After several years of civil war in Somalia, collaborations on global health between researchers at seven Somali and five Swedish universities have now been resumed. One part of this work is the launching of the Somali Health Action Journal during the International Open Access Week, which for this year goes under the theme of building structural equity for everyone to produce and access published science. Text by Susanne Sjöberg.
From left: Mohammed Ali Hassan, former medical student at Umeå University, Khalif Bile Mohamud, Somali-Swedish Researchers’ Association, SSRA, Maria Emmelin, Professor from Lund University and secretary of SSRA, Maryaa Qaasim, former Federal Minister of Health, Klas-Göran Sahlén, Associate Professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Global Health at Umeå University. Image: Private.
The Somali Health Action Journal (SHAJ) is the result of a new beginning for the research collaboration that Umeå University together with several other Swedish universities have had with Somalia since the early 1980s. Six years ago, it was time to rekindle the collaborations, and beside seminars, teaching and training activities, research visits and conferences, one of the building blocks has been to support scholarly publication at the Somali universities. The solution was to start the SHAJ on an open publishing platform that the Umeå University Library helps facilitate.
“A journal leads to new and expanded collaborations between researchers in different countries. Both researchers in Sweden and Somalia will learn from this, but there are also other countries faced with similar problems as those in Somalia that can benefit from this new journal,” says Stig Wall, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Epidemiology and Global Health at Umeå University, and one of the initiators of research projects aimed at primary health care in Somalia, previously supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The journal is published in Open Journal Systems (OJS), which is an open source software application for managing and publishing scholarly journals that is used by many journals all over the world. What the library contributes with is to help with the setup and routines as well as certain support throughout the process.
“To publish a scholarly journal is often big business, but open access digital platforms facilitate for new opportunities for independent publications. It feels gratifying that SHAJ can publish online in conjunction with the Open Access Week, particularly since it focuses on equity this year,” says Jan Eklöf, librarian at the Umeå University Library.
The non-profit association for research collaborations between Somalia and Sweden, the Somali-Swedish Researchers’ Association (SSRA), will host the journal. The idea is that the running of the journal will over time be taken over completely by the Somali universities, who are also the formal owners, to increase interaction between academics, their departments, health professionals and decision-makers.
“The support from the Umeå University Library to start and publish a new journal has been decisive. We live in an unequal world, also when it comes to publications,” says Stig Wall.
The chief editor of SHAJ, Khalif Bile Mohamud, is looking forward to the journal being able to disseminate knowledge of Somali health issues more efficiently and hence bridge the gap between research evidence and practical application.
“Somalia faces enormous health research deficits with limited opportunities for research dissemination, which is why there is an urgent need for launching a journal like the SHAJ,” says Khalif Bile Mohamud.
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