Responding to the global environmental change: social sciences of the world unite!

Posted in conference 


Karen O’Brien


Global environmental change is a challenge to traditional disciplinary research practices. The scale, rate, magnitude and significance of changes to the global environment have made it clear that ‘research as usual’will not suffice to help individuals and groups understand and respond to the multiple, interacting changesthat are now occurring. The social sciences have an important role to play in providing the knowledge baseand inspiration for new policies that promote resilience, sustainability and social change.


Although publishing in international peer-reviewed journals can be viewed as a source of credibility and authority in an area of specialization, an examination of most of the highly ranked journals reveals that few, if any, articles are published by academics from sub-Saharan African universities. This is the case even when the article’s main topic directly relates to issues relevant to sub-Saharan Africa. So it seemed appropriate to investigate this matter. Kenya was chosen as the country for our investigation. The study aimed at explaining why Kenyan academics do not publish in international refereed journals, taking into account academics’ own viewpoints on how to increase their number of publications in international refereed journals.


If Kenya, and sub-Saharan Africa more generally, are to become active members of the global intellectual or scholarly community, they will have to take note of the findings reported here. I would therefore insist on the need to encourage more research and publications by academics from developing countries by outlining the positive and lasting impacts their research findings could have on society. Senior faculty members must fulfil their responsibilities as role models to their junior colleagues and students. In other words, they have to produce quality research and publish their findings in international, peer-reviewed journals.