Toward Global Research Equity from an African perspective – A conversation with Joy Owango
Joy Owango is the executive director of TCC Africa, the Training Center in Communication, based in Kenya and serving the whole continent of Africa.
Joy and Jo talk about how the scholarly community is working towards the concept of Global Research Equity – through the lens of Joy’s almost two decades’ worth of experience in scholarly capacity building and training across Africa.
Bridging Academic landscapes.
At Access 2 Perspectives, we provide novel insights into the communication and management of Research. Our goal is to equip researchers with the skills and enthusiasm they need to pursue a successful and joyful career.
This podcast brings to you insights and conversations around the topics of Scholarly Reading, Writing and Publishing, Career Development inside and outside Academia, Research Project Management, Research Integrity, and Open Science.
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As the director at TCC Africa with a demonstrated history of working in professional training and research capacity, Joy has experience in Government and Donor Relations, Research Analytics, Management, Data Analysis, and Business Strategy. It is her mission to democratize higher education through access to high-impact open data.
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At Access 2 Perspectives, we provide novel insights into the communication and management of Research. Our goal is to equip researchers with the skills and enthusiasm they need to pursue a successful and joyful career.
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Jo: Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome Ms. Joy Owango from TCC Africa, the executive director of TCC Africa, the training center and communication based in Kenya serving the whole continent of Africa. Welcome, Joy.
Joy Owango: Thank you, Jo.
Jo: The pleasure is immeasurable and not only because it’s always nice talking to you. Also, we are closely collaborating through our work with Africarxiv, the synergies we have discovered between TCC Africa and Africarxiv. And now to give our conversation a head start, could you please share with us how TCC came into existence? From what I heard from you, TCC is older than 15 years now, so we’ve been in operation for more than 15 years. What were the gaps that TCC set out to close 15 years ago on the continent?
Joy Owango: So TCC Africa started honestly by accident because at that point in 2006 I was a communications manager for a bio section and biotechnology project; that was in the University of Nairobi. And the one thing we noted within the project was that the bio section and the biotechnology researchers could not communicate amongst themselves and they’re in the same project. So the first thing that came to mind was we need to teach them how to communicate amongst themselves. And that meant even before there was a definition for scholarly communication. So that meant scientific writing and making sure that the way they wrote those papers, these researchers from different fields could understand what was put in the papers. When we critically looked at the situation. Because this project is not only at the University of Nairobi, but it was in the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Makerere University in Uganda and it was also in partnership with the University of Copenhagen and August University in Denmark. We realized that this is just not a researcher issue or early career researcher issue. It was an institutional problem. So it turns out that the lead of that project, Professor Gabor Lovie, who ended up becoming the cofounding director of TCC Africa, had been offering training on scientific writing. As I said, there was no definition yet. There was no term yet on scholarly communication; it was just scientific writing for postgraduate students in Denmark. And the idea was to make them understand their scientific writing process. And with time we pitched to the University of Nairobi and we told them, listen, we noticed this in a project within the University of Nairobi. I’m sure it’s a bigger problem with the greater academic community and it was true they realized the top producing research areas, namely health and agriculture studies. Yeah, who are producing quite a number of publications. But researchers within the University who are not in those research areas could not understand what was written in those papers. So the first thing that the University of Nairobi did was to partner with us and then make sure that the entire academic community was continuously trained on scientific writing. As we’re going through that. The very first training we did was actually not even in Kenya was in October, in 2005 in Makerere University. Then December 2006 was the first training we did in partnership now with the University of Nairobi. And out of that now we’ve been training at least four or five times a year and supporting the early career researchers. As we were supporting the researchers, we noticed that there were several administrative dynamics, impeding the production of good quality research output. So not within the University. So we started working closely with the supervisors and working with the library within the University and guiding the library on general selection strategy, mitigating predatory publishing with the supervisors, how they can work closely with their students in making sure that they are able to publish good quality journals and to effectively write better papers. Now you