East African Social Sciences & Humanities, European Libraries, and Big Deals

  • Nora Schmidt (Presenter)

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation


(a) The purpose of this paper is to present perceived and latent barriers to the discovery of and access to the social sciences and humanities journal literature published in East Africa, from the perspective of a European research environment. It furthermore aims at suggesting explanations for these barriers.
(b) Methodology/approach: firstly, a bibliometric study outlines some of the features of the publications in question, referring to a sample of 26 journals from 8 countries, published during 2008-2009. Secondly, a short online survey of collection managers at ten large European academic libraries provides insights into collection strategies that stand in close relation to current business models of globally operating publishers and aggregators.
(c) The findings indicate that the level of internationality of the investigated East African journals is quite high, since only half of the authors of the sample articles are affiliated with an East African institution. However, to the best of my knowledge, they are badly indexed, often only in the now discontinued Quarterly Index of African Periodical Literature (QIAPL). Of the 85 East African authors in the sample, two thirds publish around half of their work overseas, where it usually is better indexed, while 11% concentrate their activities on their home region. In result, a substantial amount of work can hardly be discovered online. North American Library strategies often resulted in collections that are much more diverse than those of European academic libraries, thus intercontinental inter-library loan often is the only access option in Europe. As the survey of ten European libraries shows, AJOL and Sabinet are not taken into consideration as content providers. Their metadata cannot easily be included in the libraries' discovery system, and specifically AJOL's business model does not chime with typical acquisition strategies. European collection managers usually do not perceive of "content" or "diversity" as strong selection criteria: patrons drive acquisitions, patrons identify collection gaps. Central criteria for librarians are of rather technical and legal nature.
(d) Practical implications are most relevant for potential mediators between East African authors and European readers, and also for the two last mentioned groups, provided that cross-continental communication is perceived of as stiff. This contribution shall foster debates about modes of research dissemination, their commercialisation, and, related to that, about library collection strategies and institutional racism in Europe.
(g) Originality/value of contribution: Most literature about communication obstacles in a conceptually global research system focuses on shortages of capacities in the Global South, resulting from outbalanced world-economic and world-political systems. I argue that these imbalances are vitally nurtured by the institutionalised neglect of contributions from the Global South, in and from the Global North, effective globally through agendas of publishers and aggregators, research evaluation and library management.
(h) Keywords: scholarly communication, European academic library collections, East African social sciences and humanities journals, global research system, non-mainstream bibliometrics, decolonial science studies
(i) This research paper summarises results from a PhD thesis project in progress.
Period2018 Sept 13
Event title19th Information Studies Conference, University of Zululand, South Africa
Event typeConference
LocationSouth AfricaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

UKÄ subject classification

  • Information Studies