Handbook of Good Practice in Journal Publishing workshop
Woeli A Dekutsey is Managing Director of Woeli Publishing Services, PO Box K 601, Accra New Town, Ghana. Fax +233 21 228394.
When journal publishers from Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Ghana descended on Accra for a workshop in February the occasion was used not only for reflection but also for action.
Following similar workshops in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia to pre-test Hans Zell's Handbook of Good Practice in Journal Publishing prior to publication, this workshop was organised by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), and the US National Academy of Sciences, and hosted by the Association of African Universities (AAU) based in Accra. The co-ordinator was Hans Zell, with Woeli Dekutsey as a resource person.
The aim of the workshop was to inculcate in participants the importance of good practice, realistic costing, good housekeeping and the establishment of workable systems for subscription procurement and fulfilment.
The informal atmosphere contributed to frank exchanges. These were sometimes heated as over the stance of the Ghana Journal of Agricultural Science, which publishes `outdated' articles in a bid to clear a backlog created by a failure to publish for seven years. There were moments of hilarity too, as when the editor of the Tropical Freshwater Biology Journal admitted ignorance about his journal's finances since the printer cum publisher steadfastly refused to discuss this aspect of the business with him.
As participants took turns to talk about their journals, a pattern emerged of journals which were cash-strapped, with scholars interested only in publishing for its own sake, and not in putting in place structures to ensure marketability and sustainability. Funding problems had led to cases of demise and resurrection for some journals, such as the Ghana Science Journal. Interestingly, for the Historical Transactions of Ghana the problem was not funding, as the journal immediately sold out on publication, but the lack of a committed editor to sustain publication. But it was not all melancholia. Cause for celebration was provided by CODESRIA's African Zamani, African Journal of International Affairs, and African Development which always sold out.
There was consensus that to ensure sustainability, journal publishers must balance content with marketability. Factors to consider are: a constant flow of articles, good editorial structures, avoiding the `publish or perish' syndrome, and a constant search for opportunities to build new subscription lists. Participants agreed that the time has come to strengthen the compilation of national bibliographies and establish indexing and citation services across the continent.
The benefits of networking became clear as Hans Zell and Kofi Arthiabah of the AAU secretariat demonstrated the potential of the internet. Participants agreed that the days of Africa's marginalisation in information were over, and were galvanised into adopting a pan-African approach to increase awareness of African journals. Participants decided to set up a web site to promote African journals worldwide. In addition Kofi Arthiabah volunteered to set up, under the auspices of AAU, an electronic discussion group in which journal editors and publishers from the three workshops can participate to share marketing know-how, explore possible joint ventures, and discuss common problems. Several participants are co-ordinating their efforts to get this initiative off the ground, which can be contacted at: email@example.com [end] [BPN, no 22, 1998, p 4.]
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