need to understand that at that point this was in 2006, there was no University in Kenya that had a writing center. Scientific writing fell under writing skills or communication skills. So it was a by the way program that was just provided when you’re about to do your thesis or when you’re writing your project. But since setting up TCC Africa, now we have universities that have set up centers purposely whose mandate is to support their respective academic communities in scholarly communication. So Piñata University has one, Strathmore University has one, and a few other Universities have set up such centers. We never had such. And with time, what you’re seeing is now universities are seeing the importance of supporting their early career researchers in producing good quality research output. Bearing in mind it is also now a mandate that before students graduate, they must have published and they must publish in good quality journals as well. So it has been a journey. We are proud to have been one of the influencers in setting up some of those mandates that have been implemented within the University Act. Because really when you look at a University, it’s not just an issue of producing research, but making sure that that research is visible and it also means that researchers need to understand each other. So it started with you needing to know how to write a good paper to how to write a good paper that researchers who are not in your field can understand. Also, it led to giving talks and conferences and workshops and making sure researchers who were not in your field could understand. Then the next step was letting nonscientists understand your work. So in a nutshell, really, we have pretty much trained and yes, supported and empowered researchers because the communication starts from them.
Jo: And your portfolio of workshops and training grew with the demands that researchers also brought to the table like this is what we need to know and we would appreciate guidance on how to go about it.
Joy Owango: Yeah, and we had to adapt because in the beginning it was pretty much scientific writing. But then it expanded. The portfolio expanded. It included general selection strategy, which never was an issue and the general selection strategy came as a result of predatory publishing. The rise of predatory publishing. Then it has expanded to open science and open access, mainly because they’re looking at how do you improve research, out how to improve research visibility. You need open access and open science to help you with that. So also making researchers understand the concept of open science and open access not only researchers, but also administrators in the universities, but most importantly, how they can take advantage of that to help them increase their visibility and also help improve their output. So we’re in a situation whereby when we’re training all the career researchers is making them understand these are the solutions that are available to help increase their visibility and output. When you’re working with administrators is making them understand that this is how you need to adapt. This is why you need to adapt to open science and open access to help make your University much more competitive. Because today universities have now understood, even though I could say it has been a bit of a slow process, because universities traditionally have been just producing research. They never saw themselves from a competitive nature unless from an academic perspective. But now they’re seeing themselves as competitive. Even from a business perspective, they are seeing themselves as businesses. Okay. And because they’re seeing themselves as businesses, they understand the power of publishing in the right channels. They understand the power of how open science and open access can help them become more competitive. So now when you’re talking to administrators within universities, they understand how these trends in academic publishing can help them become more competitive. And beyond that, we started working with policymakers, because at the end of the day, the policymakers would be collating all this information to talk about the research output that is coming out from their countries. So making them understand the importance of pushing for the adoption of open science and open access practices because they have a strong correlation on scholarly communication and the outputs that come out of it. So we’ve been forced to be dynamic and adapt because at the end of the day, it is producing good quality research output and increasing your visibility.
Jo: Yeah. And now that you mentioned that universities and scholarly institutions increasingly see themselves as business entities, I’d like to maybe go back to that point with regards to if we consider ourselves as businesses or basically service providers, we’re here to serve a purpose. As a University, as a researcher, it’s to accumulate knowledge and then to disseminate it. And the same is true for an institution. So I just want to avoid a misconception by some of our listeners that seeing a University as a business doesn’t mean that it’s only out for prestige or metric or numbers, but it actually serves a purpose. And need a level of discoverability, a level of presence online. Universities need to be visible for the research output the staff produces, for the accumulation of knowledge, the contribution to global research exchange, and also not the least to solve the issues and the challenges we’re dealing with as African scholars, but also as a global scientific community.
