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Scholarly Journals in Africology: An Introductory Descriptive Review -- Itibari M. Zulu.

Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies



This exercise has its genesis in the correspondences I have received from university faculty wanting to know the impact factor of The Journal of Pan African Studies (now Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies) in reference to retention, promotion and tenure. Since our journal is not a participant in any formal impact formulations, I would kindly explain the merits of our journal (history, editorial board composition, abstracting and indexing resources, etc.), and detail how our journal meets or exceeds standard criteria for peer-reviewed academic journals in the U.S. and around the world. Of course some were pleased with my answer, and others were not, but the learning curve for everyone was that perhaps the weight assigned to impact factors may not be all that it is thought to be in academe or that it is not used correctly, especially when evaluating the worth of a scholar. Nevertheless, the issue of measuring the worth of our journal didn’t end, and subsequently I and members of our editorial board were asked about our ‘cited half-life’ (median age of the articles that were cited in Journal Citation Reports, an annual publication that provides information about academic journals in the sciences and social sciences, including impact factors), ‘article influence’, Eigenfactor score (a rating of the total importance of a journal), and the ever-present ‘impact factor’ measurement. In response, after some reading on the topic, on November 20, 2014 I sent an e-mail to the members of our editorial board with the subject-line “Cited Half-Life, Impact Factor, Article Influence, Eigenfactor Score, Afrofactor/Afrifactor” in an attempt to clear the air on the above journal measurements that are highly regarded in academe.


In the notice I said “should anyone ask about the cited half-life of JPAS, don’t be flustered”, because a higher or lower cited half-life does not imply any particular value for a journal. Second, I said “… should you or anyone wish to determine the ‘Impact Factor’ of JPAS, it is based on the ratio of the number of citations to the previous 2 years of the journal, divided by the number of articles in those years which essentially provides the average number of recent citations per article.


I thought that explanation would perhaps ease any anxiety about the assessment tool. Next I discussed article influence and its relationship to a journal’s Eigenfactor score, a score developed by Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom at the University of Washington. And I continued by mentioning the construction of an Afrofactor or an Afrifactor that would score the total impact of journals in Africology with a qualitative component that would measure the importance of a journal to a community, by considering the origin of the incoming citations, and on how often an average researcher would access content from a particular journal. Thus, I argued that an Afrofactor or Afrifactor can be thought of as being more robust than an ‘Impact Factor’ metric, because an Afrofactor or an Afrifactor factor/score would only be linked to the total citation count of journals in Africology.


Response to my November e-mail and Afrofactor/Afrifactor idea was not swift, but in 2015, colleague and former A:JPAS editorial board member Thomas Weissinger (Professor Emeritus, University Library, African American Studies & Philosophy Bibliographer) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign referenced my e-mail in the September 2015 edition of The Journal of Pan African Studies which brought my proposal to life as he referred to my e-mail as the ‘Zulu memorandum’ and reiterated my argument that ‘there should be journal assessment tools for Black Studies comparable to the standard tools used to produce the Journal Citation Reports’, and that an Afrofactor/Afrifactor can ‘place an emphasis on the centrality of Black Studies journals in the work of Black Studies scholars’. Then, fast-forward to 2017 (March 8-11) at the National Council for Black Studies annual conference in Houston, Texas, a roundtable was held titled ‘Impact Factor in Journal Publishing in Africana Studies: Journal Editors and the Discussion of Citation Indexing, Journal Rating, and Publishing in Africana Studies’. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the session, but I received notice of its deliberations the next day at our ‘When the Dust Settles: JPAS in the Mix’ roundtable, whereupon I received commentary on the ‘impact factor’ session. Not shaken by the seemingly willingness of the ‘Impact Factor in Journal Publishing in Africana Studies: Journal Editors and the Discussion of Citation Indexing, Journal Rating, and Publishing in Africana Studies’ roundtable to status quo requirements and restrictions; often at the exclusion of the journals and interests they represent. Thus, Amanishakete Ani (Department of Africana Studies, University at Albany, State University of New York), a conference attendee and present at the ‘impact factor’ roundtable learned of the ‘Zulu memorandum’ mentioned by Thomas Weissinger in 2015, and my Afrofactor/Afrifactor idea, and as a result, she issued a call for journals in Africology to consider an Afrofactor/Afrifactor evaluation system for journals in Africology, a project that has formed into a national and international ‘task force’ of journal editors and board members. Read more

Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.10, no.3, May 2017
by Itibari M. Zulu, M.L.S., Th.D.

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