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Open access (79)

4 September, 2019

Dear Amelia,

I like your drift. Due to information overload and other challenges, in the Global South, the majority of previous readers are not just shying away from printed journals but also switching away from online subscriptions and consumption. One of the reasons is the rising cost of data (in the sense of data bundles). MNOs and wifi providers are riding on the addictive power of social media to enrich themselves at the expense of readers.

Turning to your brilliant suggestion about comprehensive reform in the way we share and absorb research (I will add knowledge) from the traditional incremental approach, I have been doing some work since your last post. Below are my initial thoughts:

1. The big deal about low income countries should not be about accessing published papers and datasets, some of which may be stale and also difficult to contextualize. Instead, developing countries should invest in ways of tapping into fluid nascent knowledge that hasn't been published but used by the majority to make decisions. Such knowledge may not need to be first frozen into journals in order to be considered authentic by some academic gate-keepers. We just need a technology-backed system that connects knowledge nodes (experts/communities) so that the knowledge flows regularly with everybody adding their insights to the body of knowledge. Such a body of knowledge should become living literature unlike depending on old literature written in different contexts.

2. A global revolution in the way we share and absorb research/knowledge cannot take place unless we begin by challenging or dismantling some of the existing systems. For instance, some of the imported methods/tools to be either contextualized or completely done away with in developing countries are Executive Summaries and Policy Briefs. The Executive Summary is useful for executives/policy makers/readers who will have read the entire research report/evaluation report. By its very nature, an Executive Summary leaves out critical nuances that enable readers/decision makers to make informed decisions. One of the reasons given to justify the existence of executive summaries is that executives and policy makers are too busy to read the entire document. We are actually legitimizing laziness in reading. Directorship to ministerial positions should be filled by avid readers who can grapple with issues before asking for an executive summary. It's like a judge arriving at a judgement decision before hearing the whole case.

Currently, after conducting an evaluation or research and before writing a report, I insist on a face to face discussion with leaders of the organization which will have commissioned the work so that I can explain issues emerging from the evaluation/research as part of preparing them to read the entire forthcoming report. Serious policy makers cannot make decisions based on a policy briefs. Why should we spend a lot of money doing policy research if only a small brief will be used? Policy briefs may still be relevant in the developed world because, besides having a reading culture themselves, policy makers are exposed to various sources of knowledge such as think tanks and robust parliamentary debates unlike in developing countries where some policy makers are barely educated but are expected to come up with complicated health bills.

2. Acknowledgments section of research reports. This is another misappropriated section in conventional reports. They don't often sufficiently recognize different levels of contributions and communities whose knowledge is more valuable than books and journals. All contributors are often lumped into one paragraph thanking them for their time, etc. There are no avenues for following up with such knowledge sources especially after the consultant has submitted his/her report. Such contributors should become part of the fluid literature suggested in 1 (above).

I will stop here for now. Amelia we can discuss behind the scenes so that we don't irritate some members of this platform keen to preserve existing knowledge sharing and absorption systems. Once again, thanks for planting a vibrant seed in my mind.

Regards,

Charles Dhewa

Chief Executive Officer

Knowledge Transfer Africa (KTA)

Harare City Council Community Services Building,

Mbare Agriculture Market

Harare, Zimbabwe

Tel: +263-4-669228

Mobile: +263 774 430 309 / 772 137 717/712 737 430

Email: charles@knowledgetransafrica.com

charlesdhewa7@gmail.com

dhewac@yahoo.co.uk

Website: www.knowledgetransafrica.com / www.emkambo.co.zw

Skype: charles.dhewa

HIFA profile: Charles Dhewa is the Chief Executive Officer of Knowledge Transfer Africa (Pvt) Ltd based in Harare, Zimbabwe. dhewac AT yahoo.co.uk