Joy Owango: And most importantly, as you’re saying, all that the universities need to learn is how they can be sustainable. Okay. Because funding is becoming less so with funding becoming less, they have to have innovative ways of raising money. They have to be a bit more strategic about the kind of research collaborations they are doing to help attract funding, attract collaborators, especially with industry, and also increase their visibility. You see. So that’s the business side. So when you’re talking about the business side, listeners, when you’re talking about the business side of the University, it’s how can a University become more sustainable and relevant and produce good quality research output, increased visibility, adoption of practices that can help increase that visibility and make them competitive. And open science being one of those, open science and open access being one of those is really important because that has a very strong relation with the kind of scholarly communication output that would come out from the institution and also the relevance that they would have in the economy.
Jo: Yes, I understand entrepreneurship; running a business nowadays for myself as an entrepreneur, but also at an institutional level, even if it’s a nonprofit organization, it’s to be able to see the connecting dots and to run an organization in a sustainable manner. And there’s also an increasing misconception. It’s not a misconception. It’s also a reality that open access for some journals and some publishers tend to be extremely expensive, to get published as a researcher or institutions, to sign up to agreements. That’s an issue and a problem in Western countries like in North America and Central and Western Europe, but also in other regions of this world and especially in Africa. So when it comes to visibility and discoverability, of course, we want to make sure that research is being shared in highly qualitative outlets, meaning journals and publishers. But the question is what should be the cost and who is going to cover the cost? So this is from the conversations, the work we do with our collaboration on TCC Africa and Africarchive as well. We’re constantly also interrogating and trying to negotiate to find ways to keep scholarship and scientific science communication affordable. Also for African scholars in an international and globally inclusive scholarly community, these are all big words. We can still follow each other. So what’s our approach when I say us and ours like TCC Africarchive, but also TCC’s approach. And let’s talk a little bit about the partnerships that you’ve established, as TCC, and then also later in what we’re now doing and working together towards. But could you explain a little bit about the existing partnerships that you’ve established with TCC Africa and other organizations inside Africa and also outside and how that’s serving African scholarship?
Joy Owango: Okay, so we are working closely. So I’ll start with Africa. We are working closely with the Association of African Universities. We are working closely with African Journals online. So I’ll start with the Association African of Universities. So the objective of our partnership with the Association of African Universities the AAU is create to awareness among vice chancellors and leadership in the universities in African universities on the importance of creating open access and open source mandate because we’ve noticed and this is something I keep on saying, let’s not romanticize the whole process of open science because there’s been push back. There’s been push back on the adoption of open science and open access. And Interestingly enough, the pushback is coming from researchers, all right, mainly because when it comes to cost, you cannot ignore that it comes down, it comes to cost and also a lack of proper understanding and awareness of what open access and open science entails. So we are working closely with the AAU to make sure that we create this awareness amongst vice chancellors and the leadership amongst Universities so they can understand why we have the UNESCO recommendations on open science and how it would benefit the University. How it would help Universities in becoming competitive. So that is the AAU then. We’ve also recently partnered with what was the second one, African Journals online. And these are just some of them with African journals online. For context, everyone, African Journals online is Africa’s only bibliographic database. So it’s a database of African journals. And out of 23 or 24 African countries, we only have 553 indexing African journals online. Don’t get me wrong, they are working round the clock. But that also is telling because in order to produce good quality journals, you need to meet the general publishing and practicing standards that have been set so that your journal can be indexed. So it is such a process as well to have your journal indexed. So we have about 500 over 500 good quality journals that are already indexed in African journals online. And so why we are working with them is to create awareness on that. So to help us with small academic publishers to know what it takes to have your journals indexed, helping researchers, academic publishers understand the importance of using digital object Identifiers in increasing the visibility of their journals because increasing the visibility of the Journal, increases the visibility of the output that comes out of it. So this kind of partnership for us is purely on creation of awareness on open science and open access. The opportunities that are available in open access and open science, as you can see, they are very strategic. So if you’re looking at African journals online, it’s targeting the small academic publishers. So if you are looking at small academic publishers and looking at Institute or even universities that have journals, if you’re looking at the association of African Universities, it means that you’re working with the leadership within the universities. We’re also working with the library consortium and this is making sure that they have access to resources that they can use, open access resources they can use for their respective academic communities as well. And this is extremely important