In this piece, CHIJIOKE OKORONKWO takes a look at how stakeholders both in the public and private sectors are working towards boosting research in Nigerian universities
A renowned information services organisation, EBSCOhost, recently provided a 4 million-dollar free e-content facility to Nigerian universities which subsists until December 31, 2016. EBSCOhost e-content, which covers e-libraries, research databases, e-journals, e-books among others, is channeled through the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) domiciled in the National Universities Commission, NUC.
In the light of this, NUC said it was high time Nigerian universities took advantage of the EBSCOhost/NgREN platform to enhance their research works, online presence and improve global ranking. The commission lists the benefits of the EBSCOhost and NgREN platform among others as “reduction in travel costs as a result of the video-conferencing facilities.
“The availability of shared resources, thereby, reducing total costs of teaching and research. Improvement in Webometric rankings through more and better local content made available to the international community.
“Digitisation of resources for anytime, anywhere access by students and staff in and out of school. Connection with international Research and Networks to make it possible for Nigerian research community to have access to the global research community using International Private Leased Circuit.
“Tele-Medicine, remote consultation and post-surgery follow up between tertiary hospitals and primary health care centres.’’
At a recent EBSCOhost Capacity Development workshop for Nigerian universities in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, urged the NUC to build a solid information base for Nigerian universities via e-learning platforms. Represented by Prof. Anthony Anwukah, the Minister of State for Education, Adamu reiterated his directive that all Nigerian universities should subscribe to NgREN.
He said that information was an important ingredient for national development, hence universities needed to develop robust information resource base that would support them as they sought to be global players.
“We are pleased that NUC is leading the way in supporting our university system towards being world class not only in facilities and teachers but also in information resources. We are indeed happy that another value is being added to the NgREN by providing electronic books and journals which will be accessed by all the users.
“We do not see any reason why universities should independently pay for service like bandwidth or electronic journals subscription when those services are available on the NgREN platform. That is why we have directed that every Nigerian tertiary education institution should move their connectivity and service need to NgREN immediately,’’ he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, NUC’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, said that the essence of the workshop was to provide first-hand training on the use of EBSCO e-Book Academic Collection. He said that the workshop was a key information resource meant to support Nigerian universities in their drive for excellence.
According to Okojie, NgREN, which is championing the workshop, is a key driver in the transformation of information and its availability in Nigerian institutions. He thanked the EBSCOhost team for the partnership and support which was initiated between 2001 and 2005.
“At the moment, EBSCO has given trial access to the NUC and that is currently available on the NgREN network. We have also been discussing with EBSCO to allow us have trial access to full test of e-books and e-journals for a longer duration after which we shall be paying subscriptions.
“The databases of interest include the 13 disciplines that are taught in the Nigerian university system. These and other subscriptions would be available on the NgREN network henceforth; any university that refuses to join NgREN would lose out on these services,’’ he said.
Okojie said that accessing the EBSCOhost free e-content would launch Nigerian universities into global recognition and put at them a competitive level in terms of research outputs. He said that NgREN was established to provide an elaborate infrastructural backbone to interconnect all research and education institutions in Nigeria and link them with other research and education networks worldwide.
“NgREN has secured access to EBSCOhost e-content-including e-books, journals, and academic magazines, which will be available for free to all Nigerian universities until December 31. By accessing the EBSCOhost e-content, Nigerian universities stand a better chance of enhancing their position in international university rankings.
“Universities in Nigeria are hereby encouraged to utilise these resources, which are available on the NgREN at no cost,’’ he said. Okojie said that plans were underway to ensure that universities on NgREN continued to access EBSCOhost and other e-content beyond the expiration of the current service.
According to him, the platform also offers premium content in databases, e-books, journals, magazines as well as very versatile discovery tool for searching across all library resources. The executive secretary said that since its inauguration in July 2014, the NgREN had made significant progress in reducing the cost of bandwidth for subscriber institutions.
“Some other notable achievements of the network include the reduction in travel costs as a result of the video-conferencing facilities and capacity building cost savings through online and remote training modules,’’ he said.
He said that NUC in partnership with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors established NgREN to ensure that universities could communicate, collaborate, access and share resources across national and international boundaries. EBSCOhost’s Vice-President, Mrs Collen Mills, who spoke via video-conferencing from South Africa, said that the firm had developed products to solve the needs of library users around the world.
According to her, EBSCOhost will, through NgREN, provide latest e-library technologies to Nigerian universities. Lending his voice to the importance of e-learning and research in Nigerian universities, Prof. Michael Faborade, the Secretary-General, Committee of Vice-Chancellors said that research would impact positively on the country’s economy.
“Research in all the areas of knowledge, humanities, social sciences, biological and medical sciences as well as physical science and technology will have a positive impact on the economy. It is counter-productive and dissipating for us to continue to run an underdeveloped economy. Nigerian problems are better solved by Nigerian experts on the basis of deep research and understanding of the university system,’’ Faborade said.
He said that Nigerian universities must be able to assist in addressing and remedying basic challenges hindering national development. The secretary-general stressed the need for Nigerians to acknowledge the importance and essence of research in the universities system.
He called on researchers and academicians involved in the planning and management of the economy as well as coordinating and funding agencies to be proactive in the discharge of their duties. However, stakeholders advise that with the steady decline in subventions to Nigerian universities, it is wise for universities to access the facility provided by EBSCOhost to boost research works. (NAN)