Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Scholarly and patent literature as a public good to inform problem-solving in Africa feat. The Lens

This session is part of the AfricArXiv Webinar Series on Open Science for the Discoverability of African Research.

Published onDec 04, 2023
Scholarly and patent literature as a public good to inform problem-solving in Africa feat. The Lens


Cambia ( is a non-profit social enterprise creating new tools, technologies, and paradigms to promote change and enable innovation. Our mission is to democratize innovation: to create a more equitable and inclusive capability to solve problems using science and technology. Our institutional ethos is built around an awareness of the need and opportunity for local commitment to achieving lasting solutions to food security, agriculture, public health, and environmental challenges.

As one of Cambia’s key initiatives, The Lens ( serves global patent and scholarly knowledge as a public resource to make science- and technology-enabled problem-solving more effective, efficient, and inclusive. As a project of the social enterprise Cambia, The Lens is committed to connecting the actors who combine their efforts to make innovation have a social impact. 
The Lens believes that patents and scholarly metadata are knowledge sources from which innovation actors can create technology landscapes, literature reviews, and decision-support insights to de-risk their own investments of time and resources.
The Lens exists to enable more participation in innovation to solve more problems faster.  The Lens believes its existence has a “social aikido” effect on other stakeholders in the ecosystem to push them to contribute more to innovation and impact.  

Amongst the key strengths and proof of concept for this project are the Lens Reports measuring and showcasing the potential societal impact of the scholarly works produced and disseminated.

Watch the recording

The Slides are available at 10.60763/africarxiv/7

Scholarly and patent literature as a public good to inform problem-solving in Africa

Speaker profiles

Mark Garlinghouse

Director, Business Development @The Lens

Mark Garlinghouse is responsible for business development at The Lens. He joined The Lens in 2019 to support its transition to financial sustainability. Mark has over 25 years of experience in the information industry, working with Information Handling Services (now S&P Global Engineering Solution) and the Institute for Scientific Information/Thomson Reuters (now Clarivate) in various business development and leadership roles.

Aaron Ballagh

Manager, Scholarly Content @The Lens

Aaron is the Scholarly Content Manager for The Lens. Starting his career in fisheries research, Aaron moved into research information management when he joined the Research Services team at James Cook University as a research data and systems analyst. He then joined the Research Services Division at The Australian National University working on the university’s research information systems to analyze and model research performance. As research data manager, Aaron submitted the Excellence in Research for Australia submission for ANU before joining Springer Nature as data product manager for the Nature Index.

Questions that were addressed during the session

  1. How does The Lens contribute to making scholarly and patent literature a public good, and how can this contribute to problem-solving in Africa?

    >> Even the best problem solvers need knowledge as part of their innovation process. Without, there are significant barriers to accessing information about patents and scholarly works. guides users to not only have access to this important knowledgebase but also be able to understand that knowledge by seeing how any knowledge artefact sits in the innovation record and linking that information in a way that helps users to understand it.

  2. In what ways does The Lens facilitate access to scholarly and patent

    literature, and how can this accessibility be leveraged to address specific challenges faced by African scholarly communities?

    >> The platform is open - open for users to discover and analyze scholarly and patent literature to answer the research or business questions that they have. Our observation is that scholarly communities in Africa, like many other parts of the world, encounter significant obstacles accessing foundations of knowledge that, without The Lens, are only available from closed, proprietary tools that do not encourage users to re-use and share their analyses. Using for open literature reviews and technology landscapes provides a roadmap for researchers to “stand on the shoulders of giants” and build new ideas based on those foundations.

  3. How has the use of scholarly and patent literature through The Lens platform impacted innovation and problem-solving initiatives in Africa?

    >> I expect that our users know the answer to this question better than we do! We actively encourage stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem to use to guide their decision making throughout the innovation process - from decisions about research focus for individual researchers to decisions about research funding from the institutes that manage that process.

  4. What role does open access to scholarly and patent literature play in fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing among African researchers and innovators on The Lens platform?
    >> For The Lens, open is important because it supports FAIR(E)*. For us, open and FAIR mean the user is in charge. Users can choose to make their search results and collections public or they can choose to make those private. Open enables sharing when you choose to share to support collaboration on the users terms.

    *FAIR(E): Findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. The Lens adds (E): Enabling to create faire, or “to do” in the French language. Information that is enabled can be used by researchers because it is linked to related information. Information for action is one of the key ideas behind the architecture of The Lens.

  5. Can you provide examples of successful problem-solving initiatives in Africa that have been influenced or supported by The Lens, and how has the availability of literature as a public good played a crucial role in these initiatives?
    >> While we believe we are still at early stages of adoption by researchers in Africa, in 2023 we have seen a 20% increase in the number of users accessing from IP addresses in Africa. We welcome the opportunity to work with groups on specific innovation and problem-solving projects. Please get in touch!

The Lens supporting African research discoverability

Related resources

Lens Profiles;
Lens for Institutions;

ORCID feat. The Lens;

Enabling Value featuring The Lens

About the webinar series

This webinar was co-organized by UbuntuNet Alliance and Access 2 Perspectives as part of the ORCID Global Participation Program.

ORCID is the persistent identifier for researchers to share their accomplishments, such as research articles, data, etc with funding agencies, publishers, data repositories, and other research workflows.

AfricArXiv is a community-led digital archive for African research communication. By enhancing the visibility of African research, we enable discoverability and collaboration opportunities for African scientists on the continent as well as globally.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?