Background of the study
The goal of health for all by the year 2000 had become a mirage by the end of the last century. This was a set objective for global health equity that was endorsed by the World Community at the Alma-Ata conference (Russia) on Primary Health Care in 1978. Twelve years after the set date, the objective still proved difficult to achieve due mainly to world health disparities. The present global health disparities are the result of uneven progress in health and development. An aspect of this disparity was shown in the World Health Organization report (WHO, 2004) that people in the developed world are seen to enjoy an average life expectancy of 87 and 91 years for males and females respectively. But that about 1.6 billion people of the world’s 6.8 billion population living in the least developed countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America die prematurely at 47 and 57 years for males and females respectively. The short life cycle in these areas is due to the burden of avoidable illness and diseases and this condition calls for immediate intervention and planning.
With regards to the development of interventions to deal with a wide range of diseases and illnesses, science has made significant contributions. From the time of Hippocrates, humanity has struggled to grasp the fundamental principles of science and apply them to human health. Thus, from Leonardo da Vinci’s groundbreaking sketches of the human body to James Lind’s studies of scurvy, from John Snow’s broad street pump to Joseph Lister’s discovery of antiseptics and from Wilhelm Roentgen’s x-rays to Frederic Banting’s discovery of insulin, science, and medical science in particular, has an impressive history of identifying and analyzing problems, making diagnoses, articulating prescriptions and mounting effective responses.
The history of medical science has revolutionalized people’s approach to public health. The World Health Organization (2004) report accepted the fact that medical science has led to dramatic improvements in health worldwide but also assumed that all is not yet well. It showed that disparities and inequities in health remained major development challenges in the present time. This is because Human Immuno Virus / Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Malaria and Dengue fever have continued to wreak havoc, new foes like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Avian Flu Viruses appear, yet old scourges like Leprosy and Tuberculosis have remained. As a way of bridging the health gap between the developed and the developing countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) ministerial arm identified the need and the importance of medical science research as a channel for providing tools for improved health and development by marking out the problems, developing new and effective interventions, empowering individuals and communities and informing policy and action in public health. Indisputably therefore, there is need for research in the health systems of all nations in order to save humanity, poor and rich, from the present day scourges that are quietly ravaging world communities.
Research has no one definition because there is more than one kind of research. Howard and Sharp (1983) defined research as seeking through methodical processes to add to bodies of knowledge by the discovery or elucidation of non-trivial facts, insights and improved understanding of situations, processes and mechanisms. Mouly (1978) stated that research is best conceived as the process of arriving at dependable solutions to problems through the planned and systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data. The National Health Research Ethics Committee, Nigeria (http://www.nhrec.net) provides that research is a systematic investigation including, development, testing and evaluation of methods designed to establish or contribute to a generalizable knowledge. This definition went further to classify research into therapeutic and non-therapeutic procedures. In this study, research is seen as a systematic step or provable conduct taken to find answer or solution to an envisaged problem.
These general definitions suggest that there are at least two major types of research. One of these is basic research while the second one is applied research (Powell and Connaway, 2004). Basic research is primarily interested in deriving new knowledge and is at most only indirectly involved with how that knowledge will be utilized in a specific, practical or real problem. Applied research on the other hand encompasses a variety of specific research techniques such as systems analysis and operations research. It emphasizes the solving of specific problems in real situations. The library has a central role to play in both of these two types of research. This central role is the provision of research information resources, which are the ingredients needed to conduct research.
Research, whether basic or applied in nature, has relevance in human society. One of the major reasons for research is the advancement of knowledge. Scientific research is designed to lead one from the known to the unknown. This requires that such research goes beyond experience and common sense, thereby promoting knowledge advancement and the progress of mankind. Research is also useful in enabling man to relate more effectively to his environment, accomplish his purposes and resolve conflicts facing him. As for Powell and Connaway (2004), research provides the field to test the various myths, assumptions, rules-of-thumb and conventions in all professions; it links concepts which have been proven through testing to be valid and thereby establish principles and theories on which services can be based. They also posited that research builds a foundation for evidence-based practice. It helps to solve professional problems, develop tools and methods for analysis of organizations, services and behaviour. Research helps to determine costs and benefits of services as well.
