Idowu Adegbilero-Iwari on ResearchGate


Monday, December 3, 2018

Internationalizing Nigerian Journals Using OJS: Time to Act is Now!

It is with painful mention that it is majorly in Africa and primarily in Nigeria that we still classify journals as 'local' and 'foreign/offshore' to the effect that we apportion grades to the categories in rating outputs of scholarship. Close to this retrogressive practice, though not the goal of this essay but worth mentioning, is the rating apportioned to authorship: singular or multiple, where single authored papers carry higher grades at promotion/tenure assessment. An alarming moment was to hear, in a conference, a scholar publicly denounced collaborative works some two years ago for the sake of the high rating he would get for a solo effort. Well, that is a theme for another day. Another topic for another time is the crass pursuit of international publication at the expense of local relevance of research outputs which places serious question on what Africa (Nigeria) regards as research excellence/quality. It has been reported (Robert Tijssen and Erika Kraemer-Mbula) that Africa's idea of research excellence/quality is pro-Global North (Europe and America). Anyway, to this end, Munyaradzi Makoni, in a Nature Index, has called on Africa to set its standard of research excellence.
Now, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) had discerned the need for platforms to help scholars implement new journals or migrate existing journals so as to be Open Access (OA) compliant. Among other initiatives, the Open Journal System (OJS) of the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), a federally supported project by the Canadian government, has come to the rescue. The global acceptance of the OJS has being rising commendably. Through the OJS, a lot of Open Access journals have sprung up and are enjoying global visibility. However, it is alarming that we still have not leveraged this opportunity for our journals in Nigeria. This may not be unconnected with our poor attitudes towards OA. But OA has come to stay and we must embrace the new default going forwards.
African scholarship has often be fraught with the challenge of gaining global visibility. Most research works published in local journals waste away in the offices of the editors-in-chief or on library shelves. The lazy approach to internationalize is the practice of publishing African research in journals homed in other parts of the world which by appellation go by the generic name "foreign journals". Apart from denying Africa its proper research rating and access to its own research outputs, the demerits of this practice are numerous. "Nonetheless", according to Robert Tijssen and Erika Kraemer-Mbula in their paper titled Research excellence in Africa: Policies, perceptions, and performance, "African research must also try to transcend the confines of Africa as a geographical space to remain globally competitive”. Just in the same way the BOAI inferred that "an old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good", the OJS technology has provided the opportunity to achieve the needed public good of Nigerian research being made visible to first, Nigerians and the rest of the world. 
Through OJS:
  • the local-international dichotomy of journals will be bridged,
  • there will be global presence of Nigerian journals,
  • local research will receive immense visibility,
  • locally published journals can be indexed in Google Scholar, Scopus, Clarivate Analytics and all,
  • journals of Nigerian origin can be well cited, measured and ranked,
  • this will also enhance the ranking of authors and their universities,
  • greater democracy and equability of global research outlook 

In fact, we will be doing the global scholarly community a great deal of good as research outputs from Africa (Nigeria) can be assessed more equitably. A World Bank and Elsevier report has it that Sub-Sahara Africa with a 12% share of world population contributed less than 1% of global research outputs between 2003 and 2012. It is worthy of mention that African (Nigerian) scholarship is far bigger than is presently viewed. 
Why OJS?
It is open, free and OA compliant.
Possible challenges and ways to overcome
Guaranteeing 24/7 access to journals if locally hosted may be difficult given the state of our electricity infrastructure and the low commitment of many institutions to Internet facilities. Content availability constitutes the major hurdle but it can be crossed if confronted collaboratively. Under my leadership Elizade University Library has taken a lead and commenced the journey of putting the University's journals into the global arena. Our journals will be e- and Open. But the government of Nigeria can do more, especially for older universities and journal outlets across Nigeria. If the government of Canada can do a public good as OJS for the rest of the world there is no sense in Nigerian government or its relevant agencies not lifting a hand for the good of its people and Africa at large. Government agencies as the National Universities Commission and majorly the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) should turn huge resources (kind and cash) at their disposals in the direction of providing a perpetual cloud hosting of a national OJS platform that can be called Journals Nigeria, Digital Scholarship NG or anything else. This platform will thus serve as the one single window to all Nigerian journals.
Regional and national efforts/initiatives are all over the places but very few or nothing in Africa. SciELO of South America to which South Africa as only African country has keyed is a good example. Yes, in Africa, we have AJOL whose goal is to fault the claim that African research is invisible but not all of AJOL are Open. So, my proposition is to internationalize with OJS in the spirit of Open Access and not at any other time but NOW! This way the objective of AJOL is also achieved with greater ease and speed.

Idowu Adegbilero-Iwari
Scholarly Communications Librarian
Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Nigeria

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