because we need to include all stakeholders in higher education, because the open access conversation is not a library conversation, it’s a high education conversation. So we bring in all these higher education stakeholders within the continent and we look at their strengths and we build on those strengths to create awareness. So the library consortium is working with the library and inviting all the librarians under their consortium to make them understand what it entails to adopt open access and open science. And what opportunities are there that are locally, that is, continentally. Globally, we are partnered with digital science and we also partnered with plus. So with digital science, the objective is and also now with Elife as well. And what we’ve done is that with Elife, we are training researchers on peer review. It’s not an issue of training researchers on peer review, but coming up with a sustainable approach for creating, producing African peer reviewers and making the whole process inclusive, whereby there’s an African voice when it comes to peer review. Then with digital science, what we’re trying to do is create and increase an awareness on open access and open science on some of the open access solutions, which are citation databases, including the dimensions, among other solutions that they have that are open access. The reason for this is because commercially citation databases have fallen under the two big players, and that is Web of Science by Clarifier Analytics or Spokus by Elseget. And the reality is they are so extremely expensive, very few institutions can afford it. Very few institutions can afford it in the continent. So the fact that digital sense has open access, citation databases that do more or less the same kind of functionality or even better is what you’re trying to make sure that researchers have this database that they can use on top of the existing bibliographic databases to help produce good quality research output, to help also me to get predatory publishing because it already comes with journals. So in essence, you’re trying to change the narrative from saying that we don’t have resources, that we have resources, we just need to choose what works for us. With plus, what you’re doing is creating awareness and open access and open access, especially at a policy level amongst the African education stakeholders, making them understand the opportunities that are available in open access and particularly the global equity program that plus has been really pushing for researchers from the global south. So this is extremely important because this came as a need because of the high costs. And you can’t ignore that there are some exorbitant costs that come with open access, depending on where you’re publishing. And the sectors from the global south again were falling through the cracks. So the rise of this global equity program is making it possible for researchers in the global south to benefit from it, but also for publishers to be part of that program and have either provide equitable prices or free options for restarters to publish in some of their titles that are open access. So this is really important for us because what you’re trying to say is that we are creating awareness and open access and open science. We also show African high education opportunities that exist in open science and open access. We really want to change the narrative on the visibility of African research output. And we’ve noted it is because of lack of awareness and also infrastructure and our most access to infrastructure. And our most recent and exciting partnership is with Africa archives. Now being the only preprint repository in the continent that supports the research output produced in the continent or about the continent is a game changer for African research because we’re in a situation whereby literally any Institute that has a repository can have their work indexed in Africa archives. And what does that mean? It means visibility of the output. Seeing the true picture of the output that is coming out of that Institute and also the opportunity to showcase research done in different languages, Indigenous languages, or they could be national or they are Indigenous languages, but they happen to be on the national language of the respective countries is a game changer because it means that we are going in line with the Helsinki Declaration in making sure that Indigenous knowledge and also Indigenous language is also used as a contributing factor in the visibility of research output. So Africa, the kind of partnerships we are creating are heavily embedded in the visibility of African research output and also supporting the production of good quality African research output. So the narrative, I’m hoping in five years the narrative will be okay. What kind of resources can we use to improve our research output or what kind of resources can we work with to further increase the visibility of our output? Not that there is nothing available to help in supporting our research output, improving and producing good policy research output and also increasing the visibility of the output. So the kind of partnerships we’ve made, I’m truly excited about them because they are a make or break on the visibility of African research output. And also it breaks, it stops the narrative, the pessimistic narrative we’ve always had about the kind of output that is coming out of Africa. So there’s definitely a positive vibe when it comes to African research output because there are solutions that have been provided, knowing very well, knowing very well that finances and economies are tight or countries are not investing as much in higher education and research, but they are investing, but not as much. Let’s not say that they’re not investing. They are investing, but not as much. However, there are opportunities that are available that are either opportunities that will help in increasing their research visibility and also producing opportunities that will help in producing good quality research output. And most importantly, the fact that there are global equity programs that are rising to create a leveling plane for African researchers to competitively compete with researchers in the global market.
