Research Publishing in Kenya (SCRC no. 2)
Research Publishing in Kenya
Marcia Osundwa, student, content writer and researcher (Nairobi, Kenya, 2014)*
It is a privilege to live in an era when everything has gone digital, from hard copy books to eBooks, among many other developments.
Be it finding, writing or publishing information, everything seems to be easy. There are so many digital developments I am getting confused. How is publishing really done, especially here in Kenya where I live?
Previously, access to academic libraries was rather limited. Access to research material has increased rapidly with the increasing trend towards digital research publishing. Publishing methods have always varied, depending on who has paid the costs for production. Sometimes we had to pay a certain fee in order to publish (Lagat 2012), and often we had to pay a subscription fee to receive and read the printed publications. Kenya being a developing country, not many were willing to pay the fee to publish their research work because of mismatched priorities. Universities did not actively or practically support research, even if it was expected. The few that were able to publish worked with peer review journals that were mainly University based.
The Kenya Publishers Association (Kenyapublishers.org) decided on 10th August 2009 to switch to a full open access model in which authors pay a subsidized fee, and readers have free full access. In Nairobi, important open access institutional repositories are now located at Nairobi University, Strathmore University, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the International Livestock Research Institute. With open access publishing, more people have been encouraged to publish their research work including university students before graduating (Kamau 2013).
Open access journals started internationally before becoming local and Kenyan researchers used to publish in the international access journals. Now there are many open access journals where papers can be published affordably. These have mainly been embraced since 2009, when many workshops were conducted in Nairobi to encourage Kenyan authors to publish in open access journals. In 2010, the President of Kenya launched an open access data website to public for the public to access information. The Springer publishing company, in collaboration with the Kenya Libraries and Information Consortium (KLISC), has been on the forefront in encouraging open access publishing of research materials through conducting workshops at the University of Nairobi and Jomo Kenyatta University.
The University of Nairobi Press has been proactive in dissemination of published materials of research information to the general public. This publisher is aiming to make sure that the public and those who are not proactive on the internet are still able to access research information (Kirimania 2011). By embracing open access publishing methods, the country will benefit from promotion of scholarly research, internationally improved research ratings for Kenyan institutions, a higher profile for the country, and higher profiles for Kenyan researchers internationally -- among many other benefits. More people will also have access to locally-produced research publications. This is expected to lead to better implementation of new ideas which will in turn help the country develop and improve livelihoods (Onyango 2010).
Despite the initiatives to encourage open access in Nairobi there has not been much support from the government. There are no well-framed regulations and policies that guide institutions on how to adopt and maintain open access. This can make researchers reluctant to use locally-based open access systems. Lack of infrastructure and the relevant expertise are also some of the major challenges that face open access publishing (Onyango 2010).
Lack of proper definition of the intellectual rights for materials published with open access published has also discouraged some researchers from using open access publications. As one of the researchers from International Livestock and Research Institute said to me, I dont think I can switch to publishing my work on open access publishing because the property rights are not defined and there is no validation of copyrights. (Kinoti pers. comm., 26th February 2014).
Research publishing in Kenya has not yet caught up with the fast-paced digital age. Most institutions do not have good internet connectivity and other facilities that are needed for open access publishing. They rely on the government for support, but practical support has been lacking even though it had good intentions (Onyango pers comm., 20th March, 2010). In this country, many inhabitants still feel that things from the West are always better, so it is a challenge to be more independent. People give preference to international publications instead of embracing our own. Most researchers prefer to publish their work in international publications since they will be given more consideration by their employers and colleagues -- going local is not encouraged (Lagat 2012).
According to Dr Kinuthia (pers. comm., 27th February, 2014), Editors and translators are in high demand in Nairobi but many there do not concentrate on the local market. They are not paid well locally so give preference to international publishers Publishers do not get enough support locally. This has been a major problem for Kenyan publishers. The Kenyan government is not giving enough support because of the preference for international publishers.
The Nation Media Group is a leading publisher group in Nairobi and has been making efforts to encourage people to appreciate local publications. This has succeeded for some local productions, but not many. The Kenyan government has also tried to give its support by defining intellectual rights in ways that will encourage more researchers to publish their work through open access, but uncertainties remain.
There is hope that in the next five years publishing will move to the next level in Kenya and that all the challenges will have been addressed. Then perhaps Kenyan researchers will be happy to publish more of their work at home, so that our nation can move forward.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in my research for this article, especially Kinoti and Kinuthia of University of Nairobi Press. They kindly contributed their valuable opinions in my interviews with them.
Abukutsa-Onyango, Mary (2010) African indigenous vegetables (Internet, March 2014, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information).
Kaane, S (2010) Academic publishing in Nairobi (Internet, March 2014, http://www.uonbi.ac.ke/node/840).
Kamau, N (2013) Publishing of scientific research on the rise in Kenya (Internet, March 2014, http://www.jkuat.ac.ke/2013/06/publishing-of-scientific-research-on-the-rise-in-kenya).
Kirimania, JK (2011) Research publishing (Internet, March 2014, http://www.uonbi.ac.ke/press).
Lagat, JK (2012) Research Publishing in Kenya. Sasa Sema Publications: Nairobi.
* This article was commissioned and first published here by The Research Cooperative. It remains copyright of the author, but may be reused with attribution, for non-commercial purposes, under the terms of our Creative Commons License. Font: Verdana, 12pt.
The article may be cited as: M. Osundwa (2014) Research Publishing in Kenya. Short Communications of the Research Cooperative, No. 2, pp. 1-3 (Internet, 5th April 2014).