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Impact Factor and the Nigerian University System

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Henry Onwubiko, a Professor of Biochemistry in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has been writing in the newspapers to promote Impact Factor as the Hobson’s choice for the assessment of quality in academic journal publication. His decision to bring this topic to the public space is likely to serve a useful purpose, whatever imperfections his own views on the matter might harbour. The basic thrust of his position is that a journal publication has no quality if it is not captured by a bibliometric agency using the Impact Factor measurement.

 

The key merit of Professor Onwubiko’s article is that it may trigger the much-needed public debate in Nigeria on what history is certain to remember as one of the most inimical propositions for effective knowledge production. Nigeria is tardy to such an important debate. Production of knowledge is so central to development that no issue affecting it should be ignored. The international community began the debate on Impact Factor almost as soon as this philistine device that is disguised as a scientific quality-management tool was brought in by some Americans 38 years ago. Happily, as I will demonstrate presently, the Americans themselves have also become one of the most vociferous critics of the proposals after witnessing its grave disappointment as an intellectual quality-measurement tool.

 

It seems advisable to say a word about what Impact Factor is, since this is a mixed audience. Impact Factor aims to rank journals in a bibliometric agency’s database by calculating the frequency of readers’ citations of such journals in the reckoning period following, usually, two previous publication years. But in a typical case, a journal has first of all to apply to the bibliometric agency to be so included in its data base. A journal which hasn’t done this may be of the highest possible quality but is nevertheless excluded from the data base. A journal so excluded cannot be ranked for Impact Factor. Indeed, numerous such high quality journals that are not ranked, although they enjoy great respect of researchers in their areas of specializations about in Nigeria and overseas. In Nigeria, Western Africa Journal of Archaeology, famous throughout the world and published in University of Ibadan, Nigerian Journal of Engineering and Technology which has continuously published for more than 30 years are only two of many examples. In the US, Proverbium, the number-one authority in the world in the field of Paroemiology is one.

 

Enumeration of journals that opt out can yield a list that is long enough to fill a big book. So, pace Professor Onwubiko, it is not true that journals that reject Impact Factor are mediocre. The situation may actually be in reverse for most of such journals. On 16 December 2012, a conference of some of the foremost scientists on our planet was held in San Francisco, United States, and a declaration condemning the use of Impact Factor was issued with the name, San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, with the acronym DORA. Among the original 233 signatories to the document were some European, Asian and American scientific journals of the first water, including Cell Structure and Function (a Japanese journal), Journal of Cell Science, Journal of Neurochemistry, Molecular Oncology, The Journal of Experimental Biology, and so many others.

 

I will return to DORA shortly but I just mentioned it here to assure Professor Onwubiko who might be new to this sort of discourse that caution in the use of Impact Factor did not originate with Nigerians whom he accused of parading antediluvian ideas, whatever that means. Those who advise against the use of Impact Factor in the assessment of quality of research reports or other intellectual products are actually in a bigger company in current global objective intellectual thinking. Out of DORA’s original 233 signatories I saw only one person from Africa; from Morocco. None from Nigeria, or even sub-Saharan Africa.

 

I’d like to look at some of the prominent defects of Impact Factor as a device for measuring quality of research articles before I return to some of Professor Onwubiko’s unfair generalizations about intellectual products in Nigeria. The cardinal criticism against Impact Factor is that it is not a valid measurement tool for individual articles that appear in a journal. If an article is cited, the reason can be that it is of good quality but it can also be that it has poor quality. As for the journal where such an article appears, a large number of readers do not ipso facto say anything about quality. The history of Impact Factor reveals an unmistakable consumerist bent on the part of those who fashioned the instrument. As noted in the San Francisco Declaration, with regard to the Thomson Reuters model, “The Impact Factor, as calculated by Thomson Reuters, was originally created as a tool to help librarians identify journals to purchase, not as a measure of scientific quality of research in an article.”

 

There have been two experiments that proved Impact Factor to be manipulatable to a level where it can lead to fraud, or at best, unreliable. Two cases may suffice here for paucity of space. In a case that was reported by HK Scuttea and JG Svec in 2007, one journal that had an Impact Factor of less than 1 decided to cite all the articles it had published in the previous two years, it automatically got an Impact Factor of 14.4 in the next count as a result. Bob Grant writing for the journal, The Scientist, has also reported an interesting case in 2008 where another journal carried an article prodding readers to cite that particular article in reaction. The urging produced 6,600 citations to increase the journal’s Impact Factor from 2. 051 before the publication to 49. 926 after the publication, bettering that of Nature that had 31. 434. Ordinarily Nature was reputed to have the highest Impact Factor score in the world but this smart journal easily demonstrated how simple it is to manipulate the scores. Clearly, number juggling is not what serious science or scholarship should be about.

 

Actually DORA was only the climax of the global outcry against Impact Factor as a quality-measurement strategy. Again, I can’t possibly issue an exhaustive list for lack of space. The position of the European Association of Science Editors that was issued in 2007 was one of the most charitable ones in that it advised that Impact Factor should be used cautiously for limited purposes. It suggested using it to compare the influence of journals but not for assessment of individual articles. Early on, in 2004, the British House of Commons had directed the Higher Education Funding Council of England not to take prestige of journals into account in deciding on grants but to focus on the quality of individual articles. In 2010 the German Foundation of Science issued a guideline directing assessors to focus on individual articles and not on Impact Factor scores or any such other bibliometric calculations.

 

The San Francisco Declaration against Impact Factor was made on 16 December last year (2012) and made available to the scientific community worldwide on 17 May this year (2013). By then thousands of practitioners in diverse branches of learning had added their signatures to the original 233. Makers of this document were categorical in condemning the use of Impact Factor. The Declaration said, inter alia,  in its preamble, “It is critical to understand that the Journal Impact Factor has a number of well-documented deficiencies as a tool for research assessment”. The scientists and scholars issued an 18-point guideline in the document. Number 1 in the guideline was: “Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.”

 

To be contd.

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From Guest Writer – P-J Ezeh

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The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.

In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.

The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.

But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.

Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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Imo Deputy Governor's giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara

The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.

A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.

In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.

The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.

The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.

Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.

Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.

The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu

Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.

These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.

Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.

Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.

Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.

This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.

In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:

Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.

Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.

Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.

Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.

Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.

Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.

To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.

Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.

Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.

Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.

Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.

And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.

Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.

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