INFORMATION FOR ENHANCEMENT OF LIFE:
DISSEMINATION OF RESEARCH RESULTS IN LESOTHO
Mamokhosi Mohapi & Nthabiseng TaoleNational University of Lesotho ABSTRACT
Information has been described as one of the most valuable sources of power. Individuals need information to solve their day-to-day problems. Managers need accurate and current information to make decisions about their organisations. People across the spectrum of society need the right information to address social, political and economic issues. Some of this information emanates from research studies which normally seek to identify causes of problems and also point possible solutions. A lot of research has been carried out in Lesotho, regionally and worldwide, with very valuable information being gathered. The question is, does this information get to the users and other researchers who might benefit a great deal from such knowledge? Are the research findings well disseminated and making research efforts worthwhile by having an impact on peoples lives?
In Lesotho, the following are assumed to be some of the barriers that hinder proper dissemination of research results: 1) Inadequate information sources and services; 2) lack of collaboration among stake holders; and 3) little involvement and cooperation among service providers and users. This paper will therefore examine how researched information is disseminated in Lesotho. The assumed barriers will be discussed and finally, suggestions will be made on how to improve this process thereby making research findings more productive.
Information is said to be a very important resource which determines how people make decisions about their day-to-day activities. Managers, researchers, teachers, policy-makers, villagers, all need information to make important decisions. Without accurate and reliable information, serious mistakes can be made with very undesirable consequences. Various research activities generate a lot of valuable knowledge. The importance of dissemination of information generated in these activities cannot be over-emphasized. With this background, this paper will examine how research information is disseminated in Lesotho. It is believed that the following barriers negatively affect proper dissemination of research results, these being:
- Inadequate information sources and services;
- Little collaboration among stake holders
- Little involvement & cooperation among service providers and users.
In order for research to make a meaningful contribution towards enhancing peopless lives, it should address their practical problems. The success of this depends heavily on how well it is disseminated. Research results that kept by individual researchers or organizations and do not reach other people who could benefit do indeed render such research efforts futile.
2. DEFINITION OF TERMS
Information has got many meanings depending on the context in which it is used. Some people define it as factual data, statistics, spoken word, news or published word. Others believe it is knowledge that is shared.
As Foskett (1984:6) puts it,
Therefore, what an individual knows becomes more useful if it is shared with other people.
Research involves an investigation that usually results in finding information that could be used to find a solution to a problem. In some cases, research verifies an existing fact or can completely change previously held opinion about something. According to Tawete (1994:193), the purpose of research is to:
- review existing knowledge;
- describe some situation or problem;
- construct something new;
- find an explanation or cause of
a phenomenon before making generalizations.
Research should therefore build up to the existing knowledge. It should make a difference by bringing solutions to the identified problems.
Research and Information seem to be related in that through research, information/knowledge is generated. Educational researchers provide a lot of information which could be used by teachers, school administrators, policy-makers and other researchers. What is of great importance is for such information to reach those individuals so that it is utilized. The information gathered should not end in the hands of the producer but should be accessible to all those who can benefit from it. The question of dissemination therefore becomes very important because it will determine how best that information is utilized.
In this study, users will mean all people whom the research findings can benefit thereby making a difference in what they previously knew by: adding new information, confirming pre-existing information reducing uncertainty and clarifying previously held views. This might include, in case of educational research policy makers teachers, school administrators, parents and students.
3. DISSEMINATION OF RESEARCH INFORMATION
Having generated information through research, disseminating seems to be the only way in which it can be utilized. Havelock (in Kochen, 1975:88) argues that "generation", "dissemination" and "utilization" are three distinct processes that lead to activities that bring solutions to many problems confronting mankind. He further portrays user communities and research communities as separate problem - solving systems. (ibid, 91) This is illustrated in the figure below:
The problem - solving dialogue starts with identification and communication of user needs. The next step is generation of knowledge/information that can meet those needs. Finally, information/knowledge gathered should be transferred or communicated to the user community so that through its utilization, communicated needs can be met.
For example, a request may come from the Ministry of Education to the Lesotho Educational Research Association(LERA) to investigate the problem of poor COSC results in Lesotho. LERA will be the Research community, the Ministry of Education including teachers and students will be users. Obviously, LERA will be expected to make suggestions as a result of the research conducted on how to remedy the problem. The utilization of recommendations/solutions given will rely very heavily on how effectively those solutions were communicated to the user community. In other words, effective dissemination of research results and solutions play a vital role in solving the identified problem.
4. METHODOLOGY AND DATA COLLECTION
Information used in this study was gathered from various research units in the country. Other information sources used were published reports from those units. It should be mentioned that there is no national research body in Lesotho which could have provided a list of all organizations active in research in the country. The researchers had to use many sources to locate such sources. Although, the aim was not to include all research units in this study, such a list could have been very useful both in indicating the number of research organization in the country and for better representation in the sample used. Therefore, information given here do not reflect ideas of other research organizations which researchers in this study could not locate.
Structured interviews were used for collecting information. Interviewees were mainly heads of research divisions or departments in those organizations. All interviewees were asked similar questions. Each interview lasted thirty(30) minutes.
