5747 Building National Capacity for Virtual Science Libraries

Sunday, February 19, 2012: 1:30 PM
Room 214 (VCC West Building)
Charles Dunlap , CRDF, Arlington, VA
Approximately two-thirds of the world’s countries have inadequate access to up-to-date, high-quality scientific literature and low rates of peer-reviewed publication by their research communities. The primary barrier to improvement in many cases is not the cost of journal subscriptions, the lack of publishable research results, or a need for advanced technologies. We present for discussion case studies from Iraq, Morocco, and Armenia illustrating the importance and effectiveness of taking a comprehensive, long-term, capacity building approach to support a country to use its existing finances, internet infrastructure, and science capacities to develop and strengthen its online knowledge dissemination and access.

The Iraq Virtual Science Library (IVSL) grew from 1,000 users in its first year in 2006 to over 19,000 in 2011, while the publication rate of Iraqi scientists more than tripled and article downloads grew to more than 30,000 per month in 2011. Analysis of chemistry publications by Iraqi researchers in 2009 showed that all of them were citing articles obtained via the IVSL. These outcomes were primarily due to our work building institutional capacities, providing individual training and training of trainers, and applying existing technologies to meet Iraq’s needs. The cost per article downloaded is little more than $1, a cost easily borne by the Government of Iraq, which took responsibility for the system in 2010. The technologies used in the IVSL were developed years before the program began: a web platform based on open-source standards and readily available remote login software. The internet bandwidth for users in Iraq was predominantly limited to dial-up connections for the first three years of the program. Likewise, the research community in Iraq during the first years of the program was only just emerging from isolation, so the increase in the publication rate was due to existing ability. Our work in Morocco and Armenia illustrates a similar capacity for countries to leverage existing resources, with expert support from outside, to improve knowledge access and dissemination.

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