ACADEMY OF SCIENCE OF SOUTH AFRICA (ASSAf)
Free-Online Scientific Writing Course System – ‘Tier Two’
Compiler: Emeritus Professor Wieland Gevers
This course has its origins in the comprehensive study of research publishing in South Africa conducted by an ASSAf Consensus Panel, which resulted in a Report released in 2006. A great deal of emphasis was laid in the ‘Recommendations’ in the Report on the important roles that better-supported, locally published scholarly journals could play in enhancing the quality, quantity and visibility of knowledge generation in and by the country. A second major theme was the need to improve the impact of South African researchers in the so-called ‘international literature’, the leading journals in their respective fields.
Both of these agendas require efforts to assist postgraduate research students and young staff members of both higher education institutions and science councils to become successful publishers of their work, both in good-quality local journals and in the leading journals world-wide. This is sometimes called ‘building the next generation of highly ranked researchers and scholars’.
Since ASSAf is an inclusive Academy covering all empirical disciplines, there is a sensitivity about the use of the words ‘scientific’, ‘scientists’ and even ‘science’ itself. Because so many people still associate these words with the ‘natural sciences’ (something initiated in school education), the terms ‘scholarly’, ‘scholars’ and ‘scholarship’ are additionally used whenever broad applicability is intended. Retaining ‘science’ and its variants is done when the module concerned applies primarily to the natural sciences and their derivative applied fields.
This ‘Tier Two’ level of ASSAf’s free online course system is designed to provide readily available information and guidance on most of the problems encountered by members of the target audience (mentioned above) in getting started with their publishing careers. The ‘Modules’ vary in style and tone, but each has been compiled by an experienced person selected by the Academy. They are designed to be ‘self-instructing’, inviting readers to note particular issues or to reflect on aspects that are not clear-cut. They do make cross-references where these are obviously necessary, but not so often that it becomes obtrusive.
Since every reader’s situation will be different from every other one, it may be useful to return to some of the Modules once a paper has been written and sent off, in order to consolidate the lessons that have been learnt and to create a sense of increasing mastery of the situation.
The compilers of this Tier do not wish to replace or interfere with the supervision of students or post-doctoral fellows by their official and other direct mentors; they hope that the latter will instead find it useful and helpful to incorporate the use of this online course into their plans for successful and effective guidance of their charges.
We invite all readers/users of this Tier Two course to provide feedback to us on the usefulness of otherwise of individual Modules or the set as a whole. This will be a learning system for the Academy as much as for users; continuous improvement will be the agenda all along the way.