News about research conducted by African researchers has been under-represented and much is needed to promote African research globally, says a statement issued this month (11 January) by the UK-headquartered AlphaGalileo, an online service that distributes press releases based on scientific research.
Peter Green, managing director of AlphaGalileo, tells SciDev.Net that despite his outfit having previously reduced the annual subscription rate by half to US$550 for African institutions, getting research content from Africa is a challenge.
“Where universities did register they didn’t use us,” says Green. “Media relations is not considered important by African research bodies. This is in direct contrast to scientific institutions in North America, Asia and Europe, where it is seen as essential.”
Green adds that discussions are underway with publishers of African journals to provide a year’s free access to post news, under embargo if they wish, based on research published in their journals.
James Kigera, editor-in-chief of Annals of African Surgery, tells SciDev.Net that through the partnership with AlphaGalileo, the journal will start posting news as they receive it, in addition to issuing press releases through the partnership.
“We believe the media is an integral part of helping us disseminate health information and they will help us reach the segments of society we have not been able to reach before,” Kigera says.
“There are African scientists doing excellent work [under] extremely hard conditions and producing results that are often unheard of.”
Mohammed Yahia, the president of World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), congratulates the support and says access to news will allow more African scientists to tell stories about science to regional and local readers, and explain how it affects them.
“African journals will also spread their press releases to an international audience, which is also extremely important. People know what is happening at all the major Western universities around the world, but there are African scientists doing excellent work [under] extremely hard conditions and producing results that are often unheard of,” notes Yahia. Yahia explains that African journalists have been facing numerous challenges such as lack of access to journals.
“In addition, editors of mainstream media outlets in Africa are often not interested in science stories,” he explains. “In Africa, it is much easier to get a story on politics or football published than to publish a science story. We constantly need to …create an interest in science and capture people's imagination.”
According to Elizabeth Marincola, senior advisor for communications and advocacy at the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), Kenya, any help that improves access to scientific content from Africa should be applauded.
“However, limited-duration access is not a sustainable option. Only fully open and transparent publishing solutions that will offer unbiased, immediate and accessible research publication and dissemination is needed for Africa” explains Marincol, citing AAS Open Research, a platform for AAS-funded researchers to publish immediately and without barriers.
The AAS Open Research will be launched later this year, she adds.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.