Jo: The way I see it also and I think we agree on that; is there’s a need and an opportunity for investment in the region also when it comes to scholarly infrastructure and not to see it as it’s often the case, like, oh, we’re waiving the fees, all those poor African scholarships, but history happened is why I tend to say when we talk about African archive, let’s acknowledge that history happened without blaming or shaming anyone today. It just happened. And we need to look at the realities that we’re facing today. And there is profit being made by some of the stakeholders. For most of the publishers and each of them has their own business model to sustain their services, which are of high quality. And what we’re doing together in this partnership between TCC Africa and Africarchive is also negotiating around and balancing what’s the capacity, the financial capacity of the African scholars, which is also diverse, looking at private universities versus public ones, and then the economic strength of some countries over others. So we’re looking at that and also what’s the business model that a publisher or a Journal chose for their sustainability plan? And how can we find an agreement that makes everybody happy, meaning that allows everyone on the table to sustain their business without having to give in too much, which then becomes painful and struggle to keep up the partnership? It’s quite a balanced act, but also it’s quite an informative journey and I personally enjoy it very much.
Joy Owango: Yes.
Jo: And it’s about acknowledging. So, yes, there’s a price tag that comes with publishing on certain journals and on certain publishers. And they also provide quality research. There’s other business models that are basically when we look at diamond open access journals and many of which are also in Africa where there are other means to sustain the services by the scholarly publishers, the fees are not as high and still the work is good another aspect is like don’t worry so much where you publish, but rather what you publish about, like what’s the research output you want to disseminate. How can you reach the audience that you are trying to target here? Who needs to know what you’ve come up with?
Joy Owango: Yes.
Jo: For that, the only thing that you need to look at is the Journal online. And you can also choose any of the African journals online.
Joy Owango: Absolutely.
Jo: And for that, it’s important also for publishing strategy or Journal selection strategy. If you want to publish in a plus Journal, good and fine. Just make sure that the scope that they have chosen for the operations, meet the audience that you’re trying to target.
Joy Owango: …that you’re trying to target. Absolutely. Those are the kind of conversations that have been done right now. And I mean, you mentioned something about diamond open access journals. And I know that is what is being pushed for. But the reality is this is my observation and my opinion. The diamond open access journals can work in certain regions and not all regions, mainly because it is 100% free. But for it to be 100% free, it means that somebody is paying for it at the back.
Joy Owango: Okay. And we need to be very clear on who is going to pay for it.
Joy Owango: All right. So we cannot force models that work in certain areas into designing regions simply because you want free access to the data. We need to ask ourselves because this is long term. We need to look at a sustainable approach and ask ourselves, fine, if you are going to have diamond open access journals, who is going to pay for it? And when you’re thinking about that, we need to ask ourselves in the countries that we are targeting, what are their open access mandates? What policies have they said? Because a country that has an open access policy will have ways to see how because it is an act of Parliament, they”ll see how they can include it within the budget or create a small budget for it. Create a small budget for it because it’s an active parliament. But a country that has no open access policy or active open access mandate.
