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Seeking Impact and Visibility: Scholarly Communication in Southern Africa

Published Date: 20/05/2014

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African scholarly research is relatively invisible globally because even though research production on the continent is growing in absolute terms, it is falling in comparative terms. In addition, traditional metrics of visibility, such as the Impact Factor, fail to make legible all African scholarly production. Many African universities also do not take a strategic approach to scholarly communication to broaden the reach of their scholars’ work.


To address this challenge, the Scholarly Communication in Africa Programme (SCAP) was established to help raise the visibility of African scholarship by mapping current research and communication practices in Southern African universities and by recommending and piloting technical and administrative innovations based on open access dissemination principles. To do this, SCAP conducted extensive research in four faculties at the Universities of Botswana, Cape Town, Mauritius and Namibia. SCAP found that scholars:


o    carry heavy teaching and administrative loads which hinder their research productivity• remain unconvinced by open access dissemination

o    find it easier to collaborate with scholars in the global North than in the rest of Africa

o    rarely communicate their research with government

o    engage in small, locally-based research projects that are either unfunded or funded by their universities

o    produce outputs that are often interpretive, derivative or applied due, in part, to institutional rewards structures and funding challenges

o    do not utilise social media technologies to disseminate their work or seek new collaborative opportunities.


All of these factors impact Africa’s research in/visibility at a time when scholarly communication is going through dramatic technical,legal, social and ethical changes.


Seeking Impact and Visibility shares the results of SCAP’s research and advocacy efforts. It not only analyses these four universities’ scholarly communication ecosystems, but illuminates the opportunities available for raising the visibility of their scholarship. It concludes with a series of recommendations that would enhance the communicative and developmental potential of African research.


This study will be of interest for scholars of African higher education,academically-linked civil society organisations, educationally affiliated government personnel and university researchers and managers.



Tables and figures vii

Abbreviations viii

Project group xi

Acknowledgements xiii

Executive summary 1



Chapter 1. Programme overview 9

Scholarly in/visibility 11

Open access for development 14

Technology and capacity 15

Project description 16



Chapter 2. Project components and methodology 19

Selection of pilot sites 19

The principal investigation (PI) team 21

Methodology 22

Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) 22

CHAT principles 24

Change laboratories 24

Research components 25

Expansive learning and change/advocacy 26

Research strands 28

Research and communication practice 28

Values 30

Impact 32

Cost-benefit 33

Implementation initiative 33

Integration and analysis of data 34

Conclusion 35



Chapter 3. The Southern African university context 37

Southern Africa 37

History 38

Demographics 38

Funding 38

Human capital 39

Infrastructure 39

Research 40

Management 41

University of Botswana 42

History 42

Demographics 42

Funding 43

Human capital 44

Infrastructure 44

Research 44

Management 45

University of Cape Town 46

History 47

Demographics 48

Funding 49

Human capital 44

Infrastructure 50

Research 50

Management 51

University of Mauritius 51

History 52

Demographics 52

Funding 52

Human capital

Infrastructure 53

Research 54

Management 55

University of Namibia 56

History 57

Demographics 58

Funding 58

Human capital 59

Infrastructure 59

Research 60

Management 61

Conclusion 61



Chapter 4. Scholarly communication policy landscape in Southern Africa 63

The international context 63

Open access goes mainstream 64

Revised approaches to assessing impact 66

The national context 68

Botswana 69

South Africa 70

Mauritius 73

Namibia 75

The institutional context 76

University of Botswana 76

University of Cape Town 79

University of Mauritius 80

University of Namibia 82

Analysis 86



Chapter 5. Research and communication practices 89

Faculty profiles 90

Positions 91

Salary scales 92

Time spent on teaching, research and administration 93

Values 94

Open access 103

Research and dissemination cycle 106

Conceptualisation 106

Data collection and analysis 111

Articulation of findings 114

Translation and engagement 126

Rewards and incentives 129

Do these reward and incentive systems achieve their goals? 136

Conclusion 138



Chapter 6. The SCAP implementation initiative 141

UB Department of Library and Information Studies 142

Challenges 142

Implementation focus 144

Implementing the initiative 146

Lessons learned 148

UCT Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit 149

Challenges 150

Implementation focus 151

Intervention: OpenSALDRU 152

Intervention: Round-table policy forum 154

Intervention: Internal communication tools 155

Lessons learned 155

UoM Faculty of Science 156

Challenges 156

Implementation focus 161

The Profiling Academics Online (PAO) initiative 162

Implementation initiative results 164

Lessons learned 165

UNAM Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 166

Challenges 166

Implementation focus 168

Intervention 168

Lessons learned 174

Conclusion 175



Chapter 7. Challenges, contradictions and opportunities 177

Challenges 177

Institutional culture 178

Research culture 180

Funding 183

Time 185

e-Infrastructure 186

Skills and capacity 187

African marginalisation 188

Contradictions 191

Articulation vs implementation 191

Open vs closed communication 193

Teaching vs administration vs research vs practice 195

Quantity vs quality 199

Prestige vs relevance 200

Scholar-to-scholar vs scholar-to-community/government communication 202

Opportunities 204

Institutional culture 204

Research infrastructure 207

Rewards and incentives 208

Open access 210

Gateway status 212

The virtuous funding cycle 213

Innovation-focused intermediaries 214

e-Infrastructure 215

Quality assurance 217

Conclusion 219



Chapter 8. Key findings 221

Research and communication practices 222

Values 222

Research production 223

Outputs 224

Communication 225

Networks and collaboration 226

Research culture 227

Policy 228

Institutional culture 228

Open access 229

Infrastructure and capacity 230

Capacity 230

Research infrastructure 231



Chapter 9. Recommendations 233

To national governments 233

To university administrations 234

To university scholars 235

To research funding agencies 235



References 237


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