The seven research units consulted were:
- Agricultural Research Division(ARD)- Ministry of Agriculture;
- Institute of Education(I.E.) -National University of Lesotho (N.U.L.);
- Institute of Southern African Studies(ISAS)- N.U.L.;
- Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre(LDTC);
- Ministry of Health(MOH);
- National Teachers Training College(NTTC);
- Sechaba Consultants(SC);
5. DATA ANALYSIS
Descriptive analysis was used to summarize information gathered.
CHARACTERISTICS OF RESEARCH BODIES
The research units under study were categorized by their area of specialization, that is, the subject/discipline they would most likely carry their research on. This is summarized in table below:
6.1 RESEARCH REGISTRAR
Out of seven organizations studied, only three kept research registers and four did not. A research register would normally include both the on-going and completed research, indicating the title, names of researchers and date of completion. Out of the three organizations that kept registers, one gave out copies on requisition and two distributed copies to organizations in their mailing list and other relevant organizations depending on the subject of research. Those who did not keep it showed its usefulness and indicated that plans to have such a register are under way.
6.2. INFORMATION SOURCES AND SERVICES
Out of the seven research units consulted, six had their own libraries or documentation centres where research reports are normally kept. In addition to this, some other research supporting documents are also kept. All the organizations indicated inadequacy of their information sources as they often have to supplement their materials by using other libraries. The National University of Lesotho Library was said to be the most frequently used. Apart from documents gathered nationally, others are received from regional and international bodies like the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and Southern African Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Research (SACCAR). The Agricultural Research Division gets a selective Dissemination of Information(SDI) service on requisition from the CTA.
Only two documentation centres were computerized. The others were using the manual methods to organize, process and store information. In two of those that are not computerized, plans were already under way to have all records automated.
6.3. COOPERATION WITH OTHER RESEARCH BODIES
There seems to be very little cooperation among research units. Six respondents described research cooperation as very minimal. Only personal links seem to have been established by some individuals. All respondents felt a need to join forces with other bodies in order to enhance the state of research in the country. This kind of collaboration would foster among others, sharing of resources such as equipment, expertise and information itself.
Some of these research bodies are members of the regional and international organizations such as the Southern African Development Research Association(SADRA) and SACCAR and CTA, where they get professional help and also share some of their documents.
6.4. DISSEMINATION OF RESEARCH RESULTS
As shown earlier, research registers are distributed to people in mailing lists. Likewise, completed reports are sent using these lists. They are also distributed to other people who have indicated interest. In addition to this, the following tools/methods are employed to disseminate information emanating from research activities.
7.1. INFORMATION SOURCES AND SERVICES
There seems to be an inadequacy of information sources and services that support research and dissemination of results in the country. The number of traditional supplies of information libraries are definitely not enough. The Lesotho National Library Service(LNLS) which is supposed to be the nucleus of a public library service has only three branch libraries country wide. Financial constraints are said to be slowing down the progress of opening other library centres. The existing ones are not adequately stocked due to the same problem. The Government Archives, which could also be very instrumental in gathering research information especially historical is in a very bad shape. It faces space and organizational problems. There is not enough space to house the government archives and some archival documents are kept in the University Archives. It has proved to be very difficult to access these documents as they are not properly organized. The Lesotho National Museum could also play a major role in supporting research, but as Lebotsa(1986:4) said,
The situation is still the same, to date. The information technology structure is very poor in the country. This again, could negatively affect efforts of disseminating research information. Modern communications technologies like the Internet are only used in very few organizations. Chisenga(1996:8) attributes the poor state of connectivity in Lesotho to:
Obviously, without proper technology, speedy dissemination of information cannot be achieved. Information technology would cover a wider audience which is what is very desirable during dissemination of research results.
7.2. COOPERATION AMONG RESEARCHERS(THROUGH THEIR UNITS/MINISTRIES)
There is not enough cooperation among research units with regards to exchange and sharing of research information. This is attributed to the fact that research units do not even distribute research registers amongst each other. Such distribution would alert others of what is being done in their units thereby inviting whatever support those units could render. The fragmentation of research efforts is probably due to the fact that there is no parent body that could foster cooperation among these research units.
7.3. USER INVOLVEMENT
Users of research results who, as defined earlier, are potential benefitors of information gathered from researchers. Researchers showed their efforts to reach out to the users through workshops, seminars, radio, pitsos, etc. Such dissemination activities are done on a small scale because of financial constraints. Translation services add more to this problem as they are often needed, especially for the rural community since most of research is done in English. Disseminating results to users is very important because as Havelock(op cit.) showed, it is only through its dissemination that information can be utilized better.
Following the discussions above, it is recommended that:
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LEBOTSA, M.M. 1986. The state-of-the-art in the field of information supply on a national scale, NUL/DSE workshop on Coordination of Library and Information Services in Lesotho, held in Maseru, Lesotho, 3-7 March, 1986.
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TAWETE, F. K. 1995. Information for teaching and research : the role of academic libraries in Proceedings of the Eleventh Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Libraries, Blantyre, Malawi, 25-29 July, 1994.
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