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Getting by in a bibliometric economy: scholarly publishing and academic credibility in the Nigerian academy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2022

David Mills*
University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Abigail Branford
University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:


Why are Nigeria’s universities launching a growing number of open access journals while simultaneously expecting their academic staff to publish ‘internationally’? And what impact do these expectations have on Nigerian journals? Drawing on interviews with editors and publishers, we describe the emergence of a hyperlocal ‘credibility economy’ within the Nigerian academy. The great majority of Nigerian scholarly journals are excluded from Scopus and Web of Science, the two main global citation indexes. Stigmatized by geography, Nigerian journals are ignored, rendered invisible, classed as poor quality or condemned as ‘predatory’. Historicizing these trends, we illustrate our argument with four case studies: two science and technology journals hosted by universities and two independent publishers, one with expertise in African studies, the other in information studies. In each case, we explore the motivations, commitments and strategies of editors and publishers. Their stories exemplify the impact of colonial histories, global discourses and bibliometric infrastructures on African research publishing cultures. The histories, logics and fragilities of this regional research ecosystem reveal how Africa’s scholars and publishers are getting by – but only just – amid the metricized judgements of the global research economy.



Pourquoi les universités nigérianes lancent-elles un nombre croissant de revues en libre accès tout en attendant de son personnel universitaire qu’il publie « internationalement » ? Et quel est l’impact de ces attentes sur les revues nigérianes ? S’appuyant sur des entretiens menés avec des rédacteurs et des éditeurs, les auteurs décrivent l’émergence d’une « économie de la crédibilité » hyperlocale au sein de la communauté académique nigériane. La grande majorité des revues savantes nigérianes sont exclues de Scopus et de Web of Science, les deux principaux indices de citation à l’échelle mondiale. Stigmatisées par leur géographie, les revues nigérianes sont ignorées, rendues invisibles, classées de mauvaise qualité ou accusées d’être des revues « prédatrices ». Historicisant ces tendances, les auteurs utilisent quatre études de cas pour illustrer leur argument : deux revues de science et de technologie hébergées par des universités et deux éditeurs indépendants, l’un spécialisé en études africaines et l’autre en études de l’information. Dans chaque cas, ils explorent les motivations, les engagements et les stratégies des rédacteurs et des éditeurs. Leurs histoires exemplifient l’impact des histoires coloniales, des discours mondiaux et des infrastructures bibliométriques sur les cultures de publication de la recherche africaine. Les histoires, les logiques et les fragilités de cet écosystème de recherche régional révèlent comment les chercheurs et les éditeurs d’Afrique s’en sortent, mais tout juste, face aux jugements métricisés de l’économie de la recherche mondiale.

The politics of literature and publishing
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International African Institute

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