Advocacy for Research Evidence in Academic Public Policy Development

Joseph A. Balogun


The World Ranking of Universities
The impetus for this review came from reading the July 2019 Webometrics global survey of universities. The Webometrics survey is embraced widely in Africa, but it is less respected around the world when compared to more influential reviews like the Academic Ranking of World Universities, UK Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University
Rankings. The low prestige is because Webometrics consider primarily institution web-presence and activities instead of the quality of instruction, student learning, and research productivity; the central core functions of the universities. In the most recent Webometrics survey, the University of Cape Town is the first mentioned university in Africa but ranked number 274 in the world1. The study also revealed the dominance of South African universities, capturing nine of the top ten institutions in Africa. The University of Ibadan first listed Nigerian university, ranked number 17 in Africa and number 1,233 in the world; outperformed by the University of Ghana, which ranked 16 in Africa and 1,209 globally. After perusing through the report, I immediately called a colleague to share the bad news of the overall poor performance of African universities. We both agreed that the result of the survey is symbolic
of the quality of education decline in Nigeria; a country with an educational system that was once the envy of most African nations. Given the dismal ranking of Nigerian universities, our conversation quickly shifted to another equally important academic topic - the recurring and apathetic lack of evidence when private and government establishments in Africa put forth
public policies. As I begin to write this review, the motion picture by Jerry Maguire titled "Show me the Money" immediately came to mind. The film is a Hollywood romantic comedy-drama sports movie that grossed more than $273 million and ranked ninth highest in revenue in 1996. Cuba Gooding Jr. won the Academy Award for best-supporting actor role while Tom Cruise won the Golden Globes for best actor in a motion picture musical or comedy. He also bagged three other Guild Awards for his performance in the movie. But this review is not about Tinseltown, the land of make-believe. It is about the need to use empirical data when formulating public policies. For two decades now, evidence-based practice is globally accepted across different academic disciplines. Despite these developments, many academic policy decisions are still made in a vacuum without bibliometric research evidence by many science academies and government establishments in particular.

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