Journal Rankings and the Australasian Review of African Studies

by Tanya Lyons – AFSAAP President

Many of us academics have been advised not to published in journals that are not “ranked” or have low or no impact factors, so that universities can improve their own overall rankings in terms of research output in order to qualify for government funds, or get themselves ranked in the top 400 universities in the world.  Publications in non-ranked journals just brings the overall average down, so again, many of us have been advised not to publish at all, unless we can get published in ranked journals. This is both anachronous to the production and development of knowledge, and the development of researchers, thinkers and analysts, in this case, in the field of African Studies (but it applies across the board).

Did you know that of the 591 journals ranked by Australian Politics Science Association (APSA) in 2013 only 10 are specific to African Studies – or described with “Africa” under various Fields of Research (FoRs) as used by data-collection agencies in the academy. These are –

African Affairs; Journal of Modern African Studies; Review of African Political Economy; African Development Review; African Journal of Environmental Assessment and Management; African Studies; African Studies Quarterly; Afrique Contemporaine; Politikon: South African journal of political science; The South African Journal of International Affairs 

  • 2 of these 10 are focused on political science and international affairs, with a South African focus (POLITIKON and SAJIA .
  • 1 of the 10 is in French (AC)
  • 1 of the 10 is about the environment, and is no longer published anyway (AJEAM).
  • Only 6 of these 10 are related to African Studies or studies about Africa.
  • Of those 6 related to African Studies – 2 are published by TANDF (ROAPE and AS), 1 by Oxford (AF), 1 by Cambridge (JMAS), 1 by Wiley (ADR), 1 by Uni of Florida (ASQ) (the only independent journal).

Where does this leave the Australasian Review of African Studies?   Recently ARAS was advised by Thomson Reuters, the commercial agency that collects the data and impact factor ratings to generate the ‘impact factors’ and distribute the ISI Rankings so highly sought after, that ARAS is not eligible to be ranked yet because it does not have enough citations. That means that not enough researchers who are publishing their articles in journals that are already ranked are citing articles published in ARAS. So, until we can get a swell of support from the ranks of the research community in African Studies, and also in studies on the African Diaspora in Australia and New Zealand, to read, use and cite appropriately articles from ARAS in their final publications (but only in ranked journals), then ARAS will remain unranked, and therefore excluded from the commercially driven impact factors. While this remains the case, good researchers will shy away from publishing their research with ARAS, because it simply will not be counted towards their university research output, and they will be discriminated against when it comes to promotions, applications for study leave, and grant applications etc.  So we need to turn this around, and get ARAS listed on the various international commercially driven citations indexes – but without losing its independence, and regional focus on Australasia and the Pacific.

ARAS remains an independent journal published by the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) and is now in its 36th year of publication.  ARAS has published the works of many scholars including the late Prof. Terence Ranger, and is committed to supporting early career researchers in African Studies in the region.  The readership of ARAS goes beyond the academy and includes NGOs, African Embassies and High Commissions in Australia, various Australian government departments, and scholars from a range of disciplines, around the world. And these are just the subscribers. ARAS articles are also accessed through INFORMIT databases, and most university libraries would have access to this.  In 2014 there were near 1800 individual ARAS article downloads from the Informit databases. So, in terms of ‘impact’, ARAS articles are being read widely! Furthermore, all AFSAAP Articles are available from

There have been various historical attempts to publish ARAS with large commercial publishers, with the promise of increasing the distribution, profile, online presence and citations. However, this would increase the costs of membership to AFSAAP – members currently pay a modest annual subscription of AU$80 – but would need to pay approx. $300 annually, to pay for the commercial publication and distribution.

AFSAAP has a commitment to its membership, in particular to its near 1000 members from the African continent, many of whom were recipients of the Australia Award Scholarships. These members were awarded ongoing complimentary membership of AFSAAP upon their return to Africa, in order to facilitate the ongoing people-to-people relationships established while they were studying in Australia.  These members receive ARAS Online (Online ISSN: 2203-5184).

Additionally AFSAAP has approx. 300 members who are full subscribers, from all over the world, but mainly in Australia and New Zealand, and they kindly renew their annual membership (which can be done online, or at the annual conference).  These members receive both a hard copy of the journal (ISSN No: 1447-8420) and the Online version available at Members also receive the monthly newsletter, Habari kwa Ufupi, and regular notifications of relevant events etc.

If AFSAAP could increase its full subscription paying membership to over 1000 full subscribers, then the shift to a commercial publishing house could be possible, but that would still mean paying the commercial publisher to produce ARAS from these subscriptions. AFSAAP members voted to keep ARAS independent, and if there was money available this should not be given to a large publisher, but be used to promote research in African Studies – to encourage and enable postgraduate students to do fieldwork in Africa, and attend relevant conferences –AFSAAP is now doing this – see

To help make ARAS recognized by the commercial citations and index factors,  AFSAAP wishes to declare 2015-2016 – The International Year of Citing the Independent Journal “The Australasian Review of African Studies” (ARAS).

AFSAAP NOW asks that you reference ARAS articles in all of your research and publications in 2015 in order to increase the profile of ARAS and the work of its committed editors and authors working in African Studies in the Australasia and Pacific region.

ARAS has published many excellent articles on African Studies, with a strong focus on the African Diaspora in Australasia, African Politics, and Australia’s relations with Africa. ARAS has also published original research based on fieldwork in many African countries.
See PDF link here – for list of articles you can cite to help ARAS get noticed!
 AFSAAP would like to declare the International Year of Citing the Independent Journal ARAS !!!