Why is research from Africa invisible?
Date and Start Time 29 June, 2017 at 09:00
African higher education is changing, knowledge production increasing. African publishing is central to the future of African studies. What does this mean for research output, libraries and collaborations with the North? What interventions are there to address the low profile of African research?
The African higher education landscape is changing: there are more universities and students. There is evidence of increased knowledge production including through non-traditional avenues. Funding is being diversified. Education is re-gaining priority. There are debates about the kinds of knowledge being prioritised. Infrastructure is improving, e-resources are coming. The post-independence universities are reconstructing themselves, though differently from in the 1960s/70s.
African publishing is central to the future of African studies - what does this mean for research and education resources, for journals, books, libraries, repositories, archives, publishers, across Africa? For collaborations with institutions in the North?
Perennial problems persist: market dominance by Northern publishers, book donation distorting local production, piracy, barriers to access. There remains a lack of resources for the infrastructure supporting knowledge production: IT, digital printing facilities and distribution. Academic libraries, journals and institutional publishers remain weak. And beyond - the influence of Impact Factors and Google Scholar; the future of peer review; the consultancy culture; brain drain; curtailment of academic freedom; the challenges of language; distortions in academic reward systems in both South and North privileging the North.
Whilst fundamental solutions are plainly necessary, what examples of interventions are there to address the low profile of African research? Academic collaborations, training for publishers and librarians, prizes, locally-authored books, new regional journals, repositories and digitization, Open Access?
This panel welcomes proposals on these topics from those active in research and practice in areas of knowledge production and dissemination in relation to Africa and African studies.
Discussant: Lester Isaacs (Sales & Marketing Manager at NISC Publishers), Tom Odhiambo (Co-Editor of Eastern African Literary & Cultural Studies)
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Improving access to books in Africa: an initiative
In Africa, Northern-published books are expensive. The UK & US Associations of African studies are discussing convincing their members to offer rights to African publishers, so improving the outputs of African publishing and, as an access initiative, redressing the low profile of African research.
In Africa, Northern-published books remain expensive and discounts are not high enough to make books affordable. Even with high discounts being offered by Northern publishers to African booksellers, the end prices are affordable for very few. The Associations of African Studies in the UK and US are sympathetically considering these issues, in particular the option of convincing their members to reserve their rights for offer to African publishers when negotiating contracts with their Northern publishers. In that way scholars would be making it relatively easier for African publishers to acquire rights. As an access initiative to improve the outputs of African publishing and the availability of books in the continent, this represents a necessary intervention to address the low profile of African research.
In addition, it would redress the danger otherwise that Northern researchers are simply extracting 'raw materials' from the continent for production and consumption in African Studies in the North, with research in/from Africa remaining 'invisible'.
Open access publications of the universities of Burkina Faso: analysis of impact and international visibility
Two major collections of dissertations and theses defended at the universities of Burkina Faso have been made available open access.Access data analysis shows the visibility and the impact on the Internet of scientific documents produced by African Institutions.
Two major collections of dissertations and theses defended at the University of Bobo Dioulasso and the University of Ouagadougou 1 have been made available open access on the Internet.
The data analysis of accesses available via the host server makes it possible to produce several indicators concerning the impact and the international visibility of the available documents.
We will present the temporal and geographical distribution of the consultations, the specific frequencies for each document, the nature of the questions, the impact of the search engines.
These results seem to show that by making available on the Internet scientific documents produced by African institutions their visibility and impact are demonstrable with the data collected by the server.
Comparison of these data with those available for the open access documents of the French Institute for Development (IRD) show that the levels of consultation for scientific publications from "North" and "South" countries are quite similar.
Mentorship, Library Access, and Writing Workshops: Elements of the University of Michigan's African Presidential Scholars (UMAPS) Program and the Publishing Careers of its Alumni
Eight years of data on the publishing careers of over 120 Africa-based scholars who participated in the University of Michigan’s African Presidential Scholars program are analyzed to track the program’s effect on the publication venues, author-constellations and working partnerships of its alumni
This paper takes up the question of potential interventions to address the low profile of African research by looking at a case study of a "collaboration with an institution in the North." The University of Michigan's African Presidential Scholars (UMAPS) program was established to provide early-career faculty working at African universities with dedicated time and space for writing and publishing, during a six-month sabbatical at the University of Michigan (U-M). Core aspects of the program are that each scholar is paired with a U-M faculty mentor and a dedicated librarian, participates in a tailored course on academic writing, and is provided with ongoing access to the U-M library, continuing after return to the home university. These specific program elements were put into place to address and counteract the various related problems that lead to a serious underrepresentation of Africa-based scholars in international scholarly journals. Since its inception in 2008, the UMAPS program has hosted over 120 Africa-based scholars working in a wide variety of disciplines--including "book disciplines" and those were articles are the norm (either single-authored or multi-author). The central analysis of this paper pertains to the publishing careers of alumni of the UMAPS program, both before and after their UMAPS residency. It relies on a wealth of data on the publication venues, author-constellations, and working partnerships that these scholars have engaged in prior to their time at U-M and how these may have changed afterwards.
Intellectual Accountability in Africa -The Expected Roles and Contributions of the African Citation Index
The primary objective of this paper is to discuss the concepts and justification for the African Citation Index, experiences in its construction and deployment as well as initial results.
The primary objective of this paper is to discuss the concepts and justification for the African Citation Index, experiences in its construction and deployment as well as initial results. African scholarship is generally known to be not as visible as one would expect; yet African scholars do research in various fields and their results are published in various sources. One of the strategies the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (CODESRIA) has adopted in addressing this dilemma is the construction of an African Citation Index. Since 2006 CODESRIA has been investing in the construction of a citation index that is specifically focused on knowledge produced in Africa. This index was considered very essential in view of the notorious low representation of research carried out in Africa in world class databases, subsequent low level of access and use of publications from Africa, often on account of their low quality. However, these papers have contents and address issues specific to African developmental and other matters and therefore deserve to be organized for the purpose of assessing progress in knowledge production in the region. In collaboration with Indian Citation Index, CODESRIA achieved the construction of the African Citation Index in October 2016, using initial data obtained from five CODESRIA journals containing 450 articles spanning from 2012 to 2016. Data entry, with the goal of covering the entire region, is currently ongoing in the Council.
African Journals and African Publishers: Challenges of the Global Knowledge Economy and Possibilities of Co-Publishing
Exploring the place of African-based journals that address the multidisciplinary study of Africa within the global knowledge economy and the possibilities of co-publishing.
This paper opens up conversation about the place of African-originated and African-based journals that address the multidisciplinary study of Africa within the global knowledge economy - how they are viewed, valued, accessed, and contributed to. It addresses the irony of Northern journals about Africa more often than not being considered more central to African Studies research than those that emanate from the continent. It also questions why African titles are typically framed as local or regional resources, but not global. The paper will be co-presented by an international publisher and a South African based co-publisher, using reflections and case studies around tailored African co-publishing relationships to discuss ways in which the partnerships have made an impact on publications from the continent while providing learning experiences for all parties. The potential of collaborations will be explored, as well as some challenges, while focusing on the place of the African publisher. Not only, of course, do Africans do research and publish, often against a backdrop of many challenges, but Africans are publishers too.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.