How is "impact" described/defined/moralized?


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Angela Okune's picture
April 30, 2020

AO: Oniang'o points out a shifting expectation (especially for those working in/on/from the "global South"?) that academics will not only write and publish for others in the ivory tower but that their work will have "development impact" (related to positively influencing policies, reducing poverty, and improving on-the-ground development programs). This is interesting to compare against the notion of "academic impact" which has now largely become equated with quantitative measures of academic outputs such as citation counts.


Ruth Oniang'o 51:11
"... in fact more and more, and Angela will agree with me in Kenya, more and more, academics are being asked to go beyond the writing. They are being asked, what impact are they having on policies. What impact are you having on programs on the ground? How are you addressing issues of poverty? You know, hunger, inequality, gender, and so on. And so, academics are being pushed to go that direction, so they don't get sit in the lab and publish and write things for the sake of it. So you are right you know, I think it can cover broadly that kind of publishing."

Angela Okune's picture
April 29, 2020

Angela Okune: These two quotes from the discussion describe the pressure for African academics to be "seen to be competing internationally" (Oniang'o) and the resulting expectations for academic publishing to help scholars to perform that goal. Oniang'o recollects the challenge of becoming an internationally indexed journal and Mumo describes how the African researchers she serves as a librarian "need a lot of support to be out there and to reach those impact factors that are on the other side of the world."


Ruth Oniang'o 23:14

" [the journal] serves a need, fills a gap of my African colleagues who want to publish and the universities that we serve still have the motto of either publish or perish. So the challenge then was getting these to be indexed. You know, internationally. We may be addressing African local issues, but we still have to be seen to be competing internationally. That was a challenge and it took us a while before we got into Scopus. And it took a while before even South Africa scholars could publish with us because they kept saying, "where are you indexed? Where are you indexed?" You know? But at least now they have put us in their system. ..."

Angela Mumo 46:08
"We are in a trap. There is no much support right now. And we feel like we are in a catch 22. And that kind of Plan S looks like it's going to be the solution, especially for us, Africa, who are...researchers are growing, and they need a lot of support to be out there and to reach those impact factors that are on the other side of the world."