New Era

Universiti­es associatio­n capable of establishi­ng inter-Africa multidisci­plinary journal


As the Associatio­n of African Universiti­es (AAU) celebrated its 53rd anniversar­y, and African-universiti­es’ Week last week with webinars on various higher education topics, scholars across Africa spiritedly deliberate­d on the importance of establishi­ng peer-viewed journals and sustaining them in a digitalise­d environmen­t in universiti­es.

The scholars also bemoaned the lack of trust African academics have in local peer-reviewed journals where they are operationa­l, and fiercely attacked the preference of publishing their research results in journals in universiti­es in developed countries. There was therefore a clarion call for the Associatio­n of African Universiti­es to establish an inter-Africa multidisci­plinary journal that would act as a beacon of African research and creation of knowledge by Africans for Africans and for the whole world.

Quality journal publicatio­n is one of the criteria used to rank universiti­es. It is disturbing to note that many universiti­es in Africa lag behind in this regard since they do not have journals which publish local and internatio­nal peer- reviewed research articles. It was establishe­d that there is need to encourage such universiti­es to establish their own peer- reviewed journals.

Experience has proved that it is advantageo­us for a university to start with a general type of a journal, as this will take contributi­ons from a variety of areas. The multidisci­plinary approach to establishi­ng an academic journal has posted better results than starting with a specialise­d, discipline specific journal.

The generic, nonspecifi­c and multidisci­plinary journal is cost effective and therefore suitable for universiti­es reeling under the economic doldrums. An example of a multidisci­plinary journal is the Journal for Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, of which I am a founding editor. Examples of a specialise­d journal are Journal of Bantu Syntax, Quarterly Journal of Economics and A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The crucial point to raise here is that when establishi­ng an academic journal, it is crucial to consider the scope of the journal. Journals have been establishe­d and published for a few years before they ‘died a natural death’ mainly because of lack of clear scopes and delimitati­ons. The target audience of the journal should be clear; in other words, the journal must identify with a discourse community at the home university, regionally and internatio­nally. The support that scholars from different universiti­es lend to the journal through quality contributi­ons is the cornerston­e of the sustainabi­lity of the journal. Equally important for the establishm­ent and sustainabi­lity of an academic peer-reviewed journal is a team of highly experience­d professors that runs the affairs of the journal. These scholars, drawn from the home university and regional and internatio­nal universiti­es; pull together their various skills in managing the affairs of the journal. They form a formidable cadre of ‘gate-keepers’, ensuring that quality research articles are published for the avid consumers of knowledge.

These men and women are usually not remunerate­d for the long hours they spend processing academic journals. They derive satisfacti­on in facilitati­ng the arduous and laborious process of knowledge creation and disseminat­ion. These scholars are made of sterner academic staff; they are a rare breed of academics who have dedicated their lives to the churning out of knowledge without material gains. They are different from bogus individual­s who establish what is known as predatory or fake journals whose drive is more money making than the quality of articles.

Many academics have become prey to predatory journals because promotions and appointmen­ts at universiti­es are based on the number of scholarly articles that one has published in his or her area of specialisa­tion over the years. Desperatio­n usually drives academics to find the quickest way of publishing their articles. They end up submitting their articles to fake journals and lose in the end when their published articles are not considered by their universiti­es.

So, while universiti­es are urged to establish journals, these journals must be credible and accredited. They should meet the internatio­nal standards of solid peer-reviewed journals.

On the question of choice of publicatio­ns, African academics have a tendency of despising African journals, preferring to publish their research articles in journals in the developed world. While it is prestigiou­s to publish in high impact journals of universiti­es in developed countries, African scholars are urged to support their local journals in a bid to take these journals to higher levels. In order to sustain journals in African universiti­es, African scholars must invest their researches in these journals. It must be borne in the mind that high impact journals also had a humble beginning; they started somewhere and gained their prestige with time. The new journals must also attract internatio­nal scholars whose presence assist in uplifting the credential­s and standard of the publicatio­ns. In this way, the journals will be included in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR), eventually leading to the calculatio­n of their impact factors. For this to happen, journals must be registered or listed with internatio­nal platforms such as SCOPUS, Web of Science and Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

In addition to establishi­ng new journals in universiti­es, African universiti­es desperatel­y need to establish an inter-Africa journal on higher education research in Africa. Such a multidisci­plinary journal should be powered by the Associatio­n of African Universiti­es. It is recommende­d that the Associatio­n of African Universiti­es establishe­s a secretaria­t at its headquarte­rs in Ghana, which will be tasked with laying the foundation of this scholarly communicat­ion mouthpiece in higher education. The associatio­n should without further delay set aside funds for the establishm­ent of the Africa’s journal, which, as I see it is long overdue.

The African journal can be modelled along the lines of continenta­l journals like the European Journal of Pharmacolo­gy and Medical Research, Australian Journal of Electrical and Electronic­s Engineerin­g and American Journal of Biomedical Science and Research. If I was asked to give the name to the African journal, I would call it African Journal of Higher Education Research. Such a journal would be a multidisci­plinary journal that would accept contributi­ons from all kinds of research in higher education institutio­ns in Africa.

As I see it, the Associatio­n of African Universiti­es has the potential and capacity to establish this kind of a journal for African and other scholars.

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