New journal highlights research that changes lives

FEBRUARY 18, 2016

Academic research that leads to real change in society, improving lives in the process, lies at the heart of a new journal at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, which is being officially launched on February 22.

Called “Educational Research for Social Change” (ERSC), the journal has just been included in the Department of Higher Education and Training’s approved list of South African journals and will also be included in the International Bibliography of Social Sciences – a feather in the cap of its editors, NMMU Professors Naydene de Lange and Andre du Plessis and their former colleague Prof Lesley Wood, now based at North-West University.

While official DHET accreditation brings with it some financial reward, what is more important to the editorial team is the showcasing of these important research articles, contributed by both South African and international scholars.

“What’s important for us is getting the research out into the public domain – it’s important for everyone,” says Prof De Lange, who holds a research chair in HIV and Aids education at NMMU.

In her own research field, a recent study revealed that South Africa has the fifth-most journal articles on HIV/Aids globally – but, given the continued increase in HIV prevalence rates in South Africa, De Lange wonders how many actually reach the relevant stakeholders to inform policies and programmes. “This suggests that the impact of all this research is very little. So what is the problem with the research? What is it that researchers could be doing differently?

“Research that is transformative and contributes to social change is key.”

The focus of the journal – which has also been accepted for inclusion in several international academic databases including ProQuest and EBSCO Information Services – was inspired by the early work of educational researchers Michael Schratz (from the University of Innsbruck, Austria) and Rob Walker (from the University of East Anglia, UK), who penned the book: “Research for Social Change”.

“Although their work was published 20 years ago, the idea of research having the potential of being transformative, in and of itself, is still very new in many educational research circles … Our thinking behind the journal was: How can we contribute to the discussion in South Africa?”

And so the journal was born.

Articles cover all disciplines in Higher Education today.

Initiated in 2012, ERSC is produced bi-annually. Their most recent edition, published in October 2015 (and focusing on research 21 years into democracy), was themed: “20 + 1: How can educational research in South Africa be transformative?”

The next edition, to be published in April, will be themed: “Humanising pedagogy for social change”.

“Over the past four years, we have relied on the generosity of academics to publish without receiving incentive funding, which says a lot about South African academics: It’s not just about money, it’s about wanting to make the change.”

De Lange said there were other South African journals but not enough. “There is no journal with this particular focus.” NMMU has two other accredited journals: the Law Faculty’s Obiter and the South African Journal of Philosophy.

Image:HIGHLIGHTING CRITICAL RESEARCH … Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Professors Naydene de Lange and Andre du Plessis work on their newly-accredited online journal, “Educational Research for Social Change”. The two founded the journal with former colleague, Prof Lesley Wood (inset), who now works at North-West University.