Getting research published is a major milestone in a researcher’s career, but it often comes at the end of a journey fraught with challenges. In many low and middle income countries (LMICs), researchers face the same intense pressure to publish as their counterparts in high-income countries, but lack the access to resources, training and support networks that we take for granted in the Global North. As a result, a lot of critically important research goes unpublished or is rejected by academic journals.
Some of the biggest challenges faced by LMIC researchers include a lack of funding for research projects, difficulties writing in academic English, identification of a suitable (reputable) target journal, navigating the publishing and peer review process, and getting assistance with editing and proofreading their work. Support is also needed for data analysis and statistics, and communicating research to policymakers.
INASP‘s AuthorAID project seeks to address many of these challenges by helping researchers in LMICs to develop skills in research writing, proposal writing and other key skills. We currently work with specific institutions in Ghana, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to embed these skills in their curricula, but we also provide travel and workshop grants which are open to all LMICs, and our training materials and other resources are provided free of charge on our website.
In recent years we have also developed free online courses in research writing and grant proposal writing. Over 4000 participants from 121 countries have completed our research writing Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) in the last 18 months. Our six-week research writing course covers basics such as literature reviews, publishing ethics, writing your paper and getting published in a journal. The AuthorAID project also provides an online mentoring system which helps pair experienced mentors with researchers who need support in writing and publishing their research. Mentors can provide support ranging from specific tasks such as planning the structure of an article, language editing and interpreting data and statistics; to longer term help such as developing a grant proposal, or career mentoring.
Other support available
As well as AuthorAID, there are plenty of other online resources for LMIC researchers. INASP, which runs AuthorAID, also works with international publishers to enable free or low-cost access to 50,000 e-journals and 20,000 e-books for universities and research institutions in LMICs. Similarly, free access to international research materials is enabled through the Research4Life project through their programmes Hinari (Research in Health), AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture), OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment) and ARDI (Access to Research for Development and Innovation). There is also a wealth of open-access research publications available online, including from LMIC journals hosted on the INASP-supported Journals Online platforms.
LMIC researchers can benefit during the research process from MOOCs offered by many universities worldwide in such topics as data management, research methods, and developing research projects (Some valuable resources for LMIC researchers can be found at https://www.class-central.com/).
To help researchers in their writing and publication, the Think. Check. Submit. initiative provides a simple checklist guide to encourage authors to choose their target journal carefully. In addition, the Equator Network provides a wealth of resources for health researchers, including (most notably) their database of reporting guidelines.
Commercial manuscript editing services are another source of support. Even for those who can’t afford their fees, companies such as Edanz, Editage and American Journal Experts provide plenty of free tips, video guides and resources on their websites.
Collectively, the initiatives discussed here make an important contribution to helping researchers from LMICs publish their research. This is not only important from a capacity-building perspective but also for broadening the reach of research from LMICs and enabling global scientific advances relevant to these countries.
Please visit our website for more information on the AuthorAID project. We would particularly love to hear from experienced researchers who would like to volunteer as mentors.
Andy Nobes is Programme Officer for Research Development and Support at INASP.