Rationale for the research
Aims and objectives
Collection of data
Problems and limitations
In recent years publishing outlets in Africa have dwindled. University presses have declined and many once renowned periodicals and journals have ceased publication or been reduced in size or frequency. University library acquisitions budgets have been cut. Research is suffering, because the means to publish research are lacking and the results on which to develop further research are not disseminated. Yet indigenous publication is essential to the emergence of African academic enterprise. It cannot be replaced by publication in the West. The marginalization and under-representation of African scholarship within both the field of African studies and the production of knowledge generally is one of the effects.
A recognition of the importance of indigenous publication to African scholarship has led to a considerable number of initiatives to strengthen the African academic publishing sector. These have been chiefly in the areas of publication and distribution. Examples are:
· Direct support for the publication of individual scholarly journals: many of Africa's journals now rely on donor subsidies. An example is the support provided by Sida: SAREC to the publication of 13 journals in Ethiopia. This support started in 1985.As a result of these and other initiatives, chiefly taking place in the countries of Anglophone Africa, journals published in Africa are now available for consultation and use throughout the continent.
· APEX: an annual exhibition of African journals launched at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in 1993. In 1997, 135 titles published in 22 African countries were included. The catalogue of the exhibit is widely distributed.
· African Journals Distribution Programme (AJDP): a scheme through which scholarly journals published in African countries are made available to scholars and academics in other African countries, by purchasing the titles on behalf of university libraries. In 1997, 34 titles from 20 countries were distributed to 20 African university libraries in 9 countries of Anglophone Africa. In 1998, 10 additional titles and 10 additional libraries were added to the programme. In 1999, an expansion into Francophone Africa is underway, with the inclusion of 15 titles and 15 university libraries from these countries.
· African Journals Support and Development Centre (AJSDC): since the end of 1997 the management of both APEX and AJDP has been transferred to Kenya. The new Centre aims to carry out a number of additional support programmes, including education and training.
· Handbook and Workshops: since the publication of the pilot edition of Hans Zell's A Handbook of Good Practice in Journal Publishing in 1996, three workshops have been held in Africa. A second edition of the handbook was published in 1998.
· African Journals Online: this pilot project, undertaken in 1997/1998, aims to promote the use and awareness of African-published journals by offering access via the Internet to either tables of contents or the full text of journals in science, technology and medicine.
The main rationale for providing assistance to African-published journals is that such support will contribute to the improvement of the quantity and quality of research taking place in Africa, through the provision of reliable and regular intra-African channels of communication. It will reduce Africa's dependence on the West and encourage appropriate research leading to sustainable economic and social development.
There has however been no systematic survey which documents the use that is made of African-published journals and their impact on research. The evaluation of the pilot project of AJDP indicated that such journals were well read and had been used as recommended student reading and as sources for ongoing and future research. But the evidence was incomplete. On the other hand, academics interviewed during research undertaken for the review of University Libraries in Africa, on the whole did not show any special interest in Africa-published materials and did not consider them vital for teaching and research. They preferred to read and be read in Western journals. A number of librarians thought that their journal collections were not well used.
It was to fill this knowledge gap and to provide data on the use that is being made of African-published journals and their impact on the culture of research in Africa, that the present survey was undertaken. It is hoped that its results will guide both those concerned with the publication of journals in Africa (whether journal publishers or donors supporting such publication) and those concerned with providing access to them (whether through libraries, Internet or other modalities).
The aims of the survey were to:
· discover what use is made of African-published journals;More specifically, the research aimed to examine, in the context of African universities and their libraries, the following questions:
· evaluate their impact on research;
· compare the use made of African-published journals with those published elsewhere.
· how often African-published journals are read;
· how the reading of African-published journals compares with the reading of those published elsewhere;
· why African-published journals are read/not read;
· why journals in general are read/not read;
· which journals are used most in teaching and research;
· to what extent and for what reasons African-published journals are used in teaching and research;
· how the teaching and research use of African-published journals compares with that of those published elsewhere;
· what sources and means are used to identify and acquire articles from African-published journals and those published elsewhere;
· what problems are faced in the use of journals and in particular African-published journals.
Since the introduction of performance measurement in the evaluation of library services, a number of investigations have been attempted to determine the best method of evaluation of journal use and impact. However it has proved difficult to devise one satisfactory method. Journals taken from the library shelves for reading can be counted prior to re-shelving. This shows use but not the reasons for use. Information can be gathered from the citations given in student projects, postgraduate theses and the publications of academic staff. This will reveal journal articles that have been consulted; but often only quotations and not everything consulted are cited; in addition the value of a journal article to a piece of research may be inspirational rather than directly related. Finally questionnaires and interviews can be used to find out why journals are read, which are the most useful and how they might be more useful. Data gathered by one method complements and amplifies that gathered by other methods. Therefore it was decided to use a combination of all three methods in this survey.
