Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Week 11 : Academic Research in Zimbabwe


I made a blunder!    I completed Week 13 before I had completed Weeks 11 and 12.  So here I am back at Week 11 where we have been covering academic research in developing countries and more specifically, Africa.

In our videos and readings there was nothing at all about Zimbabwe

What is Happening in Zimbabwe?

So I did some rudimentary research on Zimbabwe’s preparedness for Open Access and the current state of affairs relating to the dispensation of scholarly knowledge.   I started by contacting an old friend, Howard Dean.  Howard was at one time the Director of the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe (IPMZ) and had, and still has, a deep interest in scholarly research.  He started a journal under the umbrella of IPMZ which I recall reading in years past.  It was titled "The HR Journal of Academic Research in Zimbabwe" and Howard published HR related academic research through the journal.   However, in the midst of the Zimbabwe hyper-inflationary spiral of 2000-2008 he was unable to continue to finance the journal and it is now very much extinct.

Howard had his own take on the current state of affairs which was depressing.   The Zimbabwe economy is once again in disarray and he was of the opinion that little is being done in academia to promote and publish academic research.  But he put me on to Roger Stringer, a former Director of the University of Zimbabwe Publishing Department.

I spoke with Roger at some length on the telephone and he had similar views to current activity as Howard.  But he was aware of the work being done in Zimbabwe by INASP, AuthorAID and AJOL.  He told me of a journal titled Zambesia which published research done in the humanities and the Zimbabwe Journal of Agricultural Research both of which have, he believes, disappeared from the landscape.

Roger is still publishing under the name of ‘Textpertise’ but his work is largely in support of Aid Agencies. 

Google Searches

I then Googled a few sites and came across: -

The Zimbabwe Country site: http://www.inasp.info/en/network/country/ZW/ from which I discovered that a few ‘research’ articles have been published of late but unfortunately they lack empirical research of any kind and are more anecdotes than scholarly research articles.  Nonetheless they were of interest and I read ‘Reflections of a Trainer’ who trained the Zimbabwe Parliamentary staff in on-line research practices and  the abstract of “Building a Digital Library at the University of Zimbabwe”, a Book by Buhle Mbambo-Thata, published on June 3, 2007

Once again this book is purely anecdotal.

I Googled 'Zambesia' and found several links to bird life.  There was also reference to a main belt asteroid named Zambesia and discovered in 1932 by C Jackson in Johannesburg. 

Nothing related to academic research of any kind

I then Googled the University of Zimbabwe and ZULC – the Zimbabwe Universities Libraries Consortium.    I learned from the ZULC website that in June 2012 they were calling for papers to present at The Zimbabwe International Conference on Open Access, June 15, 2012.  Unfortunately it was not clear whether or not the conference was ever actually run as there was no follow up information of any kind.

Where to now?

So what is happening in Zimbabwe vis-à-vis Open Knowledge, Open Access and scholarly publishing?    The questions are yet to be answered.   I have e-mailed the author of ‘Reflections of a Trainer’ and hopefully this will result in future contact.  I shall also make it my business to visit the UZ Library in the near future when time permits.

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