The ultimate benefit of research lies not only in the generation of new knowledge but in the translation of knowledge into technologies, interventions and strategies effectively and appropriately delivered to the poor. Presently medical science research processes are being pursued within the context of contemporary knowledge, good ethics, effective policy, adequate resources and international cooperation. Thus far, advances in medical science research and scientific knowledge have brought about development and have also led to the discovery of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices that have improved health worldwide (Lansang and Dennis, 2004).
The World Health Organization (2006) expressed the view that a substantial share of the unnecessary illness and early deaths in the developing world can now be prevented, treated, or alleviated by sound policies and action using strategies and technologies that exist as a result of age long research activities. The organization presumes that medical science research (a systematic step or provable conduct taken to find solution, with regards to use of natural or synthetic plants and animals properties to an envisaged health problem), is needed to guide and accelerate the application of the existing knowledge and technologies in diverse settings around the world. The presumption is that with genomics (study of gene sequences in living organisms) and proteomics (application of evolving technologies to analyze gene products) revolutions underway, more impressive research-driven innovations may be on, since there is need for interventions to fight communicable and non-communicable diseases; a vaccine for AIDS or pandemic influenza; a new treatment for tuberculosis; cures for cancer, heart disease and diabetes; better methods to prevent and diagnose sexually transmitted infections. Medical science research is also needed in order to discover fresh strategies and new tools required to tackle difficult problems for which current knowledge is inadequate.
The dynamic shifts taking place in the patterns of disease require a capability to monitor change and target interventions for the highest priority problems. This implies that just as oral rehydration therapy for watery diarrheas came from research undertaken in South Asia about twenty years ago (WHO, 2006), research is urgently needed on a worldwide basis to find better and lower-cost means of dealing with many health problems for which existing knowledge does not provide effective solutions. Research in the medical sciences is needed to develop approaches that will sustain health progress and overcome health disparities. In the view of Kabir and Holmgren (2005), the development and implementation of evidence-based health care policy and practice depends on research that addresses the needs of the local population. They maintained that all countries, including the least developed need some capacity for analysis and research. Areas where such current researches are needed in medical science include a sustainable health financing system; achieving universal access to safe, effective and affordable interventions and developing a reliable health information system.
In spite of the fact that billions of dollars have been used before and are being presently earmarked for global research in medical science, there is still great need for more research effort since it provides a partial answer to human health problems. This may have informed the call by Obasanjo (2005), that all African leaders should accept the challenge of improving the health sector by supporting medical science research in the continent. Perhaps the call may have achieved something in the West Coast of the continent as a body called Programme Regional Sante en Afrique de l’Ouest (PRSAO) meaning West African Regional Programme for Health was initiated almost immediately by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with support from the European Union (EU). The body is charged with the coordination and harmonization of health policies in the region, building of capacities to fight against cross border epidemics, developing regional functions for health research/training and strengthening cooperation and exchange of information and experience on the aspects of health et cetera (www.prsao.org). Since research programmes seem not to solve human problems on their own, there is need for human commitment in the provision of all types of resources relevant to research, and managerial skills to ensure success of research results in medical research institutes. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2006) reported that efforts are being advanced by ECOWAS towards closing the huge knowledge gap in the health issues of the rich and the poor countries of Africa.
Institutes devoted to research activities began as a result of the industrial revolution of the late 18th through the 19th century in Europe and America. In Nigeria, historical records have it that the first set of research institutes in the country was established during the colonial period (Aluko-Olokun, 1999; Barrow, 2002). The essence of establishing these institutes was to make in-depth enquiries and discoveries into the unknown areas in the field and perhaps to ensure sustainable provision of adequate raw materials for industries. The growth of these institutes in the country was as a result of the realization and acceptance of the need for information in specific subject fields like Medicine, Agriculture and Engineering. Thus most of the early research institutes reflected the colonial government’s interest in the investigation of tropical medicine, agriculture and geology. One of the early medical science research institutes established by the colonial government in the country was the National Department of Veterinary Research, Vom, in today’s Plateau State which was set up in 1924. This institute is known today as the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI). The Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR) was set up in 1947 as West African Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (WAITR) with its headquarters located in Kaduna (Aguolu, 1977). The institute has research interest in two diseases of economic importance; the African Trypanosomiasis and Onchocerciasis. Both diseases still remain obstacles to good public health, poverty alleviation and agricultural development. The establishment of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Lagos was possible because of the presence at Yaba- Lagos, of the Yellow Fever Commission of the International Health Division of Rockefeller Foundation of New York (Obaka, 1985).
