CONVERSATIONAL TOPICS in “THE CONVERSATION” No. 1

The Conversation has proven to be a hit….well, in my own academic and private life….and it has nothing to do with shooting an hallucinogenic substance. This digital platform has provided me with sharp and incisive articles on numerous topics, some having direct impact or input on my day job. It’s something akin to subscribing to Popular Mechanics and Foodstuff SA. I personally hold no brief for either of these publications other than that I find them fascinating. Thinks: by the way, are they really called publications (compared to journal articles) or are they correctly called something else? And, if so, what are they called? Suggestions welcome!

The topic related to the half-heart is one related to academic outputs i.e. what they are, who insists on them and how do they influence or affect academic standing in this country? Incidentally, the Mail & Guardian of 2nd June 2017 also carried an article on the issue. In a nutshell, a narrow definition of the term “academic output” relates to publications in peer reviewed journals i.e. journals which carry standing and are listed on the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) approved list.

This generates funding and stature for the institution and academic concerned. However, as the article points out, this leads to a skewing of the nature of these publications (read it and see for yourself since I cannot re-hash it all here). The bottom line is that some people publish for publication sake viz. to push their own academic standing, keep the institution happy and to feed further research.

But what about other forms of output such as artefacts, products, gizmos, whatchamacallits and other forms of IP? Yes, institutions did not initially recognize this in terms of policy and especially in terms of actual appreciation of this!! Y’know….it almost seems like: “Oh yes, that’s what you do! Great!! Keep it up guys”. Kerry Faul in the M&G titled her article as follows: “Publish or perish”, or “innovate to thrive” – a symbiotic relationship.

Like afterthoughts or step-children (mmmm!!! not good play on words considering the state of our nation regarding the treatment of, and caring for, kids!). For myself as an aging academician and for us as ATS, I did not get the joy of seeing our score added to the chart. Or am I too obsessive and too sensitive about this? This is pretty subjective stuff at this point!

I suppose I could have console myself with the fact that, if you speak to some of our clients whose lives we have touched, they appreciate our interaction more than a publication regarding the cost of kneecaps in a kneecap-less world in a low impact journal! We touch their lives and make a difference. The latter was written with crossed fingers behind my back since we also disappoint some of our clients – no risk of pain, no possibility of gain.

However, the CPUT Policy on Ad Hominem Promotion recognizes that it is more than just “publish or perish”. This means there is recognition but, at the end of the day, this recognition needs to be accompanied by acknowledgement of the value.

I am pleased to say that I’ll go with this and keep on doing the best we can in the background!

Larry