Creating Global Cognitive Justice

This is the first in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2018, and their projects. This one was submitted by Tom Olijhoek.

A project to explore the language, access and epistemological barriers that put the equity, diversity and inclusiveness of OA scholarly communication at risk in Africa and other areas in the Global South

Photo of training session at the Université Catholique d'Afrique Centrale, Yaoundé. Cameroun

Image credit: Prof. Florence Piron, training session at the Université Catholique d’Afrique Centrale, Yaoundé. Cameroun

Defining the problem

Scientific research is not just about advancing knowledge. In today’s world, it is attempting to fulfill two other roles assigned to it by science policy: on the one hand, to contribute to the economic development of a country by generating marketable innovations (knowledge economy) and, on the other hand, to contribute to the common good of a society defined according to its priorities and needs (societal impact).

Word cloud of text about open access and knowledge in AfricaIn the Global South, which are plagued by many economic, political, environmental, social or energy problems, scientific research should and could offer a major contribution to the search for solutions. However, as several surveys (Alperin 2013; Gibs 1995) and statistics from commercial databases or from the DOAJ show, research is struggling to emerge in these countries: publications from universities in for example French-speaking Africa are very few, not very visible, not widely read, and so most African universities are more familiar with publications from the North than from their neighbors.

Among the explanations of this phenomenon that we want to explore together during the seminar, the hegemony of the English language on the scientific publishing system comes first (Panko 2017). Indeed, few graduate students, lecturers and professors from French-speaking Africa (where university education is taught in French) are proficient in English. That situation prevents them from fully understanding publications in this language or from publishing articles in English-language journals, the most visible on the web right now.

For researchers, choosing to produce knowledge in their own languages would allow them not only to integrate within it the local world vision and knowledge, but also to maximize the use of this knowledge by their fellow citizens, whether in Economics, Public Service or Civil Society.

The domination of the English language in the publication system entails  a serious risk for researchers from the Francophone Global South (Hountondji 1994, 2001). They want or are expected by their university to publish away from their language and therefore from their first public, their fellow citizens. In so doing, they target an Anglophone public that is not  necessarily interested in their research topics or their way to approach it. The same situation exists in other language areas.

Language, knowledge sharing and Open Access

The two major problems encountered in global scholarly communication are:

1) Cognitive injustice linked to language hegemony
The concept of cognitive justice, stemming from the reflections of the Indian anthropologist Shiv Visvanathan designates an epistemological, ethical and political ideal aimed at the emergence and the free circulation of knowledge that is socially relevant all over the planet, not just in the North. The current system favors the circulation of knowledge present in English language publications.Graphic of which countries academic knowledge comes from2) Bias in scholarly knowledge production,  (open) access and preservation

Because of the emphasis on publishing in English language journals from the Global North, knowledge in other languages and indigenous knowledge from Global South countries is much underrepresented in the total Global Knowledge output. Open Access is often seen as a way to promote equity in knowledge, but it also bears the hidden risk of serving continued global dominance of the Northern science system maintaining the invisibility of African science, seldom digitized or in open access (Piron 2017).

Expected Outcome

Our project aims at finding ways to promote the accessibility of local and indigenous knowledges starting with  the Francophone Global South in order to bring more equity, diversity and inclusiveness in scholarly communication.

A reference point for the project  is the project SOHA (Open science in Haiti and Africa as a tool of cognitive justice and collective empowerment) (Piron 2016) and the book published on the outcomes of SOHA ( Piron et al, 2016).

We want to seek collaboration with other communities like the Creative Commons Global Network (https://network.creativecommons.org/) and the OCSD Network (https://ocsdnet.org/)  in order to work with the people concerned in this project as much as possible from the beginning onward. In particular, we are very interested in the potential of multilingualism as a means of countering the hegemony of one language over others.

The other problem that we want to explore together from our varied positions in the academic world is the fascination exerted on scholars from the Global South  by the center of the science world-system, especially the whole system of promotion based on journals with impact factor that is increasingly also imposed in French-speaking countries. Is it possible to propose an alternative system of promotion based on other quality criteria? We want to write an advocacy paper in French asking to give up the impact factor  as evaluation criteria, in line with the San Francisco Declaration on Scientific Assessment(DORA: https://sfdora.org/).

