The Commission for University Education has proposed the establishment of a mechanism for accrediting academic journals for universities in Kenya. On the 26th March 2019, the Commission hosted a stakeholders’ meeting for selected university representatives to deliberate on the best approach for reviewing and implementing this proposal.
Accrediting university journals falls under the provisions of Section 5 (m) of the Universities Act, No.42 of 2012, which confers power to the Commission to promote quality research and innovation in the universities licensed to operate in Kenya. High quality academic journals provide a platform for scholars to share their research findings and help advance knowledge in respective academic fields. Compared to other countries in Africa such as Egypt and South Africa, Kenya’s contribution to scholarly journals is very low.
Speaking at the consultative meeting, Prof. Jackson Too, Head of Research and Development said that there were a number of challenges facing academic publishing including, lack of clear guidance on where to publish, lack of motivation for faculty to publish in high impact journals and proliferation of predatory journals preying on unsuspecting scholars to publish their works.
He said the move to accredit academic journals was key to promoting a quality assurance culture and a desire to strive for best practices and ethos for scholarship in universities. In countries or regions which have managed to establish functional mechanisms for accreditation, the impact of those refined outputs has been phenomenal in influencing policy and development. The same can happen in Kenya and the East African region and hence this proposal.
Dr. Alice Kande (standing in front) chairs a session during a stakeholders’ workshop on accreditation of universities journals
“This endeavor is not by any means intended to infringe on university academic freedom, but seeks to embrace a collaborative approach to enhance research and innovation output emanating from our very own world-acclaimed scholars”, Prof. Too assured the participants.
The objective of the workshop was to create a platform for discussion on how the Commission and Universities can find common ground to manage this important aspect of university education. In so doing, the Commission does not intend to micro-manage this process but rather partner with Universities in promoting the quality of research and publication in university journals.
The move was well received, with many participants present acknowledging the need to have a nationally-adopted academic journal accreditation mechanism. “We need as academia not to engage in the rush to publish for promotion, but to establish a mechanism to sustain such initiatives. What research questions are we addressing for national development?” Dr. Romano Mwirichia, the Head of Research at the University of Embu posed.
Dr. Mwirichia noted the need for close interrogation on the status of publishing by asking critical questions from the onset. He proposed that academicians from different universities come up with joint intra- and inter-disciplinary research publications in order to improve Kenya’s position in world rankings. It will also serve as a strategy to attract funding.
The participants also noted the need for more government support especially in fully actualizing the National Research Fund mandate. “In a country like South Africa, there is a lot of support for research and publications. For instance, faculty are fully funded within universities and from government in presenting and publishing papers at fora across the world”, observed Prof. Fugich Wako of Egerton University.
The participants were taken through the process of quality research & publication of journals as presented by the Library and Information Services department.
As a way forward, the following steps were agreed upon by participants as important to concretize the initiative:
· Need to initiate professional societies or bodies of scholars based on the different disciplines to run journals. This would raise the impact factor and credibility of local journals.
· Need to enhance efforts to curb plagiarism by installing plagiarism detection software to improve on quality of articles published in University journals.
· Need for Internationalization of Journals by reviewing editorial boards and hosting journals in highly visible platforms such as online ones rather than print. Attracting international scholars to publish.
· The Commission to strengthen provisions regarding research and innovation (i.e. have a full Schedule) during the review of Universities Standards and Guidelines as well as engaging relevant Peer Reviewers to develop the criteria for review and in the actual phase of accrediting journals.
The workshop participants comprised of nominees in charge of research and/or editorial boards in their respective universities.