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CODESRIA conference on academic journal in Africa

Subject: CODESRIA Conference Announcement - Putting African Scholarly Journals Online: Opportunities, Implications and Challenges - Dakar, Senegal, 6-7 October, 2008

CODESRIA Conference Announcement

Theme: “Putting African Scholarly Journals Online: Opportunities, Implications and Challenges”
Venue: Dakar, Senegal;
Date: 6-7 October, 2008

Among the numerous challenges facing social research in Africa is the lack of visibility for research output. Traditionally, research findings are presented in conferences through conference papers which are subsequently published as articles in scholarly journals, and eventually as books. Presently, it is extremely difficult for researchers in the various social science disciplines to publish in African journals, either because such journals do not exist in their fields, or because those that exist are published very irregularly or have discontinued publication. Rare are African social science journals that are regular, and very few that manage to be published benefit from good dissemination.
The reasons for this situation are first related to a chronic lack of financial resources in higher education and research institutions, and in the professional associations that publish journals, in a context where there are very few commercial scholarly publishers. When these journals manage to be published somehow, only a few copies are produced. Even then, the journals published do not benefit from efficient distribution networks and, besides, suffer from the slow and unreliable African mail systems, resulting in limited distribution that seldom goes beyond the borders of the countries in which the journals are published.
The consequences of such a situation are manifold. Apart from depriving African social research of the means to enhance its visibility nationally and internationally, the situation results in major hindrances to the promotion of African academics and researchers. In fact, owing in particular to the lack or irregularity of these publications, African higher education and research institutions tend to put in place teacher and researcher evaluation systems that privilege publications in scholarly journals published in developed countries. The limited number of articles published by African researchers in so-called “International Journals” is what is taken into account by evaluation tools such as the Sciences Citations Index for measuring the quality and importance of African social research, giving of course a picture that is not in tune with reality.
With the advent of electronic journals since the beginning of the 1990s, new publication opportunities have arisen. Produced and disseminated using ICT facilities readily available today to many African higher education and research institutions, electronic journals offer clear advantages in that they do not involve significant production costs, are not limited in terms of number of pages or use of colours for illustrations, do not entail forwarding costs because they are published on the Web and, besides, are available instantly and at any time wherever there is Internet access. Further more, with the many specialised or non-specialised search engines that index the Web, they are widely referenced and therefore, easy to view, which increases significantly their dissemination and their impact.
Today, very few institutions of higher education and research in Africa currently take advantage of the opportunities offered by electronic journals. For examples, the African Journals Online (AJOL) project only offers 271 titles on-line –including five (5) published by CODESRIA, namely the CODESRIA Bulletin, Africa Development, Afrika Zamani, Identity, Culture and Politics: An Afro-Asian Dialogue and the African Sociological Review – of which 67% come from two countries, Nigeria (125) and South Africa (56). Reasons for the low number and poor knowledge of electronic journals in Africa include ignorance, distrust, defiance, resistance, lack of skills and lack of equipment.
In the light of this situation and its challenges, CODESRIA has deemed it useful to encourage African social scientists actively involved in research, publishers who disseminate the results of such research, and the information professionals who collect, indicate and promote the research, to debate and discuss the different issues raised around electronic journals, in order to better promote their knowledge and development.

To that end, the four sub-themes below have been identified:

  1. Strategic, scientific, individual and institutional considerations: migration from paper to digital forms vs creation of new journals; fully on-line editorial process vs putting on-line the final content; proprietary software vs free software; trust/distrust/defiance towards electronic journals, taking into account vs rejection for the evaluation of researchers, validation process and scientific quality, attitudes, behaviours and motivation of researchers, etc. 
  2. Dissemination and storage methods: complementarity/substitution with paper format, free, restricted or paying access, per case vs subscription-based access, dissemination format (HTML, PDF, XML, etc), referencing (description and indexation), support and sustainability of archiving (paper, CDROM, etc), etc;
  3. Economy of electronic journals: implications in terms of human resources, cost of technical devices, commercial viability, intellectual property and copyrights, alternative copyright (Creative Commons and Copyleft Licences, Design Science License, etc), information as universal public good, publishing market vs knowledge market, etc.
  4. Experience feedback and projects: experience sharing, comparative studies, lessons drawn from successes and failures, projects, etc.

Researchers with an active interest in issues pertaining to the use of information and communication technologies in higher education and research in Africa who wish to be part of the conference are invited to send their abstracts of the papers they wish to present to CODESRIA by a deadline of 7 June, 2008. Authors of abstracts will be notified of the outcome of the selection exercise by 21 July, 2008. Full papers from abstracts that are selected must reach the CODESRIA Secretariat by 7 September, 2008. The participation costs of those whose papers are accepted for presentation at the conference will be covered fully or partly by CODESRIA.

All abstracts and papers should be addressed to:
(Conference on electronic publishing and diffusion),
BP 3304, Dakar CP 18524, Senegal.
Tel.: +221-33 825 98 22/23
Fax: +221-33 824 12 89
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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