How Providing Access to Research Helps Address the UN Millennium Development Goals

Posted by Frank McCosker
Managing Director, Global Strategic Accounts

At Microsoft, we are driven by the idea that technology helps enable people to realize their full potential. Our involvement with Research4Life is a great example of how access to technology and the information it can provide helps others do great things. Research4Life is a global partnership formed from a shared vision of providing the developing world with access to leading scientific research information that can help them address the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

This month, representatives from Microsoft, along with several UN organizations, the world’s leading scientific journal publishers, research universities and others met in New York City for the annual partners meeting to discuss the past, present and future of this multi-sector initiative. The passion and commitment of this group, who often volunteer their time and talents on top of their day jobs, was evident throughout the meeting, which was well timed as world leaders met at the Millennium Development Goals Summit during the UN General Assembly.

Research4Life aims to grant access to top research and academic journals in the fields of environment, agriculture and health to institutions in developing countries either for free or for a fraction of the normal costs. Microsoft is the technology partner in Research4Life in what has quickly become a dynamic partnership between – the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO), leading academic publishers and Yale and Cornell Universities. 

The initiative was launched in 2002 to help universities and research organizations in developing countries that are often not able to afford peer-reviewed journals from the developed world – research necessary for tackling some of the most pressing local challenges.

Research4Life’s breadth and focus directly address six of the eight MDGs, but particularly MDG #8 which calls for a global partnership for development. I firmly believe that MDG #8 is one of the bedrocks of the entire MDGs vision. It represents the UN reaching out to the private sector and acknowledging the importance of us working together. Research4Life is an important example of how public-private partnerships can have a tangible multiplier effect across multiple MDGs, such as ending poverty and hunger, ensuring environmental sustainability and combating disease. 

Our involvement in Research4Life is an example of how Microsoft’s commitment to apply technology, where it has a tangible impact, can help address the Millennium Development Goals. By building partnerships like Research4Life which draw on efforts from multiple sectors of society, we can support the social and economic development need to achieve the MDGs.

Below are several example of how access to leading academic journals, by researchers in developing countries, is fostering socially, economically and environmentally sustainable development. 

  • UNEP is lead sponsor for OARE, Research4Life’s environmental channel providing access to more than 3000 scientific journals on topics ranging from pollution to zoology to environmental law and policy. In Kenya’s Rift Valley, researchers using OARE in the multi-disciplinary SUMAWA research effort have developed solutions like biosand filters and livestock troughs to achieve a more sustainable watershed for the Njoro River. [Watch the video or download the PDF]
  • FAO has taken a lead in sponsoring the AGORA channel of Research4Life, which provides access to over 1200 high quality international journals covering agriculture, fisheries, food, nutrition, veterinary science and related biological, environmental and social sciences. INERA (Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles), Burkina Faso’s leading institute for agricultural and environmental research, has developed and disseminated a microdosing fertilization technology that helps local farmers maximize production and use far less fertilizers. [Watch the video]
  • HINARI, supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), provides access to over 7000 peer-reviewed journals covering medicine, nursing and related health and social sciences. In Vietnam, the Bach Mai Medical Center has built one of the country’s best medical libraries after benefitting from free access to HINARI. The hospital has expanded its capacity and now employs 800 doctors and supports over 2,200 patients. [Watch the video]
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