Winner of Research4Life Library Impact Competition on supporting researchers in Uganda

Contest recognizes the role of librarians in building research capacity in the developing world

Onan Mulumba gives a Research4Life training session for BA students in environmental sciences at Makerere University in Uganda

Onan Mulumba, a librarian at Makerere University in Uganda, was the winner of the Research4Life Library Impact Competition, which was designed to recognize the role of librarians in building research capacity and boosting output among scientists, doctors and policymakers.

Mulumba was chosen from a field of 45 applicants by a judging panel of 12 international experts in research capacity building.

As part of his prize, he has been invited to join the Research4Life Executive Council. In addition, he will receive an all-expenses paid trip to attend the Partners’ General Meeting in Rome in September. His story will become part of a book of case studies that convey the experiences of librarians working on the front lines of Research4Life.

“I am delighted to have been the winner of this competition, I still find it hard for me to believe,” said Mulumba, who is Acting Librarian of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University, in an email. “I must say that Research4Life has made me an asset in the eyes of the people I serve. Everyone looks at me as a resource, and this gives me the courage to seek for all possible ways of serving them better. ‘Toils are never beyond our endurance.’”

In describing the role of Research4Life at his library, he wrote:

Research4Life has significantly boosted teaching and research at Makerere University, and is the main source of reference for both students and faculty. Research4Life databases have also drastically reduced the use of print resources and which has helped to minimize congestion in the libraries. As a result, researchers have come to acknowledge the efforts and roles librarians play in promoting teaching and research at Makerere University.

Excerpts from Mulumba’s winning application

On his role

“I am charged with providing access by creating awareness and conducting trainings about the University Library Resources, majorly the Research4Life resources. In the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, where I am the key librarian, Research4Life is the main resource utilized. I am, therefore, charged with the responsibility of organizing and conducting trainings to undergraduate students of all years and all programs, i.e., Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, Food Science and Technology, Food Nutrition, and Agricultural Extension, among others, (for) Master’s and PhD students, faculty, and visiting researchers and scholars.

Honorable Mention

“An Honorable Mention for a second case study was awarded to Cynthia Kimani, Librarian at the Kenya Medical Research Institute Library. Kimani has been invited to attend the annual Research4Life partner meeting and serve on Research4Life’s newly founded Library Advisory Council, which provides a forum for direct engagement between the Research4Life user community and the partnership. The council aims to give Research4Life’s customers a prominent voice and support the early identification of trends, challenges and opportunities from the research and library communities in developing countries.


“I usually conduct trainings to groups with homogeneous information needs. The groups include students of the different classes and different years (and) the members of staff teaching or conducting research in a particular subject. I usually prepare and conduct trainings to such groups individually, and the interest and participation and in trainings has thus increased. I have also tried to conduct one-on-one training to staff who book me, and to students who come to my office in search for information.”

“We have activities to promote R4L programs; user education to all first year students in their Semester one of University studies, annual exhibitions at College level, and in-semester trainings which are now a mandatory activity even within the College Annual Work-plans. I have engaged most of the academic staff and researchers in the activities, and they have been trained, except a few who have failed to comply citing lack of time.”

“Honestly, I have not yet conducted a training specifically for other librarians, because we are only two librarians in the college, and we have attended multiple trainings together. However, I have always tried to invite the library assistants to be around in many of the trainings and by enthusiasm, they now approach me on individual basis in case they are stuck trying to help out users. This is now yielding some results.”

Before Research4Life

“Before joining Makerere University, I was employed by a High school as a Biology teacher, and by a Non-Governmental Organization as an Entomologist to train rural farmers how to rear Bees (Beekeeping). I was doing some research especially to update my knowledge and skills. However, I was depending mostly on textbooks, and the situation was not easy at all.”

“After joining Makerere University as an Agricultural Librarian trainee we were subjected to several trainings including E-resources Trainings, and they always emphasized that AGORA was the key database for my specialty and I picked interest in it.

“R4L has drastically changed access to scientific information because in the past I used to receive requests for certain print journals and text books but now I receive more requests and calls for password reminders, and access to particular articles where there is no full text access. This is incredible that now more citations in publications by staff and students are from electronic journal articles.

“Being able to access R4L has made me a more relevant person in the academic community because every time a researcher seeks information and I am able to provide then I am "Un-touchable" in the eyes of the users. R4L has enabled Makerere to have an increased number of publications, which has increased its visibility on the web and the rankings in Africa and Worldwide.”


