I was at an interesting library seminar today on ‘Strengthening the Global Research Cycle’. Presented by Lucy Browse and Emma Farrow from the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, www.inasp.info, the seminar covered their work across 22 partner countries in Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America. I’ll admit that I’d not come across the organisation at all before so it was fascinating to hear about their work with researchers, publishers and librarians in the developing world. Their work to build capacity in the regions and to negotiate access on a countrywide basis to publisher resources was really interesting to hear.
There were a couple of really interesting things that came out for me. Firstly that one of the restrictions that users in developing countries often face is they have restricted bandwidth available to them. Now I suppose that it’s pretty obvious, and for someone who works at a distance learning institution we always have to bear in mind that not everyone has access to broadband all the time, but that is much more of a problem for developing countries. What was particularly of interest was that they were running low-bandwidth demonstration sessions with publishers to show them how users fared when trying to access their content. With some sobering results. And the result I gather was that one publisher went away and redeveloped their desktop search product using their mobile site as the template. That’s a really good illustration of why simple design, optimised for low-bandwidth or small screen environments often scales up much better to a desktop environment. Don’t overcomplicate the search environment is perhaps one of the most obvious lessons from the Google approach.
The second thing that struck me was a comment based on some research into the availability of the top 20 ISI ranked journals in the ‘Growing Knowledge’ report http://www.acu.ac.uk/member_services/professional_networks/libraries_network/growing_knowledge. This showed that while a sample of European libraries has 95% of those journals, the equivalent figure for INASP partners was up at 79%, implying strongly that availability is being addressed. However research on the ground was showing a big gap between what was actually available and what researchers believed to actually be available to them, implying some work to do on awareness and advocacy.
A really useful and interesting seminar.