Jo: They’ll need to figure it out
Joy Owango: Exactly. So that’s what I’m saying. There will never be a dull moment in academic publishing and also scholarly communication and our role in supporting African researchers, improving their output and increasing their visibility, because it’s always dynamic. There will always be things coming up and there will always be developments coming up. And as I said, the most recent one is on diamond open access, and we will be now. The next question is, how do you make it sustainable? Because it’s not an issue of creating awareness on open access or this type of open access, but it’s an issue of saying how can you make that type of open access sustainable? So maybe at that point, who knows? The conversations will be with government. How much can you apportion to higher education and STI? They’re already doing that, especially the countries that have committed at least 1% of their GDP in high education and research. We do have countries that have committed to that. And within those countries that have committed at least 1% of their GDP in higher education and research, the question is, how much are you going to put for publishing? Okay. Because all those countries are adopting open access, they’re pushing for open access. Those that have committed 1% of their GDP in education, they’re pushing for open access and open science. And that’s a good thing. That is step number one. Step number two, how much are you going to put aside to support and sustain diamond open access journals? So let’s say the top universities, the top research producing universities, or the top research Institute. So you have like five diamond open access journals coming from Kenya. How much are you willing to support because it costs money? And that is something that we really need to look at. And that’s where everybody is fumbling. We cannot say we are going to get funding. I don’t like that narrative of funding. Funding is listed as dependency theory whereby you’re constantly reliant on it. You’re not focusing on the work at hand because you’re trying to figure out I need to get the next funding cycle. And you’re heavily unfortunately reliant on the political economy of the day, of the person who is giving you the funding. So it’s not sustainable. So if somebody’s going to talk about diamond open access, they should not come with a funding model. They should come with a business sustainable model.
Jo: Yes, I totally agree. Two things to look at when we talk about diamond open access. What I meant earlier in this conversation was that if you’re hit by a price tag that’s beyond what you can afford as a researcher, then there’s other options available. But if we now talk about, oh, let’s just set up diamond open access outlets in Africa. That’s not a totally different story because…
Joy Owango: I’m seeing the conversations in Africa and I shudder because we’re already struggling in trying to get infrastructure systems just for open science. We are struggling to make researchers understand the need to update existing systems that are already open access.
And then you’re saying you’re going to throw in Diamond Open access. I’m like, yeah, brilliant. Come with the money.
Jo: I was going to pay for that. I think the Diamond Open access journalists that exist are mostly run on an institutional level. So the government, Europe, was not involved. But when it comes to Africa you can expect a tight budget, just randomly…
Joy Owango: …they’re institutional based. If you look at the Institute, it has maybe an open access mandate because the librarian actually normally pushed for it. So the one that interacted with it is because the librarians pushed for it. So it’s this kind of awareness that we really need to create so that people can understand…
When we are training stakeholders on how to improve their research visibility, especially through open access and open science, we don’t want them to be overrun by the white noise. But to look at the priorities of their countries and how open science can help increase or can help build the knowledge economy in their respective countries and looking at pragmatic approaches as well.
Jo: It’s also how we’re operating with Africarchive, we do the work that we do using existing infrastructure. And yes, it’s also Western based, but built for the global scientific community.
Joy Owango: We cannot just say Pan African. It’s Pan African looking global. It is global looking at Pan African. So we work with systems that are there and build on them.
Joy Owango: And learn from those systems and create our own. They’ve already been there. So learn from the mistakes, avoid them.
Jo: That’s how Europe is doing it. It’s like, see who does it first, observe, learn from it, and then implement yourself.