Although journal collections in African universities have deteriorated over the last fifteen years, many libraries have more recently benefited from schemes donating journals titles or money to purchase journals from the West. Since 1994, a number of university libraries in Anglophone Africa have had access to titles published in the rest of Africa through the AJDP scheme. Because of their colonial past, all these libraries have been subject to the same historical, political and cultural factors with regard to education. It was therefore decided to undertake the survey in these universities and that a sample of two would achieve the necessary indicative results on journal use.
Because of financial and time considerations, it would not be possible to interview all academic staff in each of the universities. Yet to sample staff over all faculties would not provide reliable data on journal use, as research activities vary so much from person to person. It was therefore decided to aim at interviewing the complete population (up to a maximum of fifty in two faculties in each university), gathering in depth data from four broad subject areas. Again it was not feasible to record the use of journals in the libraries over a whole year. Instead it was decided to carry out hourly counts and analysis during one mid-semester week in each library.
Single surveys of journal use and impact may produce data which is peculiar to a particular time and group of people but which is not valid in general. There is a big turnover of staff in African universities. Research itself is a long and on-going process. So that conclusions were more reliable and any trends in journal use could be determined, it was decided to carry out identical surveys over a three-year period.
As far as personnel were concerned, it would be necessary for local researchers to undertake the collection of data on journal use. Such expertise is most easily available in universities which house departments of library and information studies. It would then also be possible to integrate the collection of data into student projects. Additionally, it would be necessary to appoint a co-ordinator, who would design common instruments for data collection, supervise the local researchers, analyze data submitted and write the interim and final reports.
The methodology chosen was therefore:
In two African universities and repeated at yearly intervals over a period of three years
· an hourly count and identification (title, volume, number, date) of journals read in the university library over a one week mid-semester period;
· structured interviews with all academic staff within two faculties in each university to discuss their use of journals, both African and non-African, in teaching and research;
· an annual analysis of journal citations given in the undergraduate projects, postgraduate theses and academic staff publications (conference papers, research reports, journals articles, books) from the four chosen faculties;
· interim reports at the end of each year;
· a meeting of researchers to discuss the content of the final report;
· a final report containing findings over the three year period, conclusions and recommendations.
Identification of universities and researchers
Data collection instruments
Diana Rosenberg, Head of Special Programmes at the International African Institute in London, UK undertook to co-ordinate the research. The Universities of Ghana (UGL) and Zambia (UNZA) were selected as the two research locations. Professor A. A. Alemna, Head of the Department of Library and Archival Studies at UGL and Mr Vitalicy Chifwepa, Head of the Department of Library and Information Studies at UNZA were appointed as the local researchers. Mr Chifwepa also worked with Ms Muyoyeta Simui, Serials and, from 1997, Special Collections Librarian.
The Faculties from which staff were interviewed and projects/publications were examined for journal citations were the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Studies at UGL and the School of Agricultural Sciences and the School of Medicine at UNZA.
The libraries of both universities have considerable journal collections and have benefited from journal support programmes, both of international and African-published journals. The count and analysis of journal use was undertaken in the Balme Library of UGL, supplemented with counts in the libraries of the School of Administration and the Institute of African Studies. In UNZA, the exercise was undertaken in the Main Library and the Medical Library, a branch serving the Faculty of Medicine.
The data collection instruments consisted of:
· Guidance Notes for Data Collection;Some changes to the instruments were made over the period of the research, in order to increase rates of return from academic staff and to improve data quality. In particular:
· Background Information;
· Interview Framework/Questionnaire for Academic Staff;
· Undergraduate Final Year Projects - Journal Citations;
· Postgraduate Theses - Journal Citations;
· Academic Staff Publications - Journal Citations;
· Library Count of Journals;
· Library Count of Journal Use: Summary.
· guidance notes were clarified and expanded, to provide more detailed instructions on methodology and data collection;Copies of the data collection instruments used in 1998 are in the Appendix.
· in 1997, a separate questionnaire was designed, so that it could be left with academic staff for self-completion, should an interview be impossible to arrange. In 1998, only questionnaires were used, as it was discovered that quality and depth of data generated by questionnaires was no different to that generated by interviews, whilst the response rate was better;
· in 1998, given their apparent low use, more in depth questions were asked about the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the identification and acquisition of journals;
· in 1998, staff were additionally asked to rate some responses in order of their importance;
· in 1998, questions were introduced about any changes in journal use or perceptions that had taken place over the period of the research.
Count of journal use
Using the common instruments provided, data was collected during 1996, 1997 and 1998. In December of each year, researchers submitted the raw data to the coordinator, who analyzed it and prepared an interim report on findings for that year. In April 1999, the coordinator and researchers met in London for a two day meeting to discuss findings and agree on the content of the final report.
To provide the necessary background data, researchers were asked to submit:
· the number of current journals received by the university library, plus the number of titles and volumes of back files;
· a list of titles of current African-published journals received;
· a list of titles of back files of African-published journals.
