Changing research in Mozambique with a shared institutional repository

Published: 
3 Sep 2010

An institutional repository (IR) is a publicly accessible archive where the work published by authors affiliated with the university is available online. According to the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR), there are over 1,700 repositories around the world. While English predominates, 56 languages are represented including Portuguese. Soon to be counted is the first repository from Mozambique, which achieved its public launch in November 2009.

“All my knowledge about Open Access has been gained from EIFL. Iryna Kuchma, the EIFL-OA Programme Manager, is a constant source of support. At this year’s General Assembly (GA), for example, I got new ideas about usage statistics, add-ons and services that can be provided through the repository, such as adding information about research interests and publications to link researchers together as a starting point for networking. The GA confirms that I’m part of a global community that is learning from one another”.

Aissa Mitha Issak delivered a paper on SABER at IFLA Gothenburg and received the Henning Mankell Conference Grant 2010

Mozambique lies in south-eastern Africa and is bordered by six countries and the Indian Ocean. Most development is concentrated around the capital, Maputo. When Mozambique became independent from Portugal in 1975, 93% of the population was illiterate, now reduced to just over half - a remarkable achievement for a struggling nation.

Another achievement, that may become a milestone for research in Mozambique, is the development of a shared institutional repository. “We are always getting information about Mozambique from outside. Why can’t people have information about Mozambique from Mozambique?”, asks Aissa Mitha Issak, Librarian at the Universidade Pedagógica and EIFL Open Access Coordinator. “The lack of visibility for African research is frustrating”. According to the web portal of the Ministry of Science and Technology, there are five research institutions working in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, tropical diseases, hydrology and education. Yet the research outputs are not widely available. Thus began a drive from a group of university librarians to join forces and change the vision for research in Mozambique. How could this be achieved?

“I first heard about Open Access at the EIFL General Assembly in Lithuania in 2005”, says Aissa Mitha Issak. “We learnt about experiences from the EIFL network in South Africa, Ukraine, Lithuania, Serbia and China. I knew that it was interesting and important and wanted to know more”. One year later at the General Assembly in Jordan, the programme included developments on institutional and subject-based repositories, as well as research on self-archiving by academics. The seed was sown.

In 2008, a short training course on Open Access and Repository Building was organised in Maputo with support from EIFL, attracting great interest and media coverage. As a result, a start-up grant to establish a repository was obtained from the Quality Innovation Facility (QIF), a World Bank program run by the Ministry of Education. A server was purchased, the domain name was registered – www.saber.ac.mz* – DSpace software was installed and the first content added. Technical support and advice is generously provided by the University of Minho in Portugal. 

An innovative approach

Aissa believes that the Mozambican approach to IRs is also innovative. “The advice from EIFL was to try to involve as many institutions as possible”. Instead of having a repository that is subject or individual institution based, the decision was taken to build a joint or shared repository that would become a single entry point for access to research produced in Mozambique. The three institutions that participated in the 2009 launch - Centro de Formação Jurídica e Judiciária, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and Universidade Politécnica - have since been joined by the Universidade Pedagógica. There are plans to include other higher education and research institutions.  

Impact, challenges and lessons

SABER currently holds 2,234 items including thesis and dissertations, journal articles and conference papers from Mozambican researchers and academics.

More visibility, coupled with the knowledge that the material can be read worldwide, has led to a greater awareness about the quality of work presented by researchers. SABER also provides assurance for long term preservation, especially for grey literature, much of which currently disappears from libraries and university departments. Most importantly, SABER contributes to a desire by Mozambicans to move away from being only a consumer of information. “The idea of also being able to contribute to global knowledge is really a very valuable thing”, says Aissa.

The challenges include securing long-term funding and getting commitments from more institutions to join the repository. There is also a need for more clearly defined IR policies to mandate the deposit of materials, and to encourage self-archiving. Next steps are to focus on usage statistics to identify the most used materials.

Advice for others starting up a repository? “Just do it!”, says Aissa. “Our first approach in 2006 was to make a formal proposal to university management. This strategy didn’t work, because they needed to see the repository to understand its value”. The potential is now recognised and a committee has even been established to re-evaluate students’ work. Identifying IR champions to help advocate to university management and faculty is also an important factor for success.

September 2010

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