The Association of African Universities (AAU) has enlisted the Center for Research Libraries to help develop and implement an initiative designed to disseminate the research products of African scholars. Under the partnership, the Association of African Universities and Center will work together to devise a sustainable economic model and intellectual property management regime for disseminating theses and dissertations produced by scholars at African universities. The program will build upon the foundation of the Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD), a cooperative Association of African Universities initiative comprised of 11 academic institutions in Africa. The initiative is directed by Project Coordinator Mary Materu-Behitsa of the Association of African Universities. The Center’s work on the project is funded by the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, an initiative of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
AAU & DATAD Origins
The Association of African Universities (AAU) is an international non-governmental organization established by a consortium of universities in Africa to promote interchange, contact, and cooperation among university institutions in Africa and encourage increased contracts between its members and the international academic world.
Recognizing that significant intellectual wealth is contained in the graduate theses and dissertations produced by their scholars, several African universities have created databases to preserve, organize, and make discoverable those traditionally unpublished materials. The impetus for integrating and developing these local efforts into a global access system was prompted by the rapid proliferation of the Internet in the mid-1990s and formalized at a 1998 Association of African Universities workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. The initiative first took root as a feasibility study (see www.piac.org/datad), followed by a three-year pilot project that led to DATAD’s launch at the University of Ghana in Accra in April 2003.
The workshop, developed in close collaboration with the Center for Research Libraries, represented the first step in developing a copyright guide for dissertations and other unpublished materials made available through the AAU program and DATAD. It provided an opportunity for current and potential DATAD participants and other stakeholders (e.g., university librarians, faculty, and administrators) to become more familiar with the rights and intellectual property issues peculiar to dissertations, theses, and other forms of “gray literature.” It also functioned as a forum and consensus-building event on prospective practices and policies to govern dissemination of information and content by DATAD.
The workshop providde multiple, authoritative perspectives covering three general subject areas:
- international aspects of copyright
- economics of scholarly communication with special bearing on unpublished materials
- practices adopted by other electronic theses and dissertations projects
Database of African Theses and Dissertations - a searchable database of 15,000-plus records
An E-Forum network has been established on the DATAD Intraspect workspace (http://intraspect.crl.edu) to encourage and facilitate correspondence among workshop presenters and attendees, AAU and DATAD members, and other invited participants.
The forum is designed to solicit diverse perspectives and experiences on the issues and concerns related to publication, distribution, and access to unpublished materials such as dissertations in Africa. Contributions to these topics will help inform the workshop presenters and shape the agenda of the discussions during and after the workshop.
Although the E-Forum is a moderated, private discussion, contributions fom external parties are welcome in areas such as:
- Copyright and intellectual property issues as they affect African nations
- Technical and communications infrastructure currently in place at African universities and libraries
- Interests and needs of the scholarly community with regard to access to academic literature
- Recommended best practices