Malawi

Open Access activities are carried out by Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO). MALICO promotes Open Access resources, encourages institutions to set up Open Access repositories, builds a national Open Access digital repository funded by the Institute of Development Studies, UK, (the project is being implemented by Malawi National Library Services on behalf of the MALICO) and maintains DATAD theses and dissertations repository.

College of Medicine and Medical Association of Malawi publish an Open Access journal Malawi Medical Journal (also in AJOL).

Researchers from Malawi publish articles in international Open Access journals, for example 156 articles have been published with BioMed Central – an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the Open Access publishing model – and among them there are highly accessed articles by researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine Children's Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dignitas International, Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Management Sciences for Health Lilongwe, Médecins Sans Frontières, Ministry of Health and Population, Ministry of Industry, Onchocerciasis Control Programme, Population Services International, University of Malawi College of Medicine, UNICEF and World Health Organization.

186 articles have been published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) Open Access journals: PLoS ONE, PloS Medicine and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases by researchers from HIV Unit, National Malaria Control Programme, National Tuberculosis Control Programme, Chiradzulu District Hospital, Thyolo District Hospital and Mzuzu Central Hospital, Lighthouse Trust at Kamuzu Central Hospital, Ministry of Health; Ministry of Health and Population; Malawi Defence Force, Medical Department; Baobab Health Trust; Baylor College of Medicine; Bwaila Hospital; Center for the Development of People; Chancellor College, University of Malawi; College of Medicine, University of Malawi; Daeyang Luke Hospital; Dignitas International; Family Health International, Malawi Country Office; Karonga Prevention Study; Lilongwe District Health Office; Malawi Business Coalition against AIDS; Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme; Management Sciences for Health; Medecins sans Frontieres; REACH Trust, Community Health Sciences Unit; Thyolo District Assembly; Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital; The United Nations Development Program, The Mwandama Millennium Villages Cluster; World Health Organisation, Malawi Country Office.

Enabling Environment

Using internet as an aid to teaching and research

Academics in Malawi are increasingly using internet as an aid to teaching and are encouraging students to use this medium to retrieve information and undertake research. Going online is driven by the need to find quick and convenient access to information relevant to research.

Increased amount of high quality publications from the country

In recent years the number of publications has almost doubled and the number of citations has increased significantly, strengthening the ranking of Malawi in respect of clinical medicine, immunology, microbiology, agricultural and social sciences.

Skilled librarians

Librarians in Malawi have been trained or retrained to embrace new paradigms.

Improved internet connectivity and strengthened cooperation among the stakeholders

MALICO, MAREN (Malawi Research and Education Network) and UbuntuNet Alliance are working to improve internet connectivity and to strengthen collaboration between librarians, researchers, policy-makers and ICT professionals. There are open source solutions available as well as government support for tertiary education, research, science and technology. With some funding for capital equipment and the strengthening of MALICO in partnership with MAREN and the National Research Council of Malawi, universities and research institutions will be able to build a national federation of Open Access repositories to maximise the visibility of research publications and to improve the quality, impact and influence of research.

Potential Barriers

Lack of awareness among researchers and research managers

Most researchers in Malawi are not really aware of research and scientific outputs produced in the region. Even when these outputs are freely available in digital form, there is still a need to better organise the collections and to strengthen curricula with regional research outputs.

Lack of faculty buy-in and institutional support

Traditionally, universities in Malawi do not recognise institutional repositories as a viable platform for scholarly communication.

There is still a false assumption that making research outputs publicly available will lower the chances of researchers for success in the fierce competition for limited research funding and promotion.

Yet the major obstacle is probably the prevailing limited understanding about scientific research and its benefits. Science is a profession and a long-term commitment, and its returns are not always dramatic, nor immediate.

Restrictive copyright practices and regulations

Intellectual property law restrictions slow down the development of Open Access repositories (populating Open Access repositories with research outputs).

Lack of resources and infrastructure

Local funding is inadequate, as are the number of qualified researchers able to provide training and leadership. There are also problems with internet connectivity.

Malawi has a stock of research output in a variety of forms, including technical reports and journal articles that could have influenced policy decisions and stimulated further research. However, these documents are locked up in the offices, libraries and resource centres of the country’s higher education institutions. Consequently, important policy decisions have been made without considering the available evidence. For example, Malawi has been successful in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Although reports of the success stories are available, these have not been widely disseminated within and outside the country. Lives may possibly be involved; for example, the research on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in Blantyre clinics could be equally valid in Lilongwe or Chiradzulu – if it were accessible.

Major Projects/Initiatives

The workshop on Open Access: Maximising Research Quality and Impact at Kamuzu College of Nursing, University of Malawi, on 29-30 October 2009, organised by Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO), Malawi Research and Education Network (MAREN), Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) and EIFL, brought together researchers, research managers and policy-makers, librarians and ICT specialists to discuss how to raise the visibility of research outputs from universities and research institutions in Malawi and how to build their capacities in global knowledge sharing. The objective of the workshop was to discuss the benefits of open access for Malawi. ‘Open access is sweeping the world’, proclaimed Professor Leonard Kamwanja, Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Malawi and Chair of UbuntuNet Alliance, in his welcoming speech. He argued that this provides many opportunities for research organisations, such as MALICO, which, at its founding five years ago, planned to create an open access national digital repository of research in Malawi.

