College of Human Sciences

Research that benefits its consumers

Prof Omwoyo Bosire Onyancha from the Department of Information Science in the College of Human Sciences was recently re-rated a C2 researcher by the National Research Foundation (NRF). While this is an achievement for any academic, for Onyancha, who is an overachiever, it is both encouraging and discouraging to retain his previous rating. "It is encouraging because I have maintained the momentum in research but discouraging because the rating did not improve and therefore more work is required on my part to climb to a higher level," he says.

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation) and Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor) congratulate Prof Omwoyo Onyancha (CHS) (centre) on his 2020 NRF C2 rating.

He explains, however, that the rating will positively impact on his research as opposed to his career as an academic. "Research-wise, a number of strategies will be considered and executed so as to have international visibility, which will enhance chances for a higher rating in future. At the local scene, my research will focus more on studies that provide practical solutions rather than theoretical benefits so as to advance societal impact of my research," he elaborates.

Onyancha’s research interests largely revolve around scientometrics (the quantitative features and characteristics of science and scientific research), altmetrics (metrics and qualitative data that are complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics), information resource management (IRM), management of information services, knowledge management and organisation, user education, and ICTs in Library and Information Science (LIS) education and training.

Prof Omwoyo Onyancha

He has, however, mostly concentrated on bibliometrics (the use of statistical methods to analyse books, articles and other publications) and scientometrics, with a few studies focusing on knowledge management and library studies. The application of bibliometrics to answer diverse questions on scholarly publishing on various topics in sub-Saharan Africa constitutes the bulk of the studies that he has conducted since 2004, when he published his first paper, which was on the bibliometrics of corruption literature in Africa. Recently, he has been working on various research projects, including the utilisation of academic research and evidence to benefit society, including policy makers. "The whole idea is to attempt to encourage the moving of research from scholarly channels to research consumers through knowledge mobilisation strategies," he explains.

An NRF C rating implies that a researcher is established with a sustained recent record of productivity in the field. It further means that a researcher is recognised by peers as having produced a body of quality work, the core of which has coherence and attests to ongoing engagement with the field, and demonstrates the ability to conceptualise problems and apply research methods to investigating them. With these merits, Onyancha explains that "I am inspired, just as most researchers, to make a contribution to the body of knowledge in my field as well as to benefit the communities of practice in the field of LIS. In addition, I draw my inspiration from the fact that research is supposed to benefit its consumers."

In his list of research highlights and achievements, Onyancha and two colleagues recently conducted a study that has proposed a scorecard on accrediting journals in a country in East Africa. The purpose of the project was anchored on the premise that journals are still important instruments of advancing and nurturing research excellence in a country. Both qualitative and quantitative indicators of assessing journals have been considered in the scorecard.

There’s more to come from this accomplished researcher. When asked what his short and long-term goals are after this rating, Onyancha says: "I intend to complete several outstanding research projects, including the one mentioned above, as well as aggressively endeavour to improve my international presence and visibility. In the spirit of mentorship, I would like to set up a team of young researchers in the area of bibliometrics and scientometrics in the coming months."

* By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020/06/10