Africa lagging in scientific research and scholarly publishing

 

Countries that invest in scientific research and scholarly publishing are above others in terms of socio-economic development because scientific research is vital in transforming economies.

Ezra Ondari-Okemwa, a specialist in Information Sciences, thus, believes that scholarly publishing – the free flow of ideas and information ‑ is vital to the process of scientific inquiry or research.

“The free flow of ideas and information is vital to the process of scientific inquiry and in turn to the ability to address economic, environmental and social development issues both in the Sub-Saharan Africa region and globally,” he says.

Ondari-Okemwa adds that scholarly publishing, the norm for disseminating and validating research results, enables research findings of scholars to cross international boundaries to provide strong, positive connections between individual scholars, institutions and nations.

“Such exchanges contribute to the expansion of the global knowledge base to which the Sub-Saharan Africa region is linked.

“Participation in the global arena through scholarly communication may enable the Sub-Saharan Africa region to have access to knowledge and information it needs to succeed in the global economy that is being digitalised rapidly,” says the information specialist.

He goes on to say; “Scholarly publishing is as a result of research and innovation, which may improve the quality of knowledge and information produced by scholars in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.”

Sadly, Sub-Saharan Africa has a low scholarly publishing rate when compared to other regions, both developed and developing and this suggests a problem of knowledge diffusion for the region.

“A low scholarly publication rate in Sub-Saharan Africa suggests a problem of knowledge diffusion for the region and possibly low knowledge generation,” says Ondari-Okemwa.

This low scholarly publication rate, without doubt, is hampering the development of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Because of this, scientific research, which in most cases results in scholarly publishing, also lags behind in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

This is according to the World Bank.

Thus, put together, this may be interpreted to mean a declining global competitiveness of Sub-Saharan African science as a whole, hence a structural problem in the regional system of innovation.

Scholarly publishing in Sub-Saharan Africa faces numerous challenges and they take in technological, socio-political, economic as well as an environmental challenges that do not favour scholarly publishing.

Accordingly, countries within and across the great African continent should propose ways to capitalise on the vast opportunities of enhancing knowledge production and dissemination through scholarly publishing.

This means, according to Ondari-Okemwa, African governments should pay more attention to developing national research systems.

“Africa’s main concern should be how to develop research capacity across the board. The continent should, therefore, pay more attention to developing national research system to effectively capitalise on the vast opportunities of enhancing scientific research and scholarly publishing,” says Ondari-Okemwa.

Research institutes and universities, hubs of scientific research and scholarly publishing, should also be well funded for countries within and across Africa to aim for a scientific revolution.

Furthermore, political will is also of paramount importance for Africa to realise her scientific revolution dream.

This means African leaders should pledge to devote more resources to the development of science and technology, an area that is vital for social and economic development.

Africa must also take numerous advantages of the technological advancement since information communication technology may make it possible for researchers and scholars from the continent to more easily access scholarly publications and publish electronically.

More so, information technology can make it possible for African scholars to serve as peer reviewers electronically.

Considering that knowledge production requires collaboration, scholars from Sub-Saharan Africa should consider a collaborative approach to publishing.

They can co-publish with scholars from other regions and co-publish with colleagues from within the region. As libraries and information resource centres play a critical role in promoting scientific research and scholarly publishing, academic libraries affiliated to institutions of higher learning and other research institutions where most scholars work should consider acquiring books and journals collaboratively so as to cut down on costs.

Additionally, library and information professionals should be equipped with necessary skills for them to be able to help scholars, scientists and researchers to fulfil their mandate of scientific research and scholarly publishing.

The time is now for the African continent to join the rest of the world through scientific research and scholarly publishing.

Therefore, political leaders, scientists, researchers, scholars and policy decision makers in countries within and across the African continent should embrace scientific research and scholarly publishing and use them effectively as developmental tools for socio-economic transformation.

February 2014
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