Other similar health-based research institutes came in later and these include the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja. The institute was established in 1989 as a result of an agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers’ Group of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN). The institute has interest in drugs’ development and formulary. The latest of the research institutes is the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Lagos. It was established in the late 1990s to actualize the critical and strategic mandate of researching, developing, documenting, preserving and promoting Nigerian’s natural medicines, defined as traditional (indigenous) health care systems, medications and non-medication healing arts with a view to integrating these into the nation’s national health care delivery systems.
The research institutes in the country have major functions of initiation and coordination of research programmes, provision of research requirements and management of human and material resources. According to Kibua and Oyugi (2005), the research institutes generally support research by:
- Formulating policy guidelines on research expectations of their specialized area.
- Managing human and financial resources available for research programmes.
- Capacity building (in terms of conferences, seminars, workshops and training).
- Serving as a link between the government and stakeholders.
- Creating an enabling channel for intellectual inventions/growth.
- Documenting research results and information synthesis etc.
The research libraries of these institutes are normally charged with some roles in order to ensure that the institutional mandates are achieved. The roles for the libraries could include:
- Planning and organizing a research and information centre necessary to meeting the information needs of researchers in the research and development tasks of the parent organization;
- Establishing close and continuous contacts with all researchers and other users of the services so that their interest profiles are identified and properly catered for;
- Providing policy guidelines for the administration of the research library;
- Developing routine methods for the discharge of these services (Christianson, 1980).
Research libraries in the health sector, as in other fields are conventionally the custodians of literature containing information that is relevant to research and useful to the people. The importance of information and library resources to individuals and the society in particular are overwhelming as remarked by Mahathir (2001). Dalrymple (2003), and Lansang and Dennis (2004) agreed that the central function of providing a pool of information resources to support both basic and applied research is presumably the role of the library in enhancing the research productivity of the research institutes. To achieve this supportive role effectively, there is need to have well-coordinated development of dynamic and comprehensive resource information in our medical research institutes’ libraries which will in turn enhance productivity. These library resources are generally defined as all resources in form of print and non-print including the traditional tools and the modern information and communications technology facilities (electronics) useful for information synthesis, dissemination and storage. Dike (1993) listed them to include reference resources (like dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, manuals etc) which are used to refer to specific topics or items of information and can answer questions involving definitions, about, formulae, descriptions, spellings, abbreviations, or background knowledge and periodical resources, which appear in regular intervals to give current information on general issues or in a given field of study. Examples are newspapers, journals, magazines and proceedings. There are also the information and communications technology resources (commonly called the electronic resources) including computers, used in typesetting, printing and storage of documents; fax machines (used in the transfer of mails); CD-ROM (used in the storage of written documents or pictures); photocopiers, internet resources and scanners (used in the duplication of photos and printed documents).
Research libraries, including those in scientific and technical areas like medical science, have collections that are largely in the traditional format of books, journals, technical reports, patent documents and reference works. These resources are central to research since they contain information that is required in carrying out research activities. Researchers access, distill and utilize the information from these library resources for development of ideas and new products. The differences in these resources are basically the information content they bear and perhaps, their formats. Thus such differences determine their users, applications and relevance. Some of them give a lead to use of other resources, some transmit ready-made information and some resources are used to manage existing information.
Some challenges in sustaining the roles of the research libraries have been reported by Ehikhamenor (1983), Asamoah-Hassan (2000) and Barrow (2002). The major part of the challenges is availability of library resources to support research activities. Availability here encompasses accessibility and usefulness of the resources to the needy at the right time and place. The needy, with regards to this study are users of library resources who expect that the contents or application of the resources would add value to their research endeavours.