Our proposed deliverables at the end of the seminar are:

  • A global paper called provisionally “Institutionalized diglossia in Francophone African science : risks and solutions”, in French and in English to be submitted to the journals Science, Technology and Human Values et Anthropologie des connaissances.
  • An advocacy paper critical of the impact factor cult, for The Conversation (Africa, the English and French editions)
  • 2 blog posts on the DOAJ website (in English and French)
  • 2 blog posts in French on the Scienceafrique.org future platform (one of the projects that we want to present to each other and discuss during the seminar)
  • A guide to article publications in Open Access intended for African francophone scholars
  • Promotion of non-English journals and developing / adopting new ways for the assessment of scientific quality *
  • Contribute to establishing scholarly knowledge as a commons by default through the promotion of Open Access publishing

* This would entail the creation and support of French-speaking African journals and archiving of Francophone African Science in a multilateral  open repository. We would also like to promote the Directory of Open Access Journals as the global  list of quality open access journals (Olijhoek et al. 2015), currently accepted in many parts of the world.

Our Team

Our team will bring together multiple disciplines and perspectives:

Florence Piron

Florence Piron is an anthropologist and ethicist, a professor in the Department of Information and Communication at Laval University where she teaches critical thinking through courses on ethics and democracy. She is the founding President of the Association for Science and Common Good and its open access publishing house, Éditions science et bien commun. She has been responsible for the SOHA project (open science in Haiti and French-speaking Africa) from 2015 to 2017 and is now leading a research-creation project in theatrical writing and an action-research project on science shops in French-speaking Africa and Haiti. She publishes numerous books with her students, particularly the series Portraits de femmes and Québec as open city.

Kamel Belhamel

Kamel Belhamel holds a PhD in the Process Engineering and Electrochemistry from the University of Setif since 2005.  He is currently  a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Bejaia in Algeria (ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9099-8040) He has taken part in several international projects such as: German – DAAD project, French- Algerian framework programme CMEP and co-ordinator of several Algerian national research projects. From January 2018,  He is  DOAJ Managing Editor for North Africa and Middle East countries ( https://doaj.org/about).

Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou

Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou (Cameroon), is a PhD student in Public Communication at Université Laval (Quebec). His involvement as a co-researcher in the SOHA Project (Open Science in Haiti and French-speaking Africa) has allowed him to acquire a strong experience in the field of Scholarly communication. He is working on the African landscape of scholarly communication, in order to improve, through Commons of knowledge, the visibility of African researchers on the scientific web, to promote diversity and inclusion in open access, as well as fight the neocolonial and neocapitalist hidden faces of Open access. Due to this experience, he is part of the OpenCon organizing committee, member of the Advisory board of the Open Access Week 2018, and regularly invited to give lectures on the state of scholarly communication in Africa.

Aurélie Fichot

Aurélie Fichot is a research engineer in scientific and technical information, documentation and heritage collections, responsible for resources and documentation engineering. She is Head of the Documentation Centre of Sciences Po Grenoble (France) and is in charge of Mir@bel for Sciences Po Grenoble, co-founder (2009) and member of the steering committee of this free and open network which facilitates access to electronic journals, mainly for French-language ones on social sciences and humanities. She also actively participates in the Sign@l network, a free and open database reporting the content of French-language journals in the humanities and social sciences.

Tom Olijhoek

Tom Olijhoek has been living and working  in Africa for more than 7 years  doing research into tropical and exotic diseases during much of his career. He has spent several years in Africa (Kenya, Algeria) doing research on malaria, sleeping sickness and meningococcal epidemics. Since 2012 he is advocating open access and open science as Open Access working group coordinator for Open Knowledge International (https://okfn.org/).  Since 2014 he is Editor in Chief at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ: https://doaj.org/). From January 2018 his main task has become managing of the global DOAJ ambassador programme and global outreach activities including connecting to other open communities like the Creative Commons Global Network and OCSD Net.

Zoé Aubierge Ouangré

Zoé Aubierge Ouangré is a lecturer in information science at the University of Koudougou (Burkina Faso). She is about to defend her doctoral thesis in information science at the University of Montreal where she is also participating in the teaching programme. Her research project focuses on the informational behavior of medical students in Burkina Faso. She is particularly interested in the access to scientific information and the difficulties encountered in this respect by students and lecturers of French-speaking universities in Africa. She is a member of the APSOHA (Association for the Promotion of Open Science in Haiti and Africa).

References

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