For many reasons, African research results are rarely indexed in major international databases, a problem that is further exacerbated by the inaccessibility of theses and dissertations completed in the region, many of which contain local empirical data that is not available in international literature. This inability to learn about and access African material is frustrating to students and scholars–both on the continent and overseas.
Over the years, a number of organisations have discussed the need to do something about African theses and dissertations, but with the exception of print bibliographies compiled by individual universities and a few computerised databases, little has been done at regional level, and these ad hoc efforts have not been sustained.
Cognisant of the opportunities availed to institutions by developments in information and communication technologies in information dissemination and exchange, the Association of African Universities (AAU) found it necessary to initiate and support efforts towards putting Africa’s research output onto the mainstream of world knowledge.
The initiative was born out of a project in 2000 following a positive recommendation of a feasibility study carried out in for a pilot project to index, abstract, and distribute theses and dissertations completed in African universities.
The Database of African Theses and Dissertations-Research (DATAD-R) is a programme to improve management and access to African scholarly work. Theses and dissertations represent a significant proportion of Africa’s research activity.
However, access to this research output is not easy, even within the institutions where they are submitted. Some months, years and in many cases longer periods may elapse before papers or other forms of publications describing aspects of the research in these documents can be published.
In Africa particularly, they are an under-utilised information resource. By the very nature, their production in very limited and the only copy available for public access is usually in print and can only be consulted physically in a university library.
Issues of copyright and intellectual ownership have been identified as serious concerns for most universities. Only a few have straightforward and up-to-date copyright policies, a reflection of the general situation in most African countries.
One therefore, cannot consider information dissemination without considering these issues. Therefore, within the project framework, the AAU is working with member institutions to develop guidelines for the purpose.
Objectives of DATAD
The programme’s long term objectives include:
- Working with participating institutions to build a regional database of theses and dissertations.
- Contributing towards the creation of an environment conducive for research and publication in African universities and the region as a whole.
- Creating capacity in African universities for the collection, management and dissemination of theses and dissertations electronically.
- Providing visibility and improving accessibility to the work of African scholars both within and outside of the continent
- Facilitating the development of relevant copyright procedures and regulations which will promote the protection of the intellectual property rights of African University researchers and scholars
- Providing support for AAU programs which aim at capacity building in the area of research, promotion of cooperation among member universities and networking of institutions.
Immediate objectives of the program
AAU provides leadership and coordination for the accomplishment of three basic tasks:
- Capacity building at institutional level for the establishment of infrastructure and management structures that support DATAD policies, activities and training.
- Establishment and maintenance of an Internet access to DATAD.
- Providing access to the online database and alternative data formats for dissemination e.g CD-ROM or print.
DATAD OnLine (https://datad.aau.org ), the abstracts database with founding records from the pioneering institutions was launched on 30th April 2003. The status of DATAD has now changed from a project to a program and is open for expansion.
Within the framework of the long term objectives, The DATAD Program will focus on expansion, sustainability, access, preservation, and copyright & intellectual property management.
Implementation of the DATAD Pilot Project has been made possible through grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations to the AAU.
DATAD: A landmark for research development in Africa
Database of African Theses and Dissertations
Association of African Universities
P.O. Box AN 5744
Tel: (233 302) 774495 / 761588
Fax: (233 302) 774821