Continuing Riposte: Of fake degrees and journals – The inconvenient conversation African universities must have

Category: Editorials/Opinion 326

GraduatesThe ongoing discourse on academic credentials and credible outlets for knowledge production and dissemination is not for “much ado about nothings,” who have absolutely nothing to contribute to the discourse in ways that challenge the status quo for the betterment of our educational prospects in UPSA, Ghana, and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is an invitation to those who abhor the status quo and have ideas to help shape this discourse toward meaningful policy frameworks.

First, our concern is for UPSA, Ghana, and Sub-Saharan Africa, as concerned citizens of the region. In spite of our narrowed concern, we have, at least, provided some leads to the average reader to demonstrate to him/her the global nature of the problem and to educate him/her on what other geographical regions are doing to combat this global epidemic. If Mr. Michael Yao Wodui Serwornoo’s prying lens, looking for punch lines or loopholes to pitch an argument, failed to capture those leads in our essay, we would be glad to redirect his attention to those leads once more. In our postscript, the following links were provided for education:

  1. Action by Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Business Deans’ Resolution on Predatory Journals.

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55d1dd88e4b0dee65a6594f0/t/564b5e8c841abae9c84f1226/1447779980530/AJCU+Business+Deans+Resolution+on+Predatory+Publishing.pdf

  1. Lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/08/ftc-charges-academic-journal-publisher-omics-group-deceived

http://www.chronicle.com/article/Federal-Prosecutors-Join-Fight/237615

  1. Jeffrey Beall’s Continuing Work on Predatory Journals

https://scholarlyoa.com/2016/01/05/bealls-list-of-predatory-publishers-2016/

https://www.facebook.com/POA.Publishers/

If Mr. Serwornoo could not follow the links provided, analyze the issues, and appreciate the global nature of the problem, but rather fault us for not specifically mentioning all the world’s regions to convince him of the universality of the problem, then that is his own palaver to deal with. We hope the average reader, following the genesis of this discourse and the leads often provided, can appreciate the problem as a global one.

Mr. Serwornoo also wanted to know from us which region of the world constitutes Sub-Saharan Africa. If Serwornoo cannot capture the region known as Sub-Saharan Africa, we are not under any obligation to help him locate it. A simple Google search would help educate him educate himself on the location of Sub-Saharan Africa. We are very much aware of the direction in which Serwornoo would like to drive this discourse—the attempt to reposition the argument in ways that divert from the substantive issues raised in our essay. Yes, we are aware of the tendency on the part of young scholars who are introduced to the epistle of “framing and representation,” with Sub-Saharan Africa in mind, and once they get hold of those historical frames of (mis)representations, they think that it must be imposed on every discourse that makes its way into the public space, even when those frameworks are irrelevant to the context.

Aware of the potential racialization of this discourse, we critiqued Beall’s authority to label and provided the ideological dimensions that could possibly drive this discourse. What is it with an ill-mannered young aspiring academic who can hardly apprehend the position of others, the ideological dimensions of the issues in discussion and respect such? You recognized this problem way back in University of Cape Coast and evaded it, and so what? Does your singular evasion of the problem provide a whole country a policy framework to deal with the burgeoning problem? And of what relevance was that chest-stomping, suggesting that you knew about the issue at hand back when you were in Cape Coast University yet did not write a single sentence on it? What did you want us to infer from that vacuous self-adulation?

It is ironical for Mr. Serwornoo to lambast Dr. Prosper Yao Tsikata as an individual who “fell for the scam in faraway Ohio.” Meanwhile, he admitted having “submitted an article to an online journal that was going to publish it in just three weeks after he had submitted it, without any reviewer’s comment.” How disingenuous can one be? As least Dr. Tsikata made a mistake, admitted it, learned a lesson or two from it and got tutored on CAPA.

It is important for Mr. Serwornoo to weigh his thoughts carefully before making them public, so he can save the public from his ridiculous contradictions. In one breath, “we do not want some white folks somewhere to see us as jokers. That is their business; we do not need their elevation for anything.” Meanwhile, you are currently being educated and elevated by the same white folks.

What is the work of an academic? To a large extent, it involves writing on and fantasizing with ideas. It is for this reason that we have chosen to write about issues that affect our communities of interest. We have decided not to engage in frivolity that stays on the shelves and gather dust, but issues that have the potential to reshape the ways business is conducted in the academy in UPSA, Ghana, and elsewhere on the African continent. In our effort to establish a baseline for this issue in UPSA, Ghana, and on the African continent, as per our piece, we stated:

This event made Tsikata to start looking seriously into the issue of predatory

publications generally and started sending emails to some of our local universities to

inquire about these issues. The responses from our universities generally painted a

profound lack of understanding regarding these issues.

