Two senior lecturers at Makerere University are entangled in a clash of egos with each trying to undo the promotion of the other.
Dr Jude Ssempebwa, an associate professor at the East African School of Higher Education Studies and Development (EASHESD), and Dr Ronald Bisaso, the dean of the same school, are the men at the centre of the quarrel.
Last year, Bisaso applied to become an associate professor while Ssempebwa applied to become a full professor. Ssempebwa was one of Bisaso’s endorsers. While Bisaso’s application was granted, Ssempebwa’s was denied, and he blames him for it.
So, on February 25 Ssempebwa petitioned the principal of the College of Education and External Studies (CEES), withdrawing his endorsement of Bisaso on grounds that the latter had published in “quack journals.”
Ssempebwa’s application was thrown out by the Establishment, Appointments and Promotions Committee, chaired by Bisaso who is his boss although Ssempebwa is superior academically.
According to the minutes of the committee which sat on August 21, 2017, Ssempebwa scored 83 per cent, but his application could not be granted “until he satisfies the requirements for actual teaching experience and required publication.”
The minutes show that Ssempebwa submitted 10 publications, seven of which were found acceptable. The other three, the committee said, were published when Ssempebwa was still a lecturer and one book chapter was in a book where the applicant was an editor.
On teaching experience, the committee noted that Ssempebwa had not met the required six years, having started teaching in 2012 before taking a one-year post-doctoral research break at the University of KwaZulu Natal (2013-14).
But Ssempebwa says before joining Makerere, he had taught at various universities for three years. He petitioned Makerere’s quality assurance directorate. He was referred to the legal department. The legal department wrote to the Bisaso’s committee advising them to consider Ssempebwa’s teaching years in other universities, but the committee stood its ground.
Whether by coincidence or not, Ssempebwa had sat on a committee on February 14, which endorsed Bisaso’s associate professorship. But in a lengthy February 25 petition seen by The Observer, he has now written to the college principal, Prof Fred Masagazi Masazi, withdrawing.
“I have since confirmed, as explained in the attachment entitled ‘Evidence that the American Journal of Educational Research (ISSN: 2327-6126) and the International Journal of Science and Technoledge (ISSN: 2321 – 919X) are predatory journals’, that at least two of the publications he submitted in support of his application (i.e. Nakamanya et al., 2017 and Etomaru et al., 2017) are published in quack journals,” Ssempebwa writes.
“Therefore, I am writing to inform you that I have rescinded my endorsement of the said application and to request you to dismiss the application.”
Ssempebwa attaches screenshots of websites of the said journals and pointing out features he suggests are uncharacteristic of authentic journals. He notes that the International Journal of Science and Technoledge targets authors, instead of readers, thereby prioritising making money instead of product. He then reports that while the American Journal of Educational Research has a large editorial board, a significant number of these are postgraduate students.
He says Ramesh Kumar Swarnakar, who serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Science and Technoledge, neither has a PhD nor matches any entry/citation in Google Scholar.
“Editors that are not published as authors themselves are a major marker of predatory publishing,” Ssempebwa argues.
“Accepting Dr Bisaso’s application after I have given you independently verifiable evidence of the inaptness of the journals where two of his papers are published would not only depict you as failing in your administrative duty of care, but also bring to question your personal motives,” Ssempebwa said.
“Even more importantly, Dr Bisaso is the dean of the EASHESD, where we are instructing doctoral students in the areas of Academic Writing and Critique and overseeing their research and publication efforts. As such, he has a superior obligation and opportunity to avoid quack journals, lest he gives the students a bad example.”
Ssempebwa admitted to petitioning the principal and told The Observer that Prof Masagazi Masaazi responded to his petition within a day (February 26).
In the said response, Masaazi thanked Ssempebwa for his commitment and oversight. He told him that a five-man committee had been instituted to “study the said two articles before being tabled to the college committee.”
Ssempebwa wrote back to Masaazi on March 6, objecting to four of the five members of the committee, citing conflict of interest.
Those he objected to are Prof C. Ssebbunga-Masembe, Prof C. B. Mugimu, T. L. Otim and Godwin Okiror. Ssempebwa says two of them had co-authored books with Bisaso while others were members of the Establishment, Appointments and Promotions Committee of CEES. They are thus “obligated (by duty of collective responsibility) to support its decisions, some of which I complained about”.
“Please note that meaningful investigation of the concerns that I raised about Dr Bisaso requires people who have specialised knowledge in editing, publishing and knowledge management and who are not linked to the School of Education, let alone to Dr Ronald Bisaso, whose publications and deanship are the main object of investigation,” Ssempebwa wrote, before suggesting that Masaazi replaces the committee with people from the Directorate of Quality Assurance or Directorate of Research and Graduate Training.
Masaazi said that as soon as he received Ssempebwa’s petition, he followed standard procedure of instituting a committee to look into his evidence and write a report within two weeks, which has since been extended to a month (start of April).
“These are matters of policy…if Dr Jude is not contented, he has a right to appeal to the university management or university appointments board,” said he Masaazi.
Bisaso declined to comment and referred us to the principal since the petition “was addressed to him”.
On Ssempebwa’s promotion, Masaazi said no one is trying to frustrate him and he will be promoted soon.