Joy Owango: Yeah, that’s how it is. And that is why as TCC Africa, I say, this is the kind of awareness we are creating so that we always tell the stakeholders that we are working with, we are very pragmatic and we tell them, listen, we break it down on making them understand what open access and open science is, what it entails. And we don’t romanticize it. The costs because there are costs involved, then it is the grand benefit out of it. Yeah, it’s the grand benefit of it. And it’s at this point that whenever we are doing these trainings and workshops, we are very clear what the expected output is. So that we are able to build up on that. We are able to build up on that. So it’s exciting times with TCC Africa. We started on just the aspect of writing good quality papers and we realized it’s bigger than that. You’re looking at the fact that you need to publish in good journals. Then it led to where to identify these good journals, then also working with supervisors, because the supervisors are going to guide you in that whole process. Then understanding the administrative dynamics and challenges that a University goes through. So even when you’re supporting your coming to universities and telling them, listen, we want to support the academic community in improving their research, scholarly and science communication. It’s working closely with the vice chancellors and the deputy vice Chancellors and assuring them that we are not taking over their system, but recognizing the challenges that they are facing in supporting the academic community and working with them to achieve that goal. You see. And then we realized that we have to work with the government, with the government. You’re the same ones who are saying that you need to produce quality output, but you’re not telling us how that’s going to be done.
You’ve got to love the government, you must produce good quality output, you must publish in good journals. And how are you going to do that?
Lots and lots of crickets. So working with them needs understanding, because at the end of the day, they are policy makers. They are held accountable for the representation of the research coming out of the country. So working with them so that they can know the narrative. So when they’re saying, okay, we want good quality output, this is what we are talking about, this is how we want it. And you’re seeing a change, you’re seeing the adoption. And it’s exciting that we are even working with the East African community, the East African community Parliament through that. So the IUC is interested in the inter university Council of East Africa that falls under the East African Community Parliament. The East African Commission for Science and Technology is interested in that. That is the regional Council for all research councils in Eastern and Eastern Africa. You see, when you start working at policy level, it means that they are keen to know, okay, so how can we work together to make this work, to support our research Institute, to support our universities? What is the messaging that we should use? Because we want good quality outputs. That’s what they want. So that when we are giving a representation of Africa or East Africa, rather we are talking about the amount of output we produce, and its good quality output. But what kind of messaging should we use, how should we guide them? And that’s the level we’ve reached. So it started from, hey, write a good paper to policy makers saying how can we work together in supporting our respective institutions, whether it’s universities or research councils, in producing good quality outputs? What kind of open access mandate should we support them with in creating systems that would help in improving their research output and increasing their visibility? 15 years and loading…
Jo: Now, having looked at the past 15 years in speed through like how TCC emerged, what your mandates have been, how it’s changed over time, who you’re currently working with, and how do you envision the next 5, 10, 15 years, like, will TCC Africa be done with the kind of work you’re doing or what will be in place, and what would you think and guess from what we know today, obviously we can’t look into the future just yet. What’s going to be the most important thing to work on in 15 years from now?
Joy Owango: Let’s start with what I do not expect to happen. I do not expect that we would be working with the government in making them understand the importance of scholarly communication. And now with the rise of open access and open science, I never expected that, mainly because we thought this was an institutional problem. And that has taught me to be on guard for the unexpected. So to watch the trends and quickly adapt to it. All right. So I can constantly say in the next five years that we’d want the narrative on African research visibility to change that .1% is visible. But say that we are adopting technology and open science to help increase the visibility of African research output. That’s the narrative I want to see, because the reason why we are not visible is not because we are not producing research, it is because we do not have infrastructure systems to support, and now we have open science. So I want the narrative to change that we are aggressively adopting open science technologies to help in increasing research visibility. Okay. In five years, I’m envisioning better research output being produced because we are no longer tied to the kind of journals we can publish in. We are no longer tied to the avenues in which we can publish, okay.
Jo: Because the protection is not happening. It’s not going through being fluxed and bottlenecked.
Joy Owango: It’s slowly changing. You see, the thing is, before, I mean, when we started this, it was wow. It was okay, yes you’ve written your paper. We need to identify where to publish. We don’t know where to publish or then all of a sudden it came with predatory publishing. Now I’m scared to publish. It was such a scary time for African researchers and all the top researchers only in health and agricultural Sciences, because, you know, that’s where the big money is, you know. So now we’re in a situation whereby we know where to publish. We have various patterns that are available to us on where to publish. We are more aware of the journals that Africans are producing. And it’s a good quality Journal. So you can’t say that we don’t have access to African journals. You already have good quality. And it’s not much. But I think 500 is a lot to start with. That you have 500 journals that are multidisciplinary for African researchers to publish that are African produced. So in the next five years, who knows? There’ll be 500 more. The narrative is changing. So I envision a time when we may not need to say that we do not know where we are publishing because we are producing better research output, because we have access to more resources on where to publish, and understanding on what it takes to publish. But most importantly, if I look at it from an Agenda 2063 perspective, when you’re looking at the Africa we want, I’m looking at a situation whereby we have built such strong knowledge economies in the continent and we are active producers of research and innovation. I am looking at situations like Covid 19 is a classic example. We are seeing research clusters and groups being produced in Africa just purely on Covid 19. Nigeria has one. South Africa has one. And these are research groups that are attracting not only funding but internationalization through these research collaborations. So I’m envisioning a situation whereby we are leading the narrative in some of the top research areas that are relevant in Africa, whether it is tropical medicine, whether it is mobile money, because it came from Africa, it’s mobile money or fintech anything in fintech. It mostly came from Africa, really. And it has been adopted. So any innovation is backed up with research because we have access to the data. We have access to the resources that can help in producing good quality research output. And also it is backed up with open science and open access. So people are seeing it and it’s much more accessible.
Jo: And also it protects us from misappropriation.
Joy Owango: Exactly. And it leads to the next thing, research sovereignty. So everything is protected. This is what I’m saying. I’m looking at research, the increased awareness of ownership of research. So that’s leading to research sovereignty and for us, leading in the kind of research that needs to be done on and about Africa, not the mandate of the funder, but these are our problems. This is the kind of research that we want to do. These are the kind of collaborators that we want to work with because they understand what our needs are.
Jo: … and also what the gain is in collaborating.
Joy Owango: Yes, absolutely. And that’s what I see happening in the next five years with some of the activities we’re doing because we’re already seeing the change. We are seeing increased research visibility per Institute. And of course, there are so many factors that lead to it. But the one thing that you’re seeing is open access and publishing, and understanding of the publishing process. And when I say this, it’s increasing because I look at what we call the neglected Sciences, the social Sciences and arts and humanities, the natural Sciences, life Sciences. There’s a lot you always see output coming up, but then the social Sciences and arts and humanities, it’s not as much and not as fast. But now you’re seeing a lot of it because they have access to resources to publish, to produce good quality, to produce better papers that we are seeing a change. And also higher education stakeholders are getting much more involved in the trends in academic publishing and how the impact in scholarly communication and academic publishing and the impact it has on the overall output coming out of the respective countries and regions as well. So that’s what I see happening. I can already say it is happening, but I also see it happening in the next five years. But as I said in the beginning, I’m also reading the room because during those five years, anything else could happen. And we just need to learn to adapt and go with the flow. Yeah.
Jo: Well, that’s a nice outlook. And also thanks for summarizing the observations and presenting here with us.
I’m glad I’m collaborating so closely on this journey together. Thanks very much for joining us today. We are on a great mission. Also, we are very happy to collaborate as you’ve heard us explain our various partnerships. So whoever is listening, feel free to reach out to us either by email, through the link in the show notes or in the associated blog post. You can reach joy through Info@tccafrica.org. Also, there is mentoring program. So for scholars, irrespective of your career level, you can also join the TCC Africa community and book courses from the portfolio that TCC is offering. So there’s many ways and opportunities to engage with TCC, with our joint activities with Africarchive and TCC Africa and also with Access 2 perspectives. So we are all one big family and inviting people to engage with us and to grow with us and for the betterment of scholarship on a global scale and also for the continent of Africa. Asante sana, thank you so much.
Joy Owango: You are welcome asante sana.
Jo: …and have a great day and speak soon.
Joy Owango: Superb!