Worldwide, research and publication are the lifeblood for university lecturers, professors and researchers, hence the adage “publish or perish”, which is still applicable.
Three leading universities in Namibia – University of Namibia (Unam), Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), and International University of Management (IUM) – all produce scholarly communication through publishing research articles in peer-reviewed journals they operate.
Although they have their own rules and regulations governing their operations, these institutions publish their research outputs in their journals independently, without a national controlling body or system – or to put it more accurately, the journals in these institutions and others, such as the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST), are not accredited by an oversight body. In other words, Namibia has no system in place to accredit journals and other research publications.
The country has no tradition of evaluating the standard and quality of journals through a nationally coordinated system. As a result, ensuring the quality of journals has for too long been relegated to the discretion of individual publishers and/or editors.
Research has shown that most of the Namibian journals have poor online visibility and international indexing. The quality and rigour of published articles in some of these journals are of a questionable standard due to a lack of a strict assessment and evaluation system.
It is, therefore, highly commendable that the Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation (MHETI) is taking concrete measures in drafting a national policy on research outputs and accreditation of journals in Namibia.
“The main importance is to help fragmented national research outputs and journal accreditations become stable, make growth more inclusive, and address cross-border problems that affect us all,” Dr Lisho Mundia, director of research and innovation in MHETI, told scholars and other stakeholders who attended a two-day workshop, dubbed ‘Towards a National Policy on Research Outputs and Journals Accreditation’, that was recently held in Otjiwarongo, Otjozondjupa region, Namibia.
It was clearly spelt out that when this policy comes into effect, it will achieve crucial objectives.
The policy aims to enhance the current research and innovation capabilities; promote excellence in local research outputs; promote adherence to international standards on research outputs framework and journal accreditation; encourage research relevant to national development goals; enhance dissemination of research outputs and publications, and ensure adherence to intellectual properties and copyrights as set out in the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) Act, 2016 (Act No.8 of 2016).
Lending his full support for the establishment of the policy on research outputs and journals accreditation, executive director of the MHETI Dr Alfred van Kent emphasised the classification and rewarding of researchers, following a standardised accreditation system in the Namibian higher education and research institutions, including Technical and Vocational Education and Technology (TVET) institutions.
The introduction of national awards and classification of researchers will act as an incentive to deserving researchers who are currently not recognised, despite the grounding-breaking researches they conduct.
“Scholarly communication is vital in our society; it is, therefore, important to know what kind of research is being done and to judge the impact of research in our communities,” remarked van Kent, adding that his ministry will assist young scholars by sourcing funds from international funding agencies so that they can carry out meaningful researches and publish their findings for the benefit of society.
The standardisation and accreditation of journals in Namibia will result in the formation of important networks in higher education institutions – locally and internationally.
It is envisaged that all the journals published in Namibian higher education institutions will pass the test after accreditation and find themselves hosted by some of the following internationally renowned indices: Arts and Humanities Citation Index; Science Citation Index; Science Citation Index Expanded; Social Sciences Citation Index; Scientific Electronic Library online (Scielo); International Scientific Indexing (ISI); Thomson Reuters Web of Science Lists (e.g. books, proceedings); ProQuest International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS); SCOPUS, and Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
Therefore, in requiring all Namibian journals to be accredited, MHETI is making a bold and emphatic statement about bringing international standards of scholarly communication home.
Some of the guiding principles in which the policy should be anchored are the aspirations of the country, taking note of international values and norms, socio-economic issues and policy specific objectives related to the challenges the policy aims to address.
There is need to establish the fundamental norms, rules or ethics that represent what is desirable (values) for the policy and to help determine the prospective outcomes of the actions of institutions and researchers. In the formulation of this policy, due care must be taken.
The following stages of the public policy making process, as required by the National Planning Commission (Policy Coordination Division), should be followed: problem identification; agenda setting; policy formulation; policy adoption; implementation and monitoring, and evaluation.
To all intents and purposes, the policy will promote and regulate high quality scholarly work among Namibian researchers in all sectors, and increase research outputs through accredited journals conforming to international standards.
MHETI should, therefore, be supported by public and private institutions, and commerce and industry in making this noble initiative a reality within the shortest possible time.