Q&A: Scientific African is showcasing R&D for impact

Benjamin Gyampoh Small
Copyright: AAS

Speed read

  • With the idea launched in March 2018, the journal’s first issue was published in December 2018
  • Scientific African has a magazine and other avenues to disseminate key articles to policymakers
  • Journal is aiming to promote excellence and partnerships in Africa, says its editor-in-chief

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In March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, the Scientific African, a new peer-reviewed, open access scientific journal dedicated to African research was launched. In December 2018, the maiden issue of the journal was published.

The journal received its 500th submission last month (19 February).

In an exclusive interview with SciDev.Net after such a feat for a new journal, Benjamin Apraku Gyampoh, its editor-in-chief, discussed the strides made so far and plans the journal has to actively disseminate its published articles and make them impactful.

Why should African scientists publish in the Scientific African?

Publishing research in the Scientific African journal by African scientists is very important for them, for the continent and for the development of science in Africa. Together, we are developing a brand which will be a testimony of the excellence of science in Africa.

“This is the place for scientists who want to create the Africa we want to stand up and be counted.”

Benjamin Apraku Gyampoh, Scientific African

The journal looks out for scientific solutions to address challenges on the continent. This is the place for scientists who want to create the Africa we want to stand up and be counted. The editorial culture we have is ensuring excellence and relevance. Our editors are excellent scientists in their own capacities who are dedicated to developing science on the continent and using science to find solutions for Africa.
These dedicated people understand the context of Africa and the issues relevant to the continent and work on them with passion. Together, the editors are working hard to help the journal achieve more for Africa.

How is the journal highlighting research that finds local solutions to local problems?

The journal is giving a platform to research in Africa, on Africa, about Africa and with relevance to Africa. Manuscripts have been received from researchers on the continent and outside the continent who are Africans and non-Africans.
The interest is in the scientific merit and the relevance of the work to Africa in getting the Africa we want and also achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

How is the journal expanding access to African researchers largely lacking platforms to showcase their research?

Scientific African is giving a modern and visible platform to Africa researchers across the continent. The journal is truly expanding access to African researchers. The journal has received submissions from authors in about two thirds of the continent in less than one year since it was launched.
This speaks volumes. It shows that many researchers on the continent have now found a home to publish their research.

In what ways is the journal ensuring that articles published in it reach a wider audience?

I do not envisage that research articles published in Scientific African will join many others that end up stocked in only scientific journals. And not envisaging something does not mean that it cannot happen.

I do not envisage such a situation because the journal has programmes in place to highlight its articles to ensure that this does not happen.
The innovation that Scientific African brings to the table is following through after publishing its articles.  The journal believes that the success of research lies in its ability to influence and change society for the better. For example, after the first issue was published, Scientific African Magazine was also published that disseminated the research outputs in forms such as questions and answers with authors, news on key articles and interaction with society on what they think of the publication and how it will help them. The journal will seek more opportunities for highlighting impact.

What plans does the journal have to actively disseminate the findings specifically to policymakers?

In addition to the publication of Scientific African Magazine, Next Einstein Forum — the owner of the journal — and co-publisher Elsevier, have other means to ensure that articles published in the journal reach policymakers and other key audiences.
These include active and wide dissemination of the publications through social media platforms such as Twitter.  The Next Einstein Forum also has effective means of engaging decision-makers on the continent and they will be carrying the work published in Scientific African to decision-makers at the continental and national levels during their engagements.

“The journal believes that the success of research lies in its ability to influence and change society for the better.”

Benjamin Apraku Gyampoh, Scientific African

The team at Scientific African recognises that sustained efforts are required to get outputs from the journal to catch the attention of policymakers and to contribute to evidence-based decision-making.

What have been the greatest challenges the journal has encountered thus far?

The Next Einstein Forum has put in their best in realising the vision of Scientific African. Editors have worked extremely hard. Reviewers have been thorough. So generally there have not been great challenges on the side of the journal.
But we would like to get better. I use this opportunity to thank our editors and reviewers for their dedication, diligence and for identifying with the vision of Scientific African.
I would like to encourage more scientists to be interested in becoming reviewers. Reviewing is a responsibility scientists owe to each other in driving growth in the scientific community.

Are you convinced that this journal is promoting scientific excellence and partnerships in Africa?

I am very convinced that this journal is promoting scientific excellence and partnerships in Africa. Scientists are getting to know what each other is doing at different parts of the continent. Even among editors in the same section, people are getting to know each other now.

Since the first issue was published, there has been a significant increase in submissions to the journal. In my assessment, it is a manifestation of acceptance by the scientific community of the quality of the journal. No researcher wants to publish their work in a platform they consider to be inferior. It is a long journey we have started and we are prepared for it.
With the help of the scientists themselves and the mass media, Scientific African will continue to promote scientific excellence and partnerships in Africa.
Q&As are edited for length and clarity.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.