is directly related to external support factors that have contributed to the success of the project. The quality of any organization's library and information services is a reflection of the importance and commitment attached to such services. So, while the general economic and political situation had an adverse impact on the project, as evidenced by the delay in its take-off and in the occasional hiccups, it can still be said that the project has benefited from the generally enabling environment in the CSIR and the government. This was partly due to the timing of the project, which may be described as propitious, and also partly due to my persistence and the many years of sustained effort from me and my colleagues.
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--> Problems The problems that have prevented the project from reaching its full potential can be traced to the general lack of a sufficiently strong conviction and realization of the importance of STI in all spheres of national development. This is also partly due to the inability of the project, like many a library or information project, to adopt a more aggressive marketing, user education, and publicity approach. The weak marketing itself derives from an apprehension that the resulting demand for information may not be adequately met and will, therefore, lead to loss of confidence in the system. There have been a few examples of this, especially with regard to the email service, which broke down because of faulty equipment that could not be repaired quickly. Lack of personnel has been a problem to the project. Special services, such as literature searches on CD-ROM, and the personal touch in carrying out such services, could not be sustained simply because the skilled staff were not available. There has also been a tendency for some staff to be apathetic due to insufficient motivation because of low wages. Funding, as already mentioned, has been a perennial problem. Not only is it insufficient, but it is not always guaranteed. A case in point was when there was a one-year ban on construction works in public organizations. The most recent example was the freezing of allocations made for equipment in the 1995 approved budget estimates. It is also partly due to the relative low priority accorded to library and information projects. The limited funding may be partly due to our inability to articulate more forcefully and effectively the importance of the project. We need convincing and concrete evidence to justify our very existence and continued support. Equipment repair and maintenance has also been a serious problem. The story of the faulty modems is a typical example. We have also lost large volumes of data due to faulty equipment, interruptions in the power supply, and dust collecting in computers. Conclusions and Recommendations One solution to these problems is the intensification of user education, especially among the senior personnel in CSIR. They need to better understand the real value of information in their work as researchers and as decision makers. Training at all levels of information workers needs to be strengthened and we believe that the project should set up a special unit to conduct all training programs. We should explore avenues of collaborating with the media and with other professional societies and organizations. We need to develop guidelines and standard procedures and begin services for systems reporting and evaluation. Good management practice is paramount.
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--> Generally, the GHASTINET Project may be described as a success story because it has provided the stimulus and acted as a catalyst in creating awareness and arousing interest in STI generally. It has taken about thirty years to get this far and the little that has been achieved needs to be sustained and improved further. There is the urgent need to re-examine the project in the light of new circumstances and to intensify collaboration with agencies that generate or disseminate information in one form or the other. There is further need to create the awareness that information management is not the exclusive prerogative of the librarian or other information professionals. Information is a resource that practically everyone needs and that practically everyone handles and uses in one form or another. There is a need for an STI culture in Ghana as part of a science and technology culture. Finally, I recommend that external agencies, be they international or bilateral, be aware of the need to relate aid programs to STI where relevant and to emphasize information technologies and services as integral components of assistance programs. Note 1. We are consoled by the fact that many information centers in Africa and the developing country members of UNESCO use it and it has become a de facto standard. Its use might promote uniformity and compatibility and therefore facilitate information transfer and data exchange.
Representative terms from entire chapter: