Strategies for managing scholarly content at universities in Kenya.
This study investigated strategies employed by universities in Kenya in managing scholarly content and addressed the following research questions: What kinds of scholarly content are generated and used in universities in Kenya? How is the scholarly content generated and/or acquired in universities in Kenya preserved and archived for current and future use? How do Kenyan scholars communicate amongst themselves in the various stages of their research work? To what extent do Kenyan scholars participate in local and/or international professional social networks? To what extent do existing institutional facilities in the universities support scholars‘ research and communication needs? The study was underpinned by three theoretical lenses namely: The Conversation Theory, the Social Network Theory and the Knowledge Management Process Model. The Knowledge Management Process Model was the main theoretical lens used to underpin the research problem in this study as it encompassed most issues of the research problem on the subject matter of scholarly content management in universities in Kenya. The study was based on the post-positivist paradigm and applied quantitative and qualitative approaches. A survey plan was employed within a multiple case study design. The population of the study consisted of academic staff and postgraduate students drawn from six purposively selected universities using the 2013 Webometric academic ranking of best Universities in Kenya (based on the qualitative and quantitative aspects of research output). Convenience sampling was used to identify participants for the study from academic staff and postgraduate students. In this strategy, those respondents who were available and willing to participate in the study when the questionnaires were being administered were included in the study. Academic staff and postgraduate students were targeted for the study since they were considered key actors in the scholarly communication process as creators and consumers of scholarly content. Purposive sampling was used to target all the six University Librarians and all six representatives of the universities‘ research units respectively. Therefore a census of the University Librarians and Representatives of the universities‘ research units was taken. These respondents were considered key informants since they were directly involved in facilitating and managing research and scholarly communication at the universities. Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect data from 350 academic staff and 370 postgraduate students while interviews were used to collect data from the key informants from the research units and also from the university librarians. Qualitative data were analysed and presented using derived themes while quantitative data were analysed using IBM SPSS Statistics and Gephi Social Network Analysis software. Descriptive and inferential statistics were generated by the statistical software while the social network analysis software was used to depict the social networks existing among scholars at the universities. Results of quantitative data analysis were presented using tables, graphs and charts. Cronbach‘s Alpha was generated for individual questions in the survey questionnaire to help determine internal validity. The study adhered to the ethical protocol of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Moreover, permission was obtained from the National Council of Science and Technology in Kenya as well as from individual universities to allow the study to be undertaken in the selected universities. The results revealed that several types of scholarly content were generated through research and publications in the universities surveyed, with the most common being theses, journal articles and conference papers. The results further revealed that a majority of academic staff in universities in Kenya were not actively involved in knowledge generation through research and publications with only 42% of academic staff and 37% of postgraduate students producing 1-3 journal articles in the period 2010-2014. The results also showed that there was high level of awareness among academic staff and postgraduate students regarding preservation of scholarly content as most respondents documented their research procedures, backed up information, moved files to newer computers and used printouts to preserve content. However, the respondents seemed to hardly use digital archives or university servers for preservation of their scholarly content. The results seemed to suggest heavy reliance on modern technology-enabled communication techniques and face-to-face interactions for communication amongst scholars. Institutional repositories were hardly used for scholarly communication although they existed in all universities surveyed. Social Network Analysis revealed limited participation by respondents in local and international scholarly networks with majority of collaborations taking place as independent dyads or triads. Results also revealed inadequate institutional support for research and scholarly communication including funding, material and physical infrastructure, mentorship, and ICT facilities. From the results, it is concluded that strategies for managing scholarly content at universities in Kenya are weak, impacting negatively on quality, quantity and visibility of scholarly content. It is therefore concluded that a policy framework that would encompass the different facets of managing scholarly content is necessary. Specifically, research productivity in universities in Kenya was low owing to among other factors poor research culture, poor mentorship, weak social ties between scholars, and inadequate support for research and scholarly communication in the universities. Moreover, visibility of scholarly content was found to be poor owing to reliance by academic staff and postgraduate students on traditional publishing modes such as subject journals and conference proceedings compared to institutional websites and repositories. The study recommended among other things development of specific strategies to enhance management of scholarly content within the universities. The study recommends development of an elaborate policy framework to guide content generation, storage, dissemination, access and use of scholarly content in universities in Kenya. Additionally, the study recommended institutionalization of mentorship programs to entrench scholarship amongst academic staff and graduate students; nurturing of scholarly collaboration to facilitate knowledge sharing and enhance the quality, quantity and visibility of research output from the universities; provision of more research funds especially by government to strengthen research capacity of the universities; and strengthening of university research niches to improve quality of research. The study makes an original contribution to the area of managing scholarly content from the perspective of universities in Kenya. Unlike previous studies that focus primarily on management of scholarly content from academic staff, the present study included academic staff, postgraduate students and librarians. The Social Network Analysis model was used to depict the departmental, interdepartmental and international scholarly collaborations in the universities surveyed Suggestions for further research include research to establish the nature of policies required at institutional and government level to improve research capacity and training programs in universities in Kenya. It is evident that absence of such policies is negatively impacting on the quality of research going on in universities in Kenya, despite the large quantity of resources already invested on research. Therefore, without such policies, it is inevitable that quality of research within universities in Kenya will continue to be low. Further research is also necessary to evaluate the actual use of electronic resources in university libraries. The study results revealed low usage of these resources by scholars with some claiming they were inaccessible. Such a study would establish usage levels as well as reasons for use or non-use of the resources. A further suggestion is for analysis of the scholarly collaborations existing among Kenyan scholars by using bibliometric techniques and social network analysis to determine the level of research collaboration among scholars. This will provide a further understanding of the nature of their collaborations, as well as research productivity and visibility of these scholars in the global literature.