PROBLEMIFICATION : Some academics joined the profession from private sector late in their career.
They are sometimes referred to fondly as practical academics or ‘pracademics’ because they still
work in private sector and also act as a visiting professor in academia. I sit on eight boards and
chair nearly half of them, and serve on audit committees and HR Remuneration committees. I am
an example of a ‘pracademic’, and my induction into academia was one sentence – publish or
perish. In the private sector, induction can take up to a week. I had one minute.
IMPLICATIONS : The implication is that I had to find out what a peer-reviewed journal was and
trip into the fact that some peer-reviewed journals are scams and others A rated. Telling the
difference in my initial years took its toll. I continually had to ask colleagues – is this journal
real? Eventually I realised the DHET list was a good starting point and I started submitting
articles. I got more rejections than acceptances at first, with very little explanation. So I learnt
nothing and did not know what to do to improve. I had to waste another thousand reviewer
hours of time to learn what the requirement was.
Research writing is guided by a personal philosophy, and it is about what types of research
issues one is inclined towards. For instance, some people are naturally inclined towards basic
research and others towards applied research. Others are more oriented towards theory building
and testing types for the purpose of creating knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Some others
are pragmatic types or realist types and believe real-world problems do not come neatly packaged and are somewhat untidily in presentation calling for discretion or judgement on
what to prioritise for research and how to carry out the research. Some are scientist practitioners
(evidence informed researchers) and others are practitioner-scientist (practice-led science).
Perhaps this kind of orientation to research is what early career researchers need initially; then,
they can worry about reproducibility of research findings down the line after grounding
themselves into the research space they perceive to belong to and where they feel invested.
PURPOSE : The purpose of this opinion article is to share my journey and sow some doubt in
reply to the opinion piece circulated by Efendic and Van Zyl. Whilst I do agree with everything
that is said in their article, I believe that there is additional information that needs to be
considered. Context is important. Not all academics that submit articles have been in academia
for many years. We need to do more to support budding authors.
RECOMMENDATIONS : We need to be much more helpful to budding authors than just publishing a
page or two called author submission guidelines. These are mostly cosmetic style guides. If we want
a higher quality submission and plenty of them – then I believe we need to educate our budding
authors of the requirements. Perhaps we need a detailed guide, similar in content and depth as the
article of Efendic and Van Zyl (2019). We could consider a podcast setting out the technical guidelines
and statistical requirements. Running courses on article publishing by the reviewers is important
because that is from the horse’s mouth. Trust me; it is not just a case of sticking to the style guide. You need to really understand some of the under currents of article publishing, for example, quoting
as many authors from that particular journal’s list of articles as possible.