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 www.afsaap.org.au.

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 http://afsaap.org.au/publications/aras/ 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 http://afsaap.org.au/opportunities/

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 !!!

March 20th, 2015

Professor Anthony Low – 1927-2015

AFSAAP would like to acknowledge and celebrate the life and contributions of Professor Anthony Low. He was AFSAAP’s First president 1978-1981, and made an invaluable contribution to African Studies, and the academy. In the Australasian Review of African Studies, Vol 34 No 2 December 2013, David Lucas wrote about Anthony Low’s ‘Retirement’ from research. At the 2012 AFSAAP Conference held in Canberra,  we also celebrated his contribution to AFSAAP. You can see in this photo,  from the front Professor Low, his wife Isobel, his son in law Matthew Neuhaus, and his grand daughter, with Tanya Lyons AFSAAP’s current president acknowledging his life’s achievements. AFSAAP sends sincere condolences to Anthony’s family at this time, and would like to thank them for supporting his achievements in African Studies.

February 15th, 2015

37th Annual AFSAAP Conference

Prof. Tony Binns and the 2014 Conference Organising Team have organised a brilliant conference in Dunedin.

AFSAAP Welcomes ALL participants to the 37th Annual AFSAAP Conference. The last time our conference was held in New Zealand was 1992, at Victoria University, Wellington. Keep an eye on our conference proceedings website as ALL of 37 years of conference papers proceedings will be published there soon.

The 2014 MONASH AFSAAP POstgraduate Prize Winner will be announced in February 2015 – see Conferences/Postgraduate Prize here for more details.

November 12th, 2014

Africa Digitisation Project underway

Kivubiro Tabawebbula and Barry Craig Working on the Africa Digitisation Project October 2014

Kivubiro Tabawebbula and Barry Craig Working on the Africa Digitisation Project at the South Australian Museum October 2014

In the 1990s, When founding member and former AFSAAP president Prof. David Dorward photographed as many collections of African material culture as he could get access to in Australia and New Zealand, he may not of realised that these colour slides would need to be digitised 25 years later. Fortunately AFSAAP has been able to commit $10,000 to the initial stage of this wider project, to get the ball rolling. AFSAAP would like to invite sponsors to assist in completing this project. Australian resource companies working in Africa would benefit from participating as a sponsor in this project, to demonstrate their commitment to preserving African material culture. We would also invite small or large, individual or crowd funding to be able complete the project. Further details of how the project will unfold to completion are detailed below.

Background and Project Plan

Prof David Dorward visited the following institutions and photographed near 6000 items – Abby Museum, Caboolture, Queensland; Anthropology Museum of University of Queensland; Queensland Museum; Material Culture Unit at James Cook University; Australian Museum, Sydney; Macleay Museum, University of Sydney; Museum of Victoria; Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery, Launceston; Tasmania Museum and Art Galley, Hobart; South Australia Museum; West Australia Museum; Otago Museum, Dunedin, New Zealand; Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand; National Museum, Wellington, New Zealand; (The Museum in Auckland could not be accessed at the time; Similarly, photos of the objects in the National Galley of Australia in Canberra could not be taken, as they’d already been photographed).

There are about 6,000 35-mm colour transparencies; some objects boast multiple images. Objects were photographed against a uniform background, either matte white or light blue, and a scale accompanies most photos. Dr Barry Craig (SA Museum and AFSAAP Member) is has these photographs and datasets archived at the South Australian Museum, which has provided the space and with AFSAAP the equipment for scanning, and Barry Craig will manage the project.

AFSAAP has provided $10,000 as an initial seeding fund to get the project underway. This will see Stage 1 and most of Stage 2 completed.

Stage 1: Digitise the colour transparencies by scanning them at a high resolution, with each image given an ID code for the institution in which it is housed, and its registration number.

Stage 2: Create a dataset using the Institution ID and registration numbers and transfer basic data to the dataset from the registration information. Add a hyperlink from the dataset to the images.

Further funding is required for Stages 3, 4, 5, and 6 – please contact president@afsaap.org.au to become a Gold, Silver or Bronze sponsor.

Stage 3: Visit each institution (and those not already visited) to photograph all African objects not previously photographed and gather the relevant documentation.

Stage 4: Add the material from Stage 3 to the dataset.

Stage 5: Develop and code a hierarchy of geographical locations/polygons (villages/ethno-linguistic group/regions/countries) and apply these to the dataset.

