Rhodes University: The Rhodes University Library to promote the advancement of the United Nations SDGs through 2023 online research portal

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Rhodes University Library has initiated the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) webpage. It is an online portal project designed to provide the Rhodes University community and the world at large with access to the multidisciplinary research that has been conducted by the Rhodes University research community. The webpage is anticipated to launch in 2023, and it seeks to advance the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The University’s Environmental Sustainability page states that “Rhodes seeks to pursue a policy of environmental best practice and include social and ecological justice considerations in decisions relating to the University’s curricula, research and management policies” the Rhodes University Library’s SDG webpage aims to be a direct contributor to the advancement and awareness of the national and international SDGs.

Rhodes University Library and Information Services Director, Nomawethu Danster, acknowledged that the project initially started with the aim of creating a portal to provide the University community open access to webinars addressing SDG issues that had been conducted by vendors such as Taylor and Francis Elsevier, Wiley and Web of Science. Principal Librarian for the Digital Scholarship division, Debbie Martindale, said that there was an immediate realisation and determination that the portal “could grow into a more meaningful platform which aligns with the University and the Library’s open scholarship endeavours”.

On sharing the initial designs and set-up of the webpage, Martindale explained that it is designed that each SDG goal is designated its own page. Each page will provide access to webinars, research articles, and resources conducted by Rhodes University academics across various disciplines. The research materials will be intentionally and precisely organised to provide information and knowledge about each SDGs. “The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are inherently multidisciplinary and interlinked, hence why we’re not only focusing on one goal. We are looking at all the seventeen goals and extracting the research that is being done across the different Faculties and Departments at Rhodes towards the advancement of each goal,” said Danster.

Martindale asserted that the portal project would not only advance awareness of the SDGs, but would also play an integral role in “promoting Rhodes University’s multidisciplinary SDG research Institutes, Centres and programs as well as enhance the visibility and discoverability of the discipline-specific programmes and researchers”. She said the portal had been built in such a way that the researchers have their own links to the portal through which they will be able to continuously update their respective SDG research to ensure the information available on the webpage is always current and up to date.

Another important aim of the SDG webpage that both Martindale and Danster noted is to promote the publishers and partnerships who are committed to the SDGs, such as the above-mentioned vendors, some of whom have already provided their webinars for future publication and access on the webpage. “The collaborators and researchers have played a critical role in developing the webpage. Therefore, as a result, not only will we be promoting Rhodes SDG research through the portal, but we will be promoting South African and African SDG research to the Global North,” said Martindale.

Rhodes University Library, through the 2023 SDG portal project, aims to contribute to advancing and promoting the awareness of SDGs through knowledge management. Danster proudly proclaimed that Martindale has been able to do this through the development and construction of the portal project, illustrating the intricate role librarians play in improving the outcomes across the SDGs. “As a knowledge manager, Debbie has been able to create a portal which will provide easy and open access to inter-related multidisciplinary SDG research on all the seventeen SDG goals, which is something other institutions have not been able to accomplish yet,” explained Danster.

Research and Innovation Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Clayton said this initiative perfectly aligns with the strategies the University has in place to ensure that “we are a University for the public good” both in the national and international sphere. He further elaborated that the main concerns of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are social needs and environmental needs, are a “common source of research passion and therefore the Library’s portal project hooks directly into the desire of postgraduate researchers to do something good for the planet and for its population”.

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