Go back

Journal ‘mafia’ accused of blocking newcomers

Senior African academics have been accused of monopolising local journals, making it difficult for young researchers to publish.

The problem came to the fore at the Southern African-Nordic Centre third Bi-Annual International Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, which ended on 30 November.

Rachmond Howard, research director of the University of Limpopo in South Africa, was among those who spoke out strongly against the exclusion of young researchers in local journals.

“There is a mafia control of publishing houses,” he told delegates at a session on socially responsive Africa-centred research held during the four-day conference.

Howard later told Research Africa that the monopoly was prevalent in South African journals but refused to name them for fear of reprisal. Senior academics “hog” journals, the biochemist said.

Sometimes, the bias came down to influence, he claimed: “Some people publishing in the journals are also in the editorial board and don’t permit entry into these journals. This makes it difficult for young researchers to publish.”

It was desirable for young African researchers to publish in local journals, the meeting heard. Such journals provided them with a space to discuss issues relevant to their context, and increased their visibility to policymakers on the continent.

Also, it was often cheaper to publish in local journals than international ones—making them even more attractive for young, cash-strapped Africans.

But Charles Masango, a research development coordinator at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, put part of the blame on African researchers for refusing to publish in local journals.

“They say it’s a waste of their papers to publish locally when everyone else is publishing internationally,” he said.

However, he added, international publishers often dismissed manuscripts from African scholars as being unrelated to current academic debates.

“They say they don’t conform to Western norms and expectations,” he said.