The above-quote should at least point you to the fact that efforts had been made to understand how university administrators in UPSA, Ghana, and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa perceive these issues and the attendant actions they take to mitigate them. It is disingenuous for Mr. Serwornoo to write “I do not think the single case cited in Ghana has the capacity to put Africa in jeopardy.” Additionally, has Mr. Serwornoo not been following our articles? Fact is, we have identified more than several professors at UPSA whose publications are suspect. We previously gave examples that include Rev. “Prof. Dr. Dr.” Mrs. Goski Alabi and “Prof. Dr. Dr.” Okoe Amartey. Let’s reemphasize the point that there is paucity of knowledge on this front in Ghana and in many African countries. If Mr. Sewornoo is arguing that the university where he once taught, Dr. Tsikata’s alma mater, has recognized this issue and dealt with it, is it not only prudent that the policy blueprint on the issue is published and made available for access by people who are interested in the subject matter? Perhaps this policy blueprint is only known to Serwornoo and whoever promulgated that so-called policy blueprint.

It should be stated at this point that, with the exception of the Republic of South Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is dearth of knowledge and policy on this hydra-headed phenomena. South Africa had recognized the problem and devised mechanisms to deal with it. Since 2011, the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has been issuing a list of journals recognized by the state for funding purposes—and I believe that extends to promotion and tenure as well (Pease follow the link to the current approved journals for South African scholars and that of the previous years:

  1. http://www0.sun.ac.za/research/assets/files/DHET%20Local%20journals%202016(1).pdf
  1. http://research.ukzn.ac.za/DoHETAccreditedJournals.aspx).

If Mr. Serwornoo thinks he got it right, we would be very glad he furnishes us with any national policy from Ghana or the University of Cape Coast, which he is familiar with. He can also proceed to do same for any other country south of the Sahara, except South Africa. Once he is able to do that, we will withdraw our article and offer an unreserved apology to UPSA, Universities in Ghana, and Universities across the Sub-Saharan African region. If South Africa saw the need since 2011, or even before then, to fashion out a national policy to regulate knowledge production and dissemination, and we in 2016 have not even dreamt of it, we should not be finding diversionary ways to put spokes in the wheels of those who dare raise these issues. Serwornoo, please stop your diversionary antics and return to your studies, so those who have suggestions regarding how these issues can be resolved can engage them in profound ways.

Serwornoo’s stance on what he termed the exaggeration of “conventional knowledge and practices” simply goes to underscore his lack of appreciation for why he is where he is doing what he is doing currently—studying! If we understood what Serwornoo termed conventional knowledge and practice well, then there is the presupposition that there is also unconventional knowledge and practice. The questions that follow naturally are: (a) What is the cost of conventional knowledge and practice? (b) What is the cost of unconventional knowledge and practice? We will address the former and allow the reader to make inferences regarding the latter.

Conventional knowledge is expensive. The US, holding the top spot in research and development (R&D), invests 2.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita income (PPP) in R&D. This translated into a total of US$473.4 billion in 2013. The US is closely followed by China with 2.1 percent of its GDP (PPP), translating into US$409 billion in 2015. The country with the highest investment in R&D in Sub-Saharan Africa is South Africa, with 0.7 percent of GDP (PPP), translating into US$4.8 billion in 2012. The foregoing figures are instructive why South Africa would fashion out a blueprint to regulate what counts as knowledge production and dissemination, especially towards national development.

In this regard, by what benchmarks is conventional knowledge production and practice exaggerated? I am not sure the biggest spenders on knowledge production and dissemination would want to offer scholarships to students, funding to scholars, and also invest in other areas of knowledge production only for the outcomes of their investments to wind up being published in so-called “International” journals being operated and managed by college dropouts in a street corner somewhere in Bangladesh. Is Serwornoo telling us that, even with her minuscule investment in R&D, the Government of Ghana is enthusiastic in paying research allowances to scholars who only end up publishing their work in a journal being operated from some street corner in Surulere in Nigeria, by a high school leaver? Knowledge production and dissemination is an expensive enterprise and must be upheld as such. If Serwornoo believes conventional knowledge production and its practices are exaggerated, he should get out of the academy and find an alternative livelihood. He has no business being in the academy.

Let Serwornoo be reminded that it is a great privilege to “live the life of the mind.” The privilege is that we get to fantasize with ideas, even at the most intricate levels. But this privilege placed on us an enormous responsibility. The responsibility is that others—especially students, policymakers, and our peers—depend on the ideas we generate for their decisions, actions, and for the furtherance of knowledge. If those who are aspiring to be on this path do not believe in the tenets that guide this laborious path, and cannot spend their time in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake or for the sake of what is at stake, then what business do they have attempting to join the fraternity of those who “live the life of the mind?” On this note, we will urge Mr. Michael Yao Wodui Sewornoo to desist from rebuttals that do not help in anyways to address the problem, but only serve as an unwarranted distraction, if he values the essence of time in the academy. More importantly, Serwornoo should also learn to frame his arguments in ways that address issues rather than cast unprovoked insinuations and infantile aspersions. We can only hope that Serwornoo is being mentored by able hands who would shape his views in ways that advance society, respects the views of others, and, most of all, do not expose him to public ridicule.

Prosper Yao Tsikata, PhD

Assistant Professor of Communication

  1. Kobla Dotse, PhD

Director, Chemical Research & Development

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