The total population of each Faculty or School was targeted. However, as the staff in the two UGL faculties numbered well over 50, it was decided to interview or send questionnaires to only 50, with these randomly selected but so as to represent all departments.
Response rates over the three years were as follows:
· Faculty of Arts: 40% (1996); 44% (1997); 44% (1998);Within faculties/schools, the majority of departments were represented each year. Although figures varied between faculties, of those completing questionnaires in 1998, on average 66% had also responded in 1997 and 44% in 1996. So the data collected each year provided a fair balance between new and previous respondents.
· Faculty of Social Studies: 66% (1996); 82% (1997); 70% (1998);
· School of Agricultural Sciences: 75% (1996); 47% (1997); 30% (1998);
· School of Medicine: 30% (1996); 50% (1997); 32% (1998).
Undergraduate final year projects, postgraduate theses and academic staff publications that had been produced or published in the previous academic year were examined. Numbers for each year were as follows:
· Faculty of Arts:Undergraduate final year projects: 7 (1996); 3 (1997); 8 (1998)· Faculty of Social Studies'.
Postgraduate theses: 2 (1996); 10 (1997); 6 (1998)
Academic staff publications: 17 (1996); 22 (1997); 8 (1998)Undergraduate final year projects: 153 (1996); 156 (1997); 100 (1998)· School of Agricultural Sciences:
Postgraduate theses: 11 (1996); 28 (1997); 22 (1998)
Academic staff publications: 51 (1996); 38 (1997); 39 (1998)Undergraduate final year projects: 17 (1996); 18 (1997); 21 (1998)· School of Medicine:
Postgraduate theses: 6 (1996); 10 (1997); 6 (1998)
Academic staff publications: 4 (1996); 8 (1997); 5 (1998)Undergraduate final year projects: 46 (1996); 48 (1997); 0 (1998)
Postgraduate theses: 0 (1996); 7 (1997); 25 (1998)
Academic staff publications: 3 (1996); 8 (1997); 10 (1998)
A library count of journal use was made for one full week in mid-semester each year. Originally it was planned for early November and this happened in 1996. In the succeeding years, there were slight variations caused by changes in semester dates. Generally the counts were for 6 working days, Monday until Saturday. In 1998, the libraries at UNZA were also open on Sunday.
The main problem faced in both universities was lack of co-operation from academic staff. Many claimed that they had no time for interviews or for the completion of questionnaires. When researchers went to collect questionnaires left for completion, they found that staff had mislaid or lost them. At UNZA, the researcher found it difficult to find some staff in their offices, particularly those from the Faculty of Medicine who had clinical duties; others had disappeared on long leave or secondment. At UGL, staff complained at being asked to give information over a period of three years, saying that nothing had changed. The lack of co-operation explains the lowish response rates, even though in 1997 and 1998, a full six months was allowed for the process, so that adequate follow-up could be made. This is a pity, as end-user reactions, collected during the research, have provided much important data about the use of African-published journals, that is not available elsewhere.
Lack of academic staff co-operation could also affect the number of publications examined for journal citations. At UNZA the researcher had to rely on academic staff to hand over completed projects and theses. In 1998, no undergraduate projects in Medicine could be examined for this reason. In addition, not all departments or courses demand a final year project. At UGL, the number of students opting to complete projects as a part of their undergraduate degree continues to decrease.
Staff are also a little wary of giving information about their own publications, lest such information is used against them in the race for promotion. The fact that the researcher at UGL was, also, for the three years of the research, on the University's Appointments and Promotion Committee, placed him in an excellent position for monitoring staff publications. That may explain the greater number of staff publications produced in Ghana, although the bigger number of staff in the two faculties as opposed to the two in UNZA, must also be a factor. At UNZA, staff also complained about poor funding for research and low levels of staffing, which caused them to spend all their time on teaching duties.
Local researchers had difficulty supplying accurate information on journal titles, both current and back files, held by the university libraries. Lack of accurate local record keeping was the problem. It was also difficult to differentiate African-published journals from those with an African content, but published elsewhere, without actually inspecting the title, as this information was not included on the records. This led to apparent contradictions appearing in the research results, e.g. African-published journals being consulted in the library, but which were not on the original list of African-published titles held; or journals being counted as African-published when they were in fact Africana journals published in the Western world. However once this problem was recognized, researchers succeeded in providing much more accurate lists in 1997 and 1998. Current African-published titles were differentiated from back files and annotated with the country of publication. This involved the researchers in a lot of extra work, as library records alone proved an inadequate source.
A major closure at UNZA in 1997 also proved a problem, as academic years were rescheduled. This interfered with the production of projects and theses and made it difficult to find academic staff for interviews or the completion of questionnaires. Library counts also had to be rescheduled, to ensure that they took place in mid-semester.