African Journals OnLine (AJOL) is an online service that provides access to African-published research, and increases worldwide knowledge of indigenous scholarship.
Why do we need AJOL?
At the same time as online academic resources from the developed Global North are made available to Africa, there needs to be corresponding online availability of information from Africa. Important areas of research in Africa are not necessarily covered by publications from the developed world. African countries need to collectively play a greater role in the global online scholarly environment, and African researchers also need access to their own continent's scholarly publications. African-published research papers have been under-utilised, under-valued and under-cited in the international and African research arenas — mostly due to problems with accessibility. Advances in internet technology have driven changes in the online accessibility of African journals, but many hundreds of worthy, peer-reviewed scholarly journals publishing from Africa cannot host their content online in isolation because of resource limitations and the digital divide.
As a result, valuable information has not reached the people who need it.
AJOL has been working since 1998 to make African research accessible to African researchers and to the rest of the world. Journals published from developing countries are still largely excluded from the major, commercial indexing companies based in the developed Global North. As a result, African research is often invisible, and consequently there is a misapprehension that Africa does not produce much research. Millions of AJOL website users from all over the world every month prove that this is not true.
What is AJOL?
- AJOL is a Not for Profit organisation based in South Africa, overseen by a Board of Africans in Higher Education, research publishing, and university librarianship.
- AJOL is the world's largest online collection of African-published, peer-reviewed scholarly journals.
- AJOL's Vision is for African learning to be translated into African development.
- AJOL's Mission: to increase online visibility, access and use of African-published research output in support of quality African research and higher education.
- AJOL provides free online hosting for over 650 peer-reviewed journals from 31 African countries, using open source software. AJOL's partner journals cover the full range of academic disciplines with particularly strong sections on health, agriculture and African studies.
- Journals apply for inclusion on AJOL and are assessed according to the quality of their publishing practices, including the following criteria:
- The journal must be scholarly in content, and contain original research (in addition to other content)
- The content is peer-reviewed and quality controlled
- The journal has an established publishing track record
- The journal has an actively functioning Editorial Board (institutional affiliations and contact details required)
- The journal has a registered ISSN and eISSN
- The journal will provide all content for inclusion on AJOL (tables of contents, abstracts, and full text) in electronic format and in a timely manner. Partner journals are responsible for ensuring their content on AJOL is up to date.
- The journal guarantees all requisite permissions are granted to allow AJOL to operate an article download service
- The journal is published within the African continent (i.e. management of publishing strategy, business development and production operation are all run from an African country)
- More than half of the many thousands of full-text articles on the site are free to download.
History of AJOL
- African Journals OnLine (AJOL) was initiated in May 1998 as a pilot project managed by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publication (INASP), a Non Profit Organisation in Oxford, UK.
- It aimed to promote the awareness and use of African published journals in the sciences by providing access to tables of contents (TOCs) on the Internet. The project was evaluated at the end of 1999, and it was recommended that AJOL be continued and expanded to include more journals in more subject areas, as well as abstracts of articles.
- At its re-launch in August 2000, AJOL featured 50 English language African published journals in agricultural sciences, science and technology, health and social sciences. It also provided abstracts where available, and introduced a key word search service and photocopy document delivery service for all titles.
- In 2001/2002 titles from South Africa and Francophone Africa were added, as well as many more from the rest of Africa.
- By the end of 2003, the service provided TOCs and abstracts for over 175 journals, from 21 African countries, including some Francophone and Lusophone journals, and many with French abstracts.
- In March 2004, AJOL was re-launched again with a more sophisticated database system. This was undertaken to increase the functionality of the site, and to ensure that AJOL is compatible with other research services offered on the web. As a result, journal content listed with AJOL is now being indexed through Open Archives Initiative (OAI) search engines dedicated to research, which harvest the metadata for each journal article, making this work readily available to a global audience, and giving the journals greater visibility among the worldwide research community.
- In 2005, AJOL moved to African management and is now a not-for-profit company in its own right, based in South Africa.
- On the 1st of May 2009, AJOL launched new functionality on its website, that will allow near instant download of full text articles from its partner journals. This will make African-published research even more accessible, and is a great step forward in AJOL accomplishing its aims of increasing scholarly communication within the African continent and from us to the rest of the world.
- As of 2022, AJOL has grown to host the content of over 650 peer-reviewed journals from 37 African countries. The AJOL website is visited each month by over 200,000 researchers from all over the world. AJOL regularly sees over two million article downloads each month — articles that otherwise would not have been available to the international research community.
What does AJOL's website consist of?
AJOL's system consists of a bibliographic database as well as digitized full text, with a user front-end (where users can browse and search the contents of the database online) and an administration front-end (where AJOL staff or journal publishers or editors can log in and manage their journals on the database by performing tasks, such as adding new issues).
AJOL's system is entirely based on Open Source software programmes and technologies:
- OJS (Open Journal Systems, developed by the Public Knowledge Project)
- PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (scripting language)
- MySQL (relational database management system)
- Apache (web server)
- Ubuntu (Linux operating system distribution)