Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: How we produce professors and Adjunct lecturers with neither books nor Journal articles to readership; what is wrong with the novel idea of letting bright, passionate professors and adjunct lecturers disseminate knowledge and wisdom to students instead of researching topics where common sense already tells us the answer? After all, it is not “profess” the root of the professor.
Correspondingly, University Professors and faculty members undertake research, teaching, and service roles to carry out their respective institution’s academic work. Each of these roles enables professors, full-time lecturers, and other faculty members to generate and disseminate knowledge to peers, students, and external audiences. Those who know the university professor’s critical roles as teaching, research, and community engagement role involves the advancement of knowledge, which is then passed on either for practical usage or merely adding to our understanding of things – even though there may neither be practical nor immediate use with the generated ideas. Ideas of some only get to use way even after their death.
Fatoumatta: Professors research because that is what they were trained for! The truth of the matter, though, is that most lecturers and professors do very little research themselves. A more accurate title for them is “research managers.” A professor needs to: teach and do plenty of writing a single line of code or doing any other research on their own. Research also brings patents, and many schools are doing an outstanding job in licensing these patents and bringing back additional income. One may argue that if there were no “academic research,” there would be no internet, Google, or any other technologies we now take for granted.
Fatoumatta: Until the 1990s, when we mentioned a university professor or a full-time or part-time lecturer in a university, one thing that would come to people’s minds would be an image of someone who has researched and produced some considerable body of creativity, knowledge, and innovation. At the minimum, one at least expected a comprehensive book with the thoughts of the professor. Such a text, especially in the humanities and social sciences, would be of some volume stretching up to above 200 pages. This would allow a detailed take and analysis on an issue. Of the old Gambian professors like Professor Lamin Sanneh, Professor Sulayman Nyang, Professor Micheal Babantu Gomez, Professor Abdoulaye Saine, Professor Mbye Cham, and many others, their names mainly live on through the books and reputable journal publications in their names they wrote.
Fatoumatta: If one asked in academic circles, do you know Professor Pierre Gomez of the University of the Gambia? The response could have been: ‘You mean that young professor with a babyface, Dr. Pierre Gomez, who published several academic researched articles and scholarly journal articles in major reputable journals? The one who wrote two different books in French’ entitled(“Nation Et Nationalisme Dans La Litterature Gambienne-nation. Francophone; Anglophone’ and ‘Territoire, Mythe, Representation Dans La Litterature Gambienne-Une Methode Georitique”). The books’ title in English translation means; “Nation and Nationalism in Gambian Literature and Territory, Myth, Representation in Gambian Literature: A Geocritical Approach” launched in October 2013. Research and education are among the main tasks of tenured and tenure-track professors also as full-time lecturers. The amount of time spent on research or teaching depends enormously on the institution’s type; furthermore, a publication of articles in conferences, journals, and books is essential to occupational advancement.
Fatoumatta: Several people, who are not familiar with university dynamics, have often asked: What changed? Suppose we throw a stone into a group of Gambian professors, some Full-time lecturers also adjunct lecturers. In that case, we will most likely hit one without a single book or even local newspaper OPEDs published bylines in their names. In my view, it has been several reasons, but I will mainly focus on the structure of incentives in the neoliberal university promotion system. My argument is that, except if one chose not to focus on quick promotion through academic ranks, many African universities’ promotion systems practically discourage professors and lecturers from publishing. Most academics have accordingly concentrated on writing journal articles and book chapters as the quickest route to promotion. Therefore, we will easily find a professor with up to 20 journal articles scattered here and there, but no book.
Fatoumatta: In the promotion scales of many universities in other African countries, a scholarly book, regardless of its depth and volume, is equivalent to three journal articles. Note that it might take a minimum of about three years to accomplish a well-researched book and take it through the necessary editorial rigor. On the other hand, if one sets their targets and priorities well, they can publish up to two or three journal articles in a year. It becomes even easier where academics co-author papers, sometimes in mischievous syndicates where they agree to singly write a paper but indicate others’ names on it. This is especially common in the natural sciences. If we are three in a syndicate and write a paper on which all our names are included as co-authors, we each have three papers at ago (including those we have not contributed to). If a professor or a lecturer can author two others, they will have five in one year – way ahead of the colleague writing a book in four years. Journal articles have the advantage of coming out relatively faster and, therefore, ideal for disseminating knowledge about quickly changing realities, and sometimes as test grounds for ideas to be later expanded into books. They are also a good outlet for ideas that may not be wide enough to constitute a book because most journals today are only available online (not to be found in print in bookstores and libraries). The knowledge University professors produce is locked away from the local public. Many who would still be willing and able to read their work cannot access most of it. At least the book could be found in some of our university libraries (we strangled the public ones) or bought by those who can afford it.
Ironically, online articles are sometimes more expensive than books in print. The other question then would be, beyond teaching, of what local meaning is our professorship? This question becomes even more critical in light of many organic public intellectuals being withdrawn from the public engagement where their knowledge is needed to solve some of our challenges.
Fatoumatta: Why would we continue privileging the production of knowledge through outlets that exclude our people and at the same time tolerate the local silence of our academics in popular media? Most African university’s promotion criteria are imitating Western’ universals,’ often rendering academics locally irrelevant. Forms of knowledge dissemination that favor our public are practically despised and relegated to the periphery of promotion requirements. The absurd aping of the West that we see in other areas of our lives shapes our university traditions with self-alienation. It is currently a journal article publication race.
Fatoumatta: The promoting authorities do concerning publication to count articles and check their’ authenticity.’ The idiom remains ‘publish or perish.’ However, the flourishing is mostly in titles and earnings – hardly with relevance. One can only think about relevance and writing a book after getting to the top of the academic ladder, often when exhausted.
Alagi Yorro Jallow