Jess Auerbach ~ What A New University In Africa Is Doing To Decolonise Social Sciences


It’s not often that you get to create a new university from scratch: space, staff – and curriculum. But that’s exactly what we’re doing in Mauritius, at one of Africa’s newest higher education institutions. And decoloniality is central to our work.

I am a member of the Social Science Faculty at the African Leadership University. Part of our task is to build a canon, knowledge, and a way of knowing. This is happening against the backdrop of a movement by South African students to decolonise their universities; Black Lives Matter protests in the United States; and in the context of a much deeper history of national reimagination across Africa and the world.

With this history in mind our faculty is working towards what we consider a decolonial social science curriculum. We’ve adopted seven commitments to help us meet this goal, and which we hope will shift educational discourse in a more equitable and representative direction.

Read more: http://theconversation.com/what-a-new-university-in-africa-is-doing-to-decolonise-social-sciences-77181

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The Economist ~ The Shackles Of Scientific Journals


SCIENCE advances fastest when data and conclusions are shared as quickly as possible. Yet it is common practice for medical researchers to hoard results for months or years until research is published in an academic journal. Even then, the data underpinning a study are often not made public.

The incentive to withhold findings is powerful. Journal papers are the de facto measure of a scientist’s productivity. To win research money and get promoted, scientists need to accrue an impressive list of publications. Yet the delays in disseminating knowledge have the capacity to do real harm: during the Zika crisis, sponsors of research had to persuade publishers to declare that scientists would not be penalised for releasing their findings early. Nor are elite journals the guardians of quality that they often claim to be. The number of papers so flawed that they need to be retracted has risen sharply in the past two decades. Studies in elite journals (such as Nature andScience) are no more statistically robust than those in lesser journals.

Read more: http://www.economist.com/shackles-scientific-journals

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Stephen Battersby ~ News Feature: Can Humankind Escape The Tragedy Of The Commons?


Photo: wikipedia

Selfish resource exploitation threatens societies and livelihoods. But there could be ways for nations and communities to circumvent narrow self-interest in favor of the common good.
Consider a simple pasture, common land where anyone may let their cattle graze. Any rational, self-interested person wants to increase their livelihood. So each adds to their herd, one more animal at a time, until eventually the common land can’t sustain any more cows. The pasture is overgrazed and all of the cattle die.

This bleak picture, sketched out in an 1833 pamphlet by the British mathematician William Forster Lloyd, remained an obscure snippet of social science until 1968, when ecologist Garrett Hardin picked it up. In his profoundly influential paper, “The tragedy of the commons”, Hardin wrote, “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.”

It has proved to be a powerful idea. To Hardin and others, the same grim logic was behind many of our biggest problems. Common resources, such as fisheries, forests, and even the air are threatened by selfish individuals and nations taking what they can, even though they know the resource will be wiped out if everyone does the same. Hardin’s solution was to cede our freedoms to the state, to be bound by “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon”.

This brand of tragedy is particularly urgent today as our population and technology put more and more strain on limited nature.

Read more: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/1/7.long

 

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Peter Scott ~ Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics And University Performance Targets


Pilate asked: “What is truth?” No, this is not just another attack on the “post-truth” brigade – Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and the rest engaged in counter-revolution against liberal society. Every serious person knows that the consequences for universities of leaving the EU, and the wider Brexit-style tide of reaction, will be dire. Whatever social media trolls so aggressively believe, there is no upside.

There are other dubious “truths” – in particular, the cult of performance. As well as a knowledge society, the audit society, the network society, we have now have the performance society.

The signs are everywhere – targets (and “stretch” targets) for organisations and performance management of individuals; Ofsted scores in schools; and gold-silver-bronze rankings in the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in higher education.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/university-performance-targets

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David Matthews ~ German Research Ministry Demands Open Access


All research funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will have to be open access, it has been announced, but the strategy does not go as far as open access advocates would like.

The new policy means that BMBF-funded research will come with an open access clause, although scholars will still be able to publish in closed journals and make their work open after an embargo period.

Read more: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/german-research-ministry

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Yusef Waghid ~ Our Universities Must Be Centers Of Open Debate For Africa To Make Political Progress


Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

To understand what an African philosophy of education is and why it’s so important, consider the role that universities should play in any society.

Universities, no matter where they are, ought to be places where knowledge is internalized, questioned and considered. Such knowledge should respond to a university’s particular social, political and economic context. The pursuit of such knowledge happens in a quest for human development. What would a university be if its only purpose was to produce knowledge without considering its effects on a society and its people?

But it’s perhaps precisely this disjuncture—between what universities purport to do and what happens in society—that starts to explain why knowledge in Africa has become so misplaced. This has happened in several Arab and Muslim states, where some universities have seemingly become reluctant to encourage critical learning. Knowledge produced in such universities does not attend to public concerns, whether these are political, economic, social or cultural.

Read more: http://qz.com/our-universities-must-be-centers

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