Research practices of academics in an African university setting : the case of the University of Zambia

Twaambo, Ellah (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : The thesis investigates the research practices of academics and how they are supported by the academic library in an African university setting by specifically focusing on the University of Zambia. The information age has opened up new ways for conducting research that involves changing the approach of academics to the whole research process, necessitating a degree of information management and a changed role for library involvement. However, these changes brought with it increases in cost of access and infrastructure which put institutions in developing countries under significant pressure. In light of these challenges, the thesis seeks to establish how successful researchers in an African university setting are conducting their research and navigate these challenges. The research design is qualitative and collected data using a quota system random sampling method to select participants meeting certain minimum criteria for the interviews. The narrative interview section was used to explore the views of the people with deeper insight into their specific needs and problems. The findings indicate that researchers at UNZA use their own resources to fund their research activities (apart from a few cases where project funding was available). The research activities are conducted without regard or in some cases even awareness of the formulated research policy of UNZA that is supposed to direct research activities. The respondents mainly conduct research based on personal interest, experience and for perceived promotional gains. Researchers at UNZA share knowledge and information through conferences, workshops, research publications and social platforms such as LinkedIn. The knowledge sharing is exhibited through research collaboration mostly at departmental level. Collaboration in research at UNZA takes place for reasons that include mentoring, sharing expertise, and authenticity. Researchers use both print and electronic resources, but struggle with print resources becoming obsolete, whilst the electronic resources are often unavailable due to inadequate subscription by the institution. The university library subscribes to database information for at least 50000 electronic journals, but a very small number of those are available full-text. In fact full-text access is limited to Science Direct, JSTOR, and Cambridge Journals databases. This highlights the discrepancies that exist in research practices globally between researchers from the developing nations and those of developed countries. Notwithstanding these challenges, UNZA has not fully utilized its knowledge management strategies to create a favourable research environment in spite of funding difficulties. ICT infrastructure is not fully deployed, but the processes are in place. It is recommended that UNZA establish a research division that can enforce the research policy and support the research activities at the university.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die tesis ondersoek die navorsingspraktyke van akademici en hoe die akademiese biblioteek hierdie praktyke kan ondersteun in 'n Afrika-universiteitsomgewing deur spesifiek op die geval van die Universiteit van Zambië te fokus. Die inligtingsera het nuwe maniere om navorsing te doen moontlik gemaak, wat die akademiese benadering tot die hele navorsingsproses verander en 'n mate van inligtingsbestuur en 'n ander rol vir biblioteekbetrokkenheid tot die navorsingsproses vereis. Hierdie veranderinge het egter gepaardgegaan met die 'n toename in koste van toegang en infrastruktuur wat universiteite in ontwikkelende lande onder groot druk plaas. In die lig van hierdie uitdagings, probeer die tesis vasstel hoe suksesvolle navorsers in 'n Afrika-universiteitsomgewing hul navorsing uitvoer en hierdie uitdagings navigeer. Die navorsingsontwerp is kwalitatief en versamel data met behulp van 'n kwotastelsel ewekansige steekproefmetode om deelnemers te kies wat aan sekere minimum kriteria vir die onderhoude voldoen. Die narratiewe deel van die onderhoude is gebruik om die menings van die mense te ondersoek met dieper insig in hul spesifieke behoeftes en probleme. Daar is bevind dat navorsers by UNZA hulle eie hulpbronne gebruik om hul navorsingsaktiwiteite te finansier (afgesien van enkele gevalle waar projekbefondsing beskikbaar was). Die navorsingsaktiwiteite word sonder inagneming, of in sommige gevalle selfs sonder bewustheid, van die geformuleerde navorsingsbeleid van UNZA wat veronderstel is om navorsingsaktiwiteite te rig. Die respondente voer hoofsaaklik navorsing uit op grond van persoonlike belangstelling, vorige ondervinding en vir waargenome bevorderingsmoontlikhede. Navorsers by UNZA deel kennis en inligting deur middel van konferensies, werkswinkels, navorsingspublikasies en sosiale platforms soos LinkedIn. Die kennisdeling vind neerslag in navorsingsamewerking meestal op departementele vlak. Samewerking in navorsing by UNZA vind plaas vir redes wat mentorskap, deel van kundigheid en outentiekheid insluit. Navorsers gebruik beide gedrukte en elektroniese bronne, maar sukkel omdat drukhulpbronne toenemend verouderd word, terwyl die elektroniese bronne dikwels nie beskikbaar is nie as gevolg van onvoldoende inskrywing deur die instelling. Die universiteitsbiblioteek is ingeskryf op databasisinligting vir minstens 50000 elektroniese tydskrifte, maar vir 'n baie klein deel daarvan is volledige teks beskikbaar. Trouens, volle teks toegang is beperk tot Science Direct, JSTOR, en Cambridge Journals databasisse. Dit beklemtoon die verskille wat bestaan in navorsingspraktyke wêreldwyd tussen navorsers van die ontwikkelende lande en dié van ontwikkelde lande. Nieteenstaande hierdie uitdagings het UNZA nie sy kennisbestuurstrategieë ten volle benut om 'n gunstige navorsingsomgewing te skep ten spyte van die finansieringstekorte nie. IKTinfrastruktuur is nie ten volle ontplooi nie, maar die prosesse is in plek. Die tesis beveel aan dat UNZA 'n navorsingsafdeling instel wat die navorsingsbeleid kan afdwing en die navorsingsaktiwiteite van die universiteit kan ondersteun.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103760
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