“In the School of Agricultural Sciences there were discoveries of a new Tomato Variety MT56 which is very resistant to Bacterial wilt of tomatoes; bred a sweet sorghum variety for food and Bio fuel production; IMO – Organic Piggery Technology for improved yields at minimum costs; and the “Feed Lot” – a new technology to increase beef production in Uganda, among others.”

Promoting awareness

“I have posted information about Research4Life access to list serves of students and faculty, on notice boards and inside the libraries. We have pasted access log-ins of R4L resources on computers in the Libraries and on tables. We have conducted trainings specifically for R4L and OPAC access. We have promoted R4L at college exhibitions and in seminars. We have advocated for a provision in course units for Information search and management and here R4L resources are prime.”

Challenges in using Research4Life

  • Challenge 1: The information resources in R4L database are to a greater extent aggregated and unclassified. In this I mean that information resources about some of the scientific research areas (are) not consolidated, eg, much as one can access resources through a subject category, some major subjects are not captured and thus information may not easily be retrieved. Such research areas may include Parasitology and Biodiversity. I have tried to peruse through all the journals and have singled some that fit within research areas for the homogeneous groups which I usually train. The trainees have enjoyed displaying lists of journal titles specific to their fields especially when they are not directly categorized by R4L.
  • Challenge 2: Restrictions to full text of some vital articles especially in ScienceDirect. Many users have always approached me on this. With the availability of a Document Delivery Service, all I have done is to train users to utilize the service themselves, rather than me doing it for them all the time. This enables them to solve problems related to (those) restrictions even without my input at that instance.
  • Challenge 3: Slow internet speeds during access. I have tried through the college management to advocate for more bandwidth allocation especially during the times of trainings. I have also advised users to try accessing resources during off peak hours and this has worked very well for the majority. Research4Life trainers should always try to share with us experiences from other institutions and innovations, through E-mails and trainings.

The judging panel

The competition was presided over by an international panel of experts in research capacity building.
  • Barbara Aronson (Switzerland), formerly with the Library of the World Health Organization in Geneva, where she founded the HINARI Programme
  • Gaby Caro (Switzerland), HINARI Technical Officer
  • Gracian Chimwaza (South Africa), Executive Director, Information and Training Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA)
  • Karen Hunter (USA), Senior Vice President, Elsevier
  • Paula Kaufman (USA), Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at the University of Urbana-Champaign
  • Patricia Merrikin (Italy), Head Librarian, FAO David Lubin Library, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
  • Oumy Ndiaye (Sénégal), Distinguished Expert in Communication for Development; former Manager of the Communication Services Department at Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA)
  • Sailas Nyareza (South Africa), Regional Learning Resources Coordinator HIV/AIDS Twinning Center, American International Health Alliance.
  • Irene Onyancha (Ethiopia), Chief, Library and Information Services Section, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
  • Ann Shumelda Okerson (USA), Senior Advisor on Electronic Strategies for the Center for Research Libraries
  • Lenny Rhine (USA), Coordinator, E-library Training Initiative, Librarians Without Borders/Medical Library Association
  • Anne Seymour (USA), Associate Director, Biomedical Library, University of Pennsylvania[/note]


Research4Life ( is a public-private partnership of over 200 international scientific publishers; the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers; Cornell and Yale universities in collaboration with WHO, FAO, UNEP, WIPO and technology partner Microsoft.  Research4Life aims to help attain six of the UNs eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015, reducing the scientific knowledge gap between industrialized countries and the developing world.Since 2001, the four program — Access to Research in Health (HINARI), Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA), Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE) and Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI) — have grown and developed to the point where they now give researchers at more than 6,000 institutions in over 100 developing world countries and territories free or low-cost online access to over 35,000 peer-reviewed international scientific journals, books and databases provided by the world’s leading science publishers.

Elsevier’s contribution

Elsevier is a founding member of Research4Life and contributes more than 25 percent of the content. ScienceDirect provided over 6 million article downloads in 2012 — a 41 percent increase over 2011. The Elsevier Foundation’s Innovative Libraries  in Developing Countries Program provides additional infrastructure-building, medical library needs assessments, preservation of unique research and training. In 2013 all four new grants were to boost information literacy to enable use of Research4Life content.

Related links

Ylann Schemm

Ylann Schemm (@ylannschemm) manages Elsevier’s corporate responsibility program, which focuses on advancing women in science and developing research access in the developing world. She also oversees the Elsevier Foundation’s New Scholars program which supports projects to expand the participation of women in STEM and the Innovative Libraries in Developing Countries program with capacity-building projects in science, technology and medicine. She is the communications team chair for Research4Life, a unique UN-pan publisher partnership to provide free or low cost access to researchers in the developing world. She is based in Amsterdam.

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