Prof. Opata, Challenges Ratings Based on Thomson Reuters, Impact Factors

Professor Damian Opata

Retiring Professor of African literature in the University Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, Prof. Damian Opata has urged the university to reverse the practice of evaluating research works based on their publications in Impact factor or Thomson Reuters journals.

Opata described the journals as business oriented media organizations which do not have corresponding social or knowledge impacts, noting that it was unfortunate that the University of Nigeria was among tertiary institutions using such publications to access their academic staff.

Prof. Opata gave the charge while delivering a valedictory lecture titled ‘Oburu Gi (from the standpoint of others): Contending with differences in knowledge production in Africa, then and now,’ to mark his retirement from UNN, during the weekend.

He said that what was more agonizing and an act of inherent gross injustice was that the lecturers both in UNN and elsewhere in Africa do not have equal opportunities to publish in such journals. He cited that in 2019 general Impact factor list, there were about 12, 858 entries, out of which he surveyed about 1,500 entries, with 86 coming from social sciences and law while no entry came from departments in the faculty of Arts.

Opata therefore deduced that it was obvious that scholars in the arts and humanities do not have the same statistical opportunities to access impact factor journals and their colleagues in sciences, a situation which he described as injustice.

“If you ask me to publish, I should give equal opportunities to others, not to first of all disenfranchise others. There is very disadvantaged positioning of those in arts and sciences and we are in the same system and you are applying the same metrics to evaluate us.

“Whether Universities in Africa like it or not, those who prioritize papers in impact factor journals may not be aware that they are killing local journals and subsequently killing local knowledge appropriate for such journals. It is simply academic imperialism; the policy is impoverishing many young academics that pay through their nose to get their papers published in such journals.

“The worst thing that takes place is that scholars in the arts and humanities resort to publishing their papers in journals that use Impact factor to make money and whose titles have no bearing in their fields of study. Such scholars will hardly ever be read by their colleagues because different academic fields have their specialized journals.

“The very unfortunate precedent is that people in the quest for these Impact Factor journals, leave the journals in their disciplines, where they are known and write in the international journals of mathematics, Engineering and arts. How can one journal cover all these areas and they are accessed and given priority over a journal published in the candidate’s discipline?

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof. Pat Okpoko stated that the Thomson Reuters and Impact Factor journals had been big issues in the university and urged the academic staff to submit memos on their feelings, else they would continue as norms in the university.

“The University of Nigeria, for one must take this issue seriously, I am the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics, the DVC Administration are all here and of course I am not seeking an appointment again so I must say my mind.”

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