Upcoming Open Access institutional repositories: Bunda College of Agriculture –Greenstone repository Malawiana, Chancellor College – DSpace repository Malawiana, Malawi College of Medicine – DSpace and Greenstone repositories, Mzuzu University – Greenstone repository, Kamuzu College of Nursing – Dspace repository, and MALICO – DATAD theses and dissertations repository.

In April 2011 EIFL funded an ongoing institutional Awareness Campaign for Kamuzu College of Nursing Library, University of Malawi, Research Repository implemented by Kamuzu College of Nursing Library, University of Malawi, in partnership with the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST). Kamuzu College of Nursing Library is building an open access repository for research in nursing, midwifery and reproductive health.

Through its Mobilising Knowledge for Development (MK4D) Programme, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, UK) collaborates with the National Library Service of Malawi (NLS) to support the establishment of a National Digital Repository of Research for Malawi. The repository will be housed at NLS and jointly managed by NLS, the Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO) and the National Commission of Science and Technology (NCST). Support for training workshops will be provided separately by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP). The main aim of the project is to set up a national digital repository of research from Malawi, collecting research outputs from Malawian institutions and building their capacities in global knowledge sharing. It is envisaged that the increased accessibility and visibility of Malawian research outputs will increase their impact on policy and bring more transparency to research institutions. A second aim is to link to, learn from and utilise the related work, ensuring close collaboration, identifying opportunities for further collaboration and avoiding duplication of effort.

Details of Key Organizations

Malawi Library and Information Consortium (MALICO): comprised of National Library Service, University of Malawi Libraries, Mzuzu University Library, Reserve Bank of Malawi, National Research Council of Malawi, Malawi Bureau of Standards, Malawi Institute of Management, National AIDS Commission, African Bible College and Domasi College of Education. MALICO is a young organisation on the Malawi information scene. It was established on 7 May 2003 and celebrated its second Anniversary in style with the launch of its VSAT Network, giving academic connectivity from north to south of Malawi. Objectives of MALICO:

  • To encourage national, regional and international cooperation among information stakeholders,
  • To influence information policy at the national level,
  • To work for adequate ICT infrastructure for members, especially sufficient internet bandwidth,
  • To assist in the development of appropriate ICT skills at all levels,
  • To facilitate access to electronic journal articles in international databases,
  • To organise and digitise Malawian content,
  • To provide information consultancy.

Contacts: Lidia Chiotha, lchiotha [at] chanco.unima.mw and Kondwani Wella, kwella [at] kcn.unima.mw.

Malawi Research and Education Network (MAREN): the Malawi National and Educational Research Network (NREN) is one of the founding members of the UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking. MAREN is recognised by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology as the Malawian NREN. MAREN has three founder members: the University of Malawi, Mzuzu University and the Department of Agricultural Research Services. Another tertiary institution, the Lilongwe University of Science and Technology (LUSTECH), joined in 2009. These institutions are on nine locations from north to south of Malawi. Two new universities are likely to join within the year. MAREN works closely with MALICO and is grateful to FRENIA (Fostering Research and Education Networking in Africa) for startup funding. Contacts: Prof. L. Kamwanja, MAREN Chairperson, University of Malawi, P.O. Box 278, Zomba, Malawi, Tel: +265 1 524 282, Fax: +265 1 524 760, Email: provc(at)unima.mw; Solomon Dindi, MAREN CEO, Chancellor College, P.O. Box280, Zomba, Malawi, Email: soldindi(at)yahoo.com.

The Malawi Medical Journal is a peer reviewed, Open Access, quarterly, general medical journal published by the College of Medicine, University of Malawi and Medical Association of Malawi. It incorporates original research studies, policy analysis, case reports, literature reviews and occasional special features. It is published both in print and electronically. Its vision includes:

  • To improve health care in Malawi;
  • To encourage medical debate in Malawi;
  • To promote medical publishing in Malawi. 

The Malawi Medical Journal acknowledges support provided by the African Health Journals Partnership Project that is funded by the US National Institutes of Health (through the National Library of Medicine and the Fogarty International Center) and facilitated by the Council of Science Editors. Contact: Prof. M. Molynuex, Editor-in-Chief, College of Medicine and the Medical Association, Malawi Medical Journal, P/Bag 360, Chichiri, Blantyre, Malawi, Phone: +265 1 878 254, Fax: +265 1 878 254, Email: mmolyneux(at)malawi.net, mmj(at)medcol.mw.

The Open Access initiative has been further strengthened through partnerships such as the Irish African Partnership for Research Capacity Building and the Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD). With the support of the Association of African Universities (AAU) DATAD aims at improving the management and access to African scholarly work (theses and dissertations) thus putting Africa’s research output onto the mainstream of world knowledge. Through its Open Access repository, the Irish African Partnership for Research Capacity Building (IAP) brings together universities in Ireland, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda in a unique, high-level partnership to develop a coordinated approach to research capacity building in order to make an effective contribution to the reduction of poverty.

 

(Modified on December 2013)

Back to top