Stage 6: Create a website (as an addition to the AFSAAP website) that enables the dataset and the images to be searched by ‘kind of object’ and by ‘geographical location’. For an example of what such a site might look like, go to www.uscngp.com, and click on Dataset.)

AFSAAP has provided a $10,000 grant to start the project, and now invites individual or corporate sponsors to make a financial contribution to this African Digitisation Project.

Please contact president@afsaap.org.au if you would like to become a sponsor.

All sponsors will be acknowledged in all of AFSAAP’s official communications – monthly newsletters, website, emails, and journal the Australasian Review of African Studies.

October 1st, 2014

South Sudan Crisis, a Political Dilemma

AFSAAP postgraduate representative Stephen Okello has released an updated analysis of the complicated political situation in South Sudan, and a summary of the options available to break the current impasse in the world’s youngest country. The report, following on from Stephen’s previous analysis, can be read here.

 

March 20th, 2014

AFSAAP now on Facebook

AFSAAP has expanded its online reach to Facebook. AFSAAP members are encouraged to like and follow the page to join in on discussions related to African-Australian issues and events. AFSAAP in also active on Twitter.

March 20th, 2014

AFSAAP Post-Graduate Prize Winners 2013

AFSAAP received many entries to the 2013 Annual AFSAAP Post-graduate Prize, which is awarded to the best paper presented at the annual AFSAAP Conference or Post-graduate workshop. The judges enjoyed reading the diversity of papers and quality of postgraduate research in African Studies in Australia.

The AFSAAP Executive are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2013 Monash/AFSAAP Prize – to the value of $3000, which includes a trip to Monash University’s South Africa Campus, and aims to encourage fieldwork in Africa towards the student’s studies – goes to Ms. Christina Kenny from the Australian National University, for her paper entitled “The ‘liberatory value of indigenous institutions’?: Cultural practice as resistance in the British Colony of Kenya.”

We are also very pleased to announce that Mr. Solomon Peter Gbanie from the University of New South Wales at Australian Defence Force Academy, has won the AFSAAP Postgraduate Prize of $500, for his paper entitled “ ‘The diamond of Western Area is land’: Narratives of land use and land cover change in post-war Sierra Leone.”

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January 31st, 2014

South Sudan Crisis: A Summary

An AFSAAP member is following the South Sudan Crisis from Uganda. It appears that the conflict is seeded in the post John Garang arrangements in which power was reorganised in response to Garang’s absence. It is suggested that the reorganisation process was ethnically influenced in which sections of the South Sudanese felt left out. For instance, the Dinka have been long accused of dominating the state in which corruption has taken root and reached dangerous levels. State governors have accused the central state for not remitting funding meant to ensure service delivery. Tension has always existed especially in the army, but this particular conflict is an extension of internal SPLA infighting which resulted into the recent suspension of the entire cabinet by President Kiir.  Information out of Juba indicates that the attempted coup was ochestrated by forces loyal to the former Vice President including some governors. And that as of yesterday, the rebels had control of most of the oil producing region which also provides almost 90% of South Sudan state revenue.

December 26th, 2013

Final AFSAAP-IPCS seminar on Somalia: Nikola Pijovic and Ali Mumin Ahad

Nikola Pijovic talking on Somaliland The ASAAP-IPCS seminar series on African Studies has wrapped up in Melbourne with two papers on Somalia presented by Nikola Pijovic and Dr Ali Mumin Ahad. Since the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991, civil war has characterised life in much of Somalia in one way or another. Although the conflict has received much attention from international media, many of the political, historical and cultural complexities of the conflict have been profoundly misunderstood. With a new government in Mogadishu and recent military intervention by neighbouring states, it appears that the war is entering a new phase, making a better understanding of its causes and nature imperative. The recent attack on the Westgate shopping complex in Nairobi has also brought it to the attention of a new international audience.

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November 2nd, 2013

Tony Binns seminar in Adelaide

BinnsAdelaideProf. Tony Binns, University of Otago, presented the 2013 South Australian AFSAAP Seminar “Africa Rising?” at Flinders University 22 October 2013. The audience of over 30 students and academics was impressed with his positive anecdotes and analaysis of African development, in particular in post-conflict societies.  Binns also gave a 2nd AFSAAP seminar to the University of Adelaide on his 40 years of research on Sierra Leone. This has been a great opportunity for students in South Australia to meet one the world’s more experienced Africanists, and highly published academics in the field of African Studies, Development and Geography.

An audio recoding of the seminar can be found at the recent events page.

October 30th, 2013