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Opinion - National accreditation of scholarly journals a move in the right direction

2021-08-13  Staff Reporter

Opinion - National accreditation of scholarly journals a move in the right direction
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The absence of an accreditation board for scholarly communication in Namibia has had debilitating effects on some academics and researchers in higher education institutions.

 Therefore, the formulation of a national policy on the accreditation of academic journals in Namibia is a welcome initiative. The higher education fraternity is upbeat about the impending formulation and immediate implementation of this policy, which has been long overdue. This move will go a long way in improving the quality of research output from higher education institutions and other researchers in the country. 

The journal accreditation policy is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Higher Education Training and Innovation, with support and expertise drawn from the higher education sector in the country. Once approved by relevant authorities, the policy will require all academic journals to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, so that they meet all the set criteria set for their accreditation. An academic journals’ accreditation board, whatever name it will take, will be solely responsible for accrediting journals and monitoring them so that they uphold the set academic standards. In other words, the journals will be required to meet the international standards for academic journal publication. 

 In South Africa, for instance, academic journals are accredited and regulated by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The DHET pays out funds to universities whose academics publish their research articles in DHET listed or accredited journals. In turn, the authors of these articles receive a percentage of the funds from their universities. They can use these publication incentives to attend conferences and to sponsor other researches.

At this juncture, it is important to explain why academics and researchers need to focus on the scientific publication of their research in reputable scholarly journals. In addition to the advancement of knowledge, academics’ scientific publications assist them to climb the ladder in their careers. 

For lecturers at higher education institutions to be promoted to grades such as senior lecturer, associate professor, professor and distinguished professor, they should support their applications for such promotions with evidence of their research output.  The research output is in the forms of research articles published in reputable peer-reviewed academic journals, books, book chapters and other forms of academic publications. 

 It is generally the practice in higher education institutions that strong emphasis is placed on research articles published in academic journals and books. Universities require their academics to publish their articles in reputable journals or accredited journals. Articles that are published in non-accredited journals are treated as inferior to the ones published in accredited journals. Such articles are rejected when submitted for promotion as evidence of scholarly publication.

With the forthcoming national system of journal accreditation in Namibia, it is envisaged that academics will have more confidence in publishing in local journals in addition to international journals. There is an unfortunate practice in some higher education institutions at the moment where some academics claim that they cannot be promoted if they do not publish their research articles in journals listed by the South African DHET or in other internationally accredited journals.  

The insistence of the requiring academics to publish in DHET listed journals has irked some academics, who argue that local academic journals are of international standard and produce work that matches the work published in accredited journals. Some academics in higher education institutions in Namibia have been used as reviewers of research articles – not only by DHET accredited journals but also by other high flying international publications, further supporting the argument that these academics have the skills and expertise that can be used in the framework of a local journal accreditation system like the DHET.

 To buttress this point, local higher education institutions have peer-reviewed academic journals that have been successfully publishing scholarly work of local and international researchers for some time now. One can pick the Journal for Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences (University of Namibia), Namibia Journal of Managerial Sciences, (International University of Management) Nawa Journal of Language and Communication (Namibia University of Science and Technology), and the newly established Namibia Journal of Science, Resea`rch and Technology (National Commission on Research, Science and Technology). To my knowledge, it is the University of Namibia’s Journal for Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences that is listed or indexed by the International Scientific Indexing (ISI), further suggesting that local peer-reviewed journals in the country have great potential of becoming fully-fledged international journals. 

Equally important is that these and other journals have strong editorial boards, comprising experienced professors of international academic stamina, who will offer their treasured experiences in the setting up and running of a viable national system of journal accreditation in Namibia. With emphasis on quality, excellence and professionalism, these professors, together with other relevant stakeholders, will be able to assist the Ministry of Higher Education, Innovation and Training in charting a new and fulfilling dispensation in the education business of national accreditation of scholarly research and communication.

When the accreditation of journals comes into full force in Namibia, it is envisaged that higher education institutions will be able to attract subsidies from the Ministry of Education, Innovation and Training’s division or unit responsible for scholarly communication. 

Like in the case of the South African DHET, part of the funds will be given to the authors of research articles published in the listed or accredited journals. There is no doubt that if well executed, the accreditation of academic journals will have positive results in the higher education sector in this country.  

The enthusiasm to get the accreditation process off the ground soon is encouraging.

2021-08-13  Staff Reporter

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