The global visibility of African scholarship and enhancing the contributions of Africa-based researchers to knowledge about Africa has been a major challenge. The West African Research Association (WARA) has made significant efforts to promote the global visibility of African scholarship through its journal, African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review. Similarly, the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) at the Social Science Research Council (New York) is promoting African scholarship through grants and workshops for emerging scholars in Africa. The African Peacebuilding Network Grantee Workshop II was held at the African Leadership Centre in Nairobi, August 26-30, 2013.
A key component of the workshop is mentoring of the APN grantees by editors of major journals on Africa such as African Conflict & Peacebuilding Review, African Affairs, and Africa Peace and Conflict Journal. The mentoring is aimed at providing feedback to junior scholars on how to improve their academic and policy papers. Equally important, mentoring provides guidance on appropriate outlets for their work and how to navigate the submission and review process. The workshop provided a rare opportunity for editors and junior authors to openly discuss the rules of academic peer-review and the problems of the gatekeeper tendencies in the process of authenticating knowledge.
The key problems that emerged during the plenary sessions of the workshop were
- that the proportion of works published in western-based African studies journal that are authored by scholars based in Africa is too small
- that journals published in Africa have very limited access to the global academic distribution infrastructure.
These twin difficulties have not been easy to overcome. African Conflict and & Peacebuilding Review has taken note of this problem and initiated a mentoring process for contributors based in Africa. Africa-based authors with promising works are given extensive feedback and opportunities to revise and improve their works before they go for full peer-review. African Conflict and & Peacebuilding Review also invites established scholars to do special issues which provide unique opportunities for mentoring of junior scholars in Africa and improving their work to meet the standards of the peer-review process.
One way of enhancing the visibility of journals based in Africa, and thereby the works of scholars based in Africa, is through open-access publications. However, for open-access to meaningfully enhance the visibility of the works of researchers based in Africa and increase their contribution to knowledge about Africa, African open-access journals must strictly abide by the double-blind peer-review principle of academic publishing and insist on high quality research and writing.
Contributed by Abu Bakarr Bah, Northern Illinois University, Department of Sociology
Editor-in-Chief, African Conflict & Peacebuilding Review