Next in the series, I interview Basiru Adetomiwa, a FORCE16 fellow coming to Portland from Ede Osun State in Nigeria. We discussed the perks and pains of knowledge sharing, including the North-South technical gap; the vital role town criers play in local research communications and why he is looking forward to exploring libraries in Portland.
Basiru's journey in research communications illustrates how politics, tradition and culture seamlessly weave into our narratives of change. Excited about convening with international researchers and colleagues at F16, he is keen on raising awareness about the unique opportunities and challenges faced by Nigerian librarian and researchers. Among his insights, he shares a fascinating account of how traditional mediums of knowledge sharing, such as town criers, can bring up-to-date scientific information to people who need it the most.
Deeply concerned about increasing the visibility of Nigerian scientists, as the head of reference units at Redeemer University’s library, he is also working to revitalize the role of the library as a center of capacity building for young scholars. Rather than focusing on opening up research like other fellows, Basiru is working to level the field by making the current publishing model work for everyone, by focusing on education, awareness and advocacy.
Beyond being a taste of the diversity of thought among our fellows, Basiru’s efforts to see more Nigerians published in high impact factor journals is a testament of how current publishing standards are limiting the inclusion and participation of younger and more diverse voices in global scholarly communication. Can stronger North-South collaboration bridge some of these gaps? What can learn from Basiru's struggle to make a change in Nigeria? Something to think about until we meet in April.
On the North-South gap…
As a head librarian in your university, you must be aware of the critical issues affecting scholarship today. What are the main problems for research communications in Nigeria?
Libraries play a significant role in the economic, social and educational fabric of a nation. However, professional education and training in Nigeria are limited by outdated syllabi, under-equipped teachers and lack of adequate infrastructure to support trainees. The kind of training librarians receive in the United States, or the UK is very different especially in regards to equipment and training. I’m excited for the opportunity to exchange knowledge with library colleagues from around the world [at F16]. Having stronger practical tools [can close] the gap between theory and practice.
Does the country’s political context widen this technical gap?
Yes, our major issue is power. We don’t have the constant power supply or 24 hours access to the internet, and this is affecting Nigeria as a country. The new government is working to stabilize the situation and distribute power supply, but at the moment, access to knowledge is restricted. Many researchers are facing the challenge of only having power for 10-15 hours a day, limiting the electronic and digital services they can use. In spite of these issues, Nigerian researchers are still very active online. They use social media, blogs and WordPress to communicate their research.
What can librarians and researchers in Nigeria do to close this gap?
We need to raise awareness and literacy about electronic services available for local scholarly communications. I’m currently pursuing my Ph.D., studying research productivity in private universities in Nigeria. I'm looking at three factors: awareness: general perceptions about available electronic services, knowledge: theoretical and practical understandings of how to use these technologies and finally, the rate of utilization of these services in research to find out how they can improve the productivity of local scholars at home and abroad.
On Nigerian culture of knowledge sharing…
If these technical barriers were addressed, would local researchers be willing to share openly and exchange their knowledge?
Yes, the culture of knowledge sharing in Nigeria is very active -within organizations, within the community; even in rural areas. Part of my work is community service, and I have noticed how despite the challenges, the culture of knowledge sharing grows stronger every day. For example, rural towns still use town criers (messengers employed to make public announcements in the streets or marketplace using megaphones). Researchers hire them to disseminate new research.
Is the use of town criers still common in Nigeria? Has it been traditionally used to disseminate research?
The use of town criers goes back seventy-eighty years back. This was the main and only form of communicating new ideas. We had no blogs, no social media and this is what worked then. Because of the revolution of ICTs we can now disseminate our findings through blogs and journals, but in rural communities, town criers are still a legitimate source of information that should also be used to disseminate research. Whenever I have research findings, I prefer to travel 18-20 hours to spread them in the community through town criers, because I know this is the [best] medium to disseminate this information there.
That makes a lot of sense. Do you think local researchers should collaborate more with town criers?
Yes. People in rural communities need information more than people from the major cities. Individuals in cities can go online, but people in rural villages don’t have access to the internet. The only way to get information is through town criers. Town criers use a language people from the community will understand. In this way, [research] can lead to action. [I would encourage] more researchers to approach town criers and ask them to communicate their findings.
On disseminating the work of young scholars…
Your role also allows you to be in touch with students and academic staff. What are Nigerian young researchers struggling with?
They lack general knowledge about how to communicate their research and where to publish their research findings. We mainly train them to publish their research on high quality, high impact journals. Many students are not adequately prepared around the appropriate theories and methodologies, and as a consequence, there is high retention of early research and data.
Are you training them to aim for international or local journals?
They do not necessarily have to be from the United States or Europe; many quality journals are publishing from Nigeria.
Any thoughts on open access journals?
Regardless of whether they are open or closed, the priority is high impact. The message I’m trying to pass across to students is that they need to be aware of the criteria determining the impact factor – they need make their work as visible as possible.
What are you expecting to get from FORCE16?
Most of all I want to encourage Nigerian students and young scholars to become a part of the FORCE11 community, so I am planning to be active in my social media and twitter so people can get information from the conference at home. I am also planning to organize workshops after the conference at the National Library Association to share my experience among junior and senior colleagues, and share what I have learned to make a difference in my home communities. And, I want to explore libraries in Portland too.
**This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.**