Be this as it may, how these research institutes and their libraries are able to perform these functions determines their rating, with special emphasis on the productivity level of the staff. The institutes’ employees are expected to progress in rank by evidence of peer reviewed publications (as in Nigeria) or other products bearing intellectual input; they are employed based on academic attachment and seen to be conducting research in their area of academic specialty in the parent organization. Today, emphasis is placed on current and up-to-datedness of resources, but retrospective materials that are pre-determined by need and availability are very relevant, especially in the present era that is powered by information in all its ramifications.
On the other hand the productivity being discussed here, is defined as gains or output obtained for the use of a certain input (human or material resources) in a research process. It depends on how efficient the institutes are in initiating, coordinating and managing the resources at their disposal to earn a maximum result. Essentially, productivity is a ratio to measure how well an organization converts input resources (labour, materials, machines etc.) into goods and services. Argyris (2005) had shown that number of publications and the impact factor of journals where research results are communicated are accepted estimates of the quantity and quality of research productivity, especially in an academic environment. In a core research setting, productivity is considered by factors like number of products on shelf, number of registered patents and publications communicated in peer-reviewed journals (Halil and Darrell, 1998).
In a research organization, the human resources are the staff while the material resources include the library resources, laboratory equipment and other physical objects required in conducting research. Therefore, research productivity is speculatively being complimented by library resources, facilities and equipment available for research in a research establishment. Since library resources are considered relevant to research productivity, the essence of this study is to examine the relationship between availability of library resources and research productivity in Nigerian research institutes with particular reference to federal medical research institutes located in Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos and Plateau areas of the country.
Statement of the problem
Research in the medical sciences is necessary for the attainment of quality health care that is accessible to all who need it. Fundamental to this vision are the supporting information resources and an acceptable pattern of delivering information where and when needed and in a form that will increase use. A good number of health researchers and health care administrators recognize the importance of information to excellent and value-added research results. Since libraries are channels where information needs of researchers are provided, the establishment and management of libraries are understood to be central to medical science research institutes in many countries of the world including Nigeria. It is assumed that technical information available in these resources would aid researchers through their research activities by providing information that would contribute positively on research initiatives and findings and as well enhance general productivity of both the researcher and the organizations.
However, productivity in medical science research seem not to be providing the desired result since mortality rate and disease profile of Nigeria continue to grow higher on daily basis. It is difficult to say if availability of library resources has any contribution to this challenge or whether there could be some expected leverage the information resources could provide to enhance research productivity in the country. These gaps cause a necessity for this study. More so, pre research discussions point to the fact that research libraries in Nigeria seem not to have adequate resources to support medical science research in the country and if this could be true, it would lead to poor research productivity in the population being covered by the study. Nonetheless, the issue of tackling health problems is paramount in today’s world and particularly Nigeria because the country has a huge population and is the centre of economic activities in Africa. So a continued devastation of the country by diseases and preventable illnesses could spell doom for the continent and this is unacceptable.
This unattended gap in library science research about identifying the relationship of library resources and research productivity in the medical institutes in Nigeria is where the study of availability of library resources and research productivity is focused and wants to fill. Thus, the question being investigated is; what are the available library resources in Nigerian medical research institutes and what is their relationship with research productivity in these research organizations?
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship existing between availability of library resources and research productivity in the Nigerian medical science research institutes. Specific objectives are to investigate:
- the availability of library resources for medical science research activities in the institutes under study.
- the extent to which researchers have access to these library resources in the medical research institutes under study.
- the areas where library resources in these institutes are applied.
- the extent of research productivity in these institutes.
- the relationship between available library resources and research productivity in the institutes under study.
- the problems encountered in the provision of library resources in these institutes.
- the strategies for improving the provision of these resources in the population under study.
The following questions were framed to guide the study.
- What are the available resources in the libraries of the medical science research institutes under study?
- To what extent are these resources accessible to researchers in these research institutes?
- In what areas are these resources applied in the institutes covered by the study?
- What is the extent of research productivity in the institutes under study?
What is the relationship between the library re