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Gatekeeping African studies: what does “editormetrics” indicate about journal governance?

Abstract

This paper probes the internal governance of research journals by focusing on the editorial boards of leading African studies academic journals. We submit editorships to systematic scrutiny through a number of perspectives: geography, gender, institutional affiliation, research performance, entry/exit, etc. Overall, leading journals in the area of African studies are found to be less inclusive than expected: under a quarter of the editors are Africa-based scholars while women are even scarcer. Observations on editorial inflation, repeat editors, interlocking editorships and differentiated journal positionings are also made possible by taking a quantitative approach to editorial evidence. What we refer as “editormetrics” thus suggests the need for further debate regarding the managerial rules and roles of journals. This perspective may, and perhaps should, inform other evidence-based appraisals of the journal “industry” and the research policy scene at large.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful to Ana Moutinho, Ana Teresa Santos, and Manuel Mira Godinho for their comments and suggestions. Two anonymous reviewers provided useful remarks and criticism. Preliminary ideas and results benefited from being presented in the 21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators - Peripheries, Frontiers and Beyond, September 2016, Universitat Politècnica de València. The work leading to this paper benefited from support by the Fundação para Ciência e Tecnologia through the Grant UID/GES/00315/2013 and is part of the Strategic Project UID/ECO/00436/2013. The usual disclaimers apply.

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Correspondence to Sandro Mendonça.

Appendices

Appendix 1

African studies journals, in the area of “geography, planning and development” - brief outline of the sample

African Affairs (AA)—The oldest journal of venue for African studies papers. Founded in 1901 after the death of Mary Kingsley, a scientist and explorer. It changed its name in 1944 from Journal of the Royal African Society and today is published by pela Oxford University Press. In its website it depicts itself as “the top ranked journal in African Studies”. This is an inter-disciplinary journal, and focuses on the politics and international relations of sub-Saharan matters.

Africa (Africa)—The journal describes itself as the “the premier journal devoted to the study of African societies and culture.” It is open to interdisciplinary research, including the humanities, social sciences, and environmental sciences. It purports to give attention to the “African production of knowledge, highlighting the work of local African thinkers and writers”. Its first volume was in 1928 and is printed by Cambridge University Press.

Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE)—This journal was established in 1974 by a group of scholars and activists in the UK and Africa. It offers a “radical analysis of trends, issues and social processes in Africa, adopting a broadly materialist interpretation of change.” The journal is committed to understanding political challenges and projects of radical transformation. It offers a harbour for critical research on inequality, exploitation, oppression, social movements, etc. Taylor and Francis publishes it.

Journal of Modern African Studies (JMAS)—Since 1963 the journal provides a coverage of African politics, economies, societies and international relations. It positions itself for students and academics, but also for general readers and practitioners “living and working both inside and outside the continent.” It commits to stand neutral on political and ideological grounds, but engages with “controversial issues in order to promote a deeper understanding of what is happening in Africa today.” It is published by Cambridge University Press.

Journal of Southern African Studies (JSAS)—The publication pursues issues of interest for the region of Southern Africa. It is open to inter-disciplinary research from the fields of history, economics, sociology, demography, anthropology, geography, development studies, administration, law, political science, political economy, international relations, etc. It periodically organises and supports conferences to this end, sometimes in the region. It started in 1974 and is published by Taylor and Francis.

Journal of Contemporary African Studies (JCAS)—JCAS was launched in 1981 by the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA). Later, in 1991, it moved to the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Rhodes University (Grahamstown, South Africa). This interdisciplinary journal seeks to promote “an African-centred scholarly understanding of societies on the continent and their location within the global political economy.” It welcomes perspectives from the social sciences and the humanities to cover topics such as culture, development, education, the environment, gender, government, labour, land, leadership, social movements, etc. It started in 1981 and is published by Taylor and Francis.

Appendix 2

Titles or labels referring to different types of editors in journals

AA
• Co-Editor;
• Editorial Assistant;
• Book Reviews;
• Editorial Advisory Board
Africa
• Co-Editor;
• Reviews Editor;
• Local Intellectuals Editor;
• Editorial Advisory Board
ROAPE
• Editorial Working Group;
- Editor;
- Book Reviews Editor;
- Deputy Chair of Editorial Working Group;
- Chair of Editorial Working Group;
- Affiliate;
- Production Editor;
- Hon. Treasurer;
- Briefings and Debates Editor;
• International Advisory Board;
• Africa Editor;
• Contributing Editor
JMAS
• Editor;
• Assistant Editor;
• Editorial Advisory Board;
• Contributing Editor
JSAS
• Chair/Editorial Board;
• Senior Editor;
• Editor;
• Editorial Co-Ordinator;
• Book Review Editor;
• Editorial Board;
• Editorial Advisory Board
JCAS
• Chief Editor;
• Co-Editor;
• Editorial Committee;
• Book Reviews Editor;
• Editorial Board

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Mendonça, S., Pereira, J. & Ferreira, M.E. Gatekeeping African studies: what does “editormetrics” indicate about journal governance?. Scientometrics 117, 1513–1534 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-018-2909-1

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Keywords

  • Editorships
  • Editormetrics
  • Research governance
  • Editorial inflation
  • Interlocking editorships
  • African studies
  • Global south

JEL Classification

  • O38
  • O39