The centrality of research and innovation cannot be overstated in realizing national goals in all countries in the world. The African Continent is not an exception with its myriad economic, social and political malaise. Sadly, a lot of research is being carried out with the aim of helping policymakers understand the issues and produce better policies; but not much have achieved that objective. There are different reasons why solid research fails often to be looked at or acted on, among which poor and ineffective communication of research output to target right audience. Although there is substantial research churned out in Africa; sadly, very little of that research achieves its objective mainly because it is poorly communicated to its intended target right audience (Sabet, 2013). In offering a solution to the African challenges, Kenya included, Hassan (2009) opines ‘Africa’s sustainability problems can only be solved by science-based solutions, and effective communication must play a key role in this’.
Despite the grim scenario in research communications, research remains a core function for the African institutions in support of the national goals. In Kenya, the Vision 2030 in particular recognizes the role of research, science, and innovations in a modern economy in which new knowledge plays a central role in boosting wealth creation, social welfare and international competitiveness (Sambili, 2012). As a result the blueprint articulates the country’s strategic intent to transit to knowledge based economy exemplified by the rampant creation, diffusion and use of knowledge (Omar, 2013). In realizing this national goal, All the Vision 2030 pillars have flagship projects and programmes that rely on research.
In achieving this strategic intent of moving towards knowledge-based economy, research institutions should play a pivotal role in communicating knowledge generated through research. After all, this is the essence of research that is, creation and knowledge sharing. Research has not effectively happened until it has been communicated. As delicious a discovery and insight may be, new knowledge only acquires value by being shared (Hahn, 2008). This is affirmed by Sabet who observes that the goal of any research is to have an impact, and not to be kept in a drawer or forgotten on a bookshelf (Sabet, 2013).
The North-South divide in research communications largely points to the ‘digital divide’ which entails disparities in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) infrastructure (Lor, 2007). Kenya as country happens to be in the disadvantaged south. This implies the status of the research communications and supportive technology is quite underdeveloped. This is evidenced by the increasing realization that most research does not get into practice and that translating research into policy decisions is more often a complex and haphazard undertaking (Kimeu, 2013). For scholarly output to be effectively communicated, research institutions should employ effective strategies in the entire research process. The use of modern communication technologies is crucial for effective research output communication. The emergence of second generation web technologies has triggered a huge paradigm shift in research communications. These evolving technologies have presented opportunities and challenges for all stakeholders in scholarly communications namely; researchers, research managers, university faculty, students, librarians and publishers. Nowhere in science has the disruptive power of digital technologies been more apparent than in scholarly communications. Traditional journals with subscription-based models and lengthy, anonymous pre-publication peer-review have been challenged by pre-print servers, post-publication evaluation and open access (Lorns, 2013).
Libraries in recognition of this truth and also as a major stakeholder in research communications have devoted considerable energy and ingenuity to creating practices and tools that communicate new knowledge. Hahn observes that the library community has been quick to recognize the transformative effects of networked technologies and has focused tremendous attention and activity on research communication, scholarly publishing, and new communication models (Hahn, 2008). Librarians have bothered to understand that the evolution of scholarly communication will define the evolution of libraries. As a result, librarians have embraced this reality and have educated themselves and created change. There is no doubt that librarians play an important role to help achieve faster and wider dissemination of research discoveries and new knowledge of which they have been disseminators and keepers for centuries (Zhang, 2007).
To mitigate the gaping scholarly communication challenge in Kenya, this study therefore aims analyzing the role of libraries in scholarly communication process, investigating communications channels used to disseminate research output; their effectiveness and challenges trends; establishing the controversies; extend of adoption; benefits; challenges and lessons learnt in implementing Open Access publishing in Kenya . The study will also analyze the impact of Open Access Publishing on research communications in academic and research libraries and finally realize design framework that may enacted to develop a fully functional virtual research hub for Kenya. This will involve gathering the design requirements from the 67 university libraries and other 24 libraries constituting research institutes, tertiary Colleges and public libraries and archives which are also members of the Kenya Library and Information Services Consortium (KLISC).
The research will apply a design science research paradigm. An online survey for the ninety one (91) open access repository managers will be conducted. In order to shed further light on the readiness of libraries to participate in the federated virtual research hub, the online survey will be extended nine (9) KLISC officials comprising of six secretariat official and three (3) coordinators. KLISC is the largest consortium and perhaps the most successful library consortium in Eastern Africa (Otando, 2011). It is also the most representative consortium in Kenya with the capacity to support the full implementation and maintenance of the national federated open access virtual hub.
The theoretical basis for this study is derived from Shannon and Weaver and Lasswell’s Communication Theories. These unidirectional and related theories were developed by Shannon and Weaver and Harold D. Lasswell in 1948, has enormous value and application in communication and mass communication. Lasswell’s Communication Theory has been applied in a wide variety of research communication related studies among them (Matiquite, 2011); (Kate Valentine Stanton, 2011) ; (de Beer, 2005) and ( Pinfield et al., 2014). With respect to research communications and open access publishing, Lor (2007) provides a useful explanatory framework for understanding scholarly research communication at various levels: creation, communication and use. Major contexts affecting the three levels are identified, including cultural, political, economic, legal and ethical contexts.