An Overview of Issues, Challenges and Opportunities of Scholarly Publishing in Information Studies in Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction

Publishing options and publications have increased significantly with the evolution of information technologies and communication networks, increased literacy, and the commercialisation of these important educational activities and facilities. Since the famous Gutenberg Press in 1440, publications have continued to proliferate with the Internet becoming the greatest publishing medium of all time. Because of the Internet, the publishing industry, which now spans three main categories--general, commercial, and academic publishing, is swiftly moving away from print to electronic -publishing, and from the traditionally large publishing firms to small or personal publishing initiatives, thereby introducing new challenges.

This paper discusses the status and challenges of scholarly publishing and e-scholarship in information studies. The paper focuses on two main issues: (i) conceptualising and contextualising publishing, scholarly publishing and e-scholarship; and (ii) the challenges of various aspects of e-scholarship, including peer review as a quality management activity, errors in scholarly publishing, mapping and auditing, self-archiving, Institutional Repositories (IRs) and Open Access (OA), publishing from theses, dissertations and conferences, visibility and web presence, etc.

Scholarly Publishing and E-Scholarship

Publishing is the process of making information and knowledge public or known by distributing and circulating that knowledge or information beyond the jurisdiction of its origin or source through the publication of content, mainly in print and electronic format. Of the three types of publications, i. e. general, commercial and scholarly or academic, the latter is where e-scholarship resides.

A scholar is still viewed to be a learned person; he or she could be an academic or a person involved or engaging with investigative or knowledge based activities, mainly as a learner, researcher or teacher. Scholarship is what the scholar does in terms of activity or work. E-scholarship therefore would be an academic or research activity or work undertaken or fulfilled by a scholar using an electronic medium to enhance teaching, learning and research. Electronic scholarship (i.e. e-scholarship) is closely tied to digital scholarship. Digital scholarship can be "any element of knowledge or art that is created, produced, analysed, distributed, published, and/or displayed in a digital medium, for the purpose of research and teaching"(Kirsten Foot cited by Mutula, 2009:6). Most of the terms provided by Mutula (2010:6) for defining digital scholarship, such as the electronic handling of research articles, peer review, blended learning, evaluation of scholarly work, collaborative research, communication and e-resources, show that there are insignificant differences between the meanings of e-scholarship and digital research, although not all digitised publications are 'e-something' and vice versa. We note that e-scholarship and digital scholarship provide solid opportunities for e-research, enabling researchers to collect research data or information and share their research activities or output virtually.

The purpose of scholarly publishing is to promote and support scholarship, research, and academic or learning activities. A large number of scholarly publications now occur in both print and electronic format, and web-based publications are growing increasingly popular in the academic community for the rapid dissemination of research results. Scholarly publishing differs from other types of publications because of its characteristics. Most scholarly publications are conveyors of scientific research output and there are specific requirements for such output to belong to the scholarly output category, such as research quality and rigour, audience, readability and originality, and so on (Mabawonku, 2005)

Research output has been described as "textual output where research is understood as original, systematic investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding" http:// www. …