Taxation and the funding of science

What if there would be more endogenous funds for scientific collaborations in African countries? More national funding is one key demand among scientists and policy-makers not only in African countries. There are many calls to invest more in science and the need to prioritize research, development and innovation in developing countries.

The call for substantial investment in R&D

Dr. Jennifer Makuba is one recent voice, who calls for “heavy financial instruments” to prepare countries in Africa to handle large scale biomedical dangers. The recent outbreak of Ebola across national borders urgently shows that you need a well-functioning medical service with capacities ranging from research to healing and eventually to prevention. This example from the health sector holds true for other crucial fields such as agriculture, climate, and energy. In the case of emergencies in particular, you need endogenous scientific structures and expertise that can adequately respond to crises.

Policy-makers and scientists have pointed to the fact that, for instance, African governments are investing less than one percent of their GDP in research and development (R&D). While there is reason to take into account other priorities such as infrastructure, free primary and secondary education, and health systems, it is African governments who have since the Lagos Plan of Action in 1980 pledged more investment in R&D. In a recent interview on this blog, Dr. Elizabeth Rasekoala from African Gong  pointed to this fact. The African Union has set the goal to invest at least 1% of GDP in R&D to incite a dynamic research landscape that can respond to the local and regional needs. Despite an increase in absolute numbers, most countries lag behind this target, with a few exceptions, as the 2015 UNESCO Global Science Report shows.

 

 

Structural instability of government budgets

Over the last decades, many scientific activities and capacity building programmes in African countries have been heavily supported by international funders (see for example Mosambique, Burkina Faso, and Kenya in the right column of the chart above). Some countries have most of their research funded by external sources, be they public or private by origin. This has led to an integration into global scientific networks and collaborations, albeit with fewer negotiation leverage for the African counterparts. Also, to a worrisome extent, this has left the African science landscape vulnerable to external funding developments. And this clearly touches on the sustainability of scientific infrastructures and research opportunities.

New signs show that funders are phasing out after a decade long scientific research support, such as the Swedish development agency announcing their retreat from the scientific sector in Uganda after 20 years of bilateral relationships. Moreover, the recent shutdown of US government agencies has also led to warnings issued by African research collaborators, who depend on the continuous support from agencies such as USAID and the exchange with public research institutes in the US. (I am yet waiting for a thorough analysis of what any form of Brexit will bring for the international scientific sector, since many British universities have ties to African counterparts.)

This vulnerability is a structural symptom of public finances in African and other countries. And it is – even if not exclusively – closely tied to the political economy of international financial regimes. Hence, I argue to take the lack of funding for science and technology as a symptom of a larger lack of funding for state services.

Potential sources of income: Taxes from big corporations

Two general issues need to be separated when talking about sources for lacks of funds: The continuous serving of old and new debts that binds large chunks of governments’ budget. The other issue is with generating income from taxation, that could then be used for S&T. (Let us leave out the issue of embezzlement of state funds for a moment.)

Recent studies about capital movements (here and here) show how the licit and illicit capital flows from African countries and the use of tax havens prevent African governments from levying their fair share of taxes from goods and services that are produced within their countries. While some like the former South African president Thabo Mbeki admit that African elites are part of the shifting of money, the studies show how mainly big corporations are using the institutional disadvantages of developing states and lax WTO regulations to shift profits into tax havens and into countries with fewer corporate taxes. WTO regulations have led to fewer opportunities for controlling capital flows. Cynically, most of the tax havens lie within the Western world and within the reach of their government regulation.

Taking into account the loss through the effects of debt-servicing since the early 1980s and the  lack of sufficient taxation of big corporations, development aid budgets (including the most needed research capacity funding) need to be seen in a new light. For instance, of 1 US$ that is channelled to developing countries through official development aid, 24 US$ are seen as sent back to the donor’s countries. Therefore, developing countries are actually benefiting developed countries.

This corporate behavior relentlessly prevents African governments to build up the resources needed to invest in their countries. This also affects the scientific and higher education sector. The underfunding of R&D should hence not only be analyzed in the light of  government commitments but also in the light of the prevailing international political economy. Licit and Illicit capital flows and tax evasion are detrimental to an endogenous research capacity development in the health, science and higher education sectors, among others.

What would be the state of science in African countries if they had all of these resources to invest in R&D?

Elizabeth Rasekoala on science and ownership

(Reading time: 5-8min)

Photo of Elizabeth Rasekoala
Credits: CREST

This interview with Dr. Elizabeth Rasekoala was conducted during the SciCOM 100 Conference in 2018, ‘Science Communication and Democratic South Africa: Prospects and Challenges’ (5-7 November) at Stellenbosch University. As the team of sureco-review, we were interested to learn more about African Gong and the Co-Founder and President, Dr. Rasekoala. African Gong is the Pan-African Network for the Popularization of Science & Technology and Science Communication.

Convinced that science and science communication are still predominantly white, male and euro-centric, Dr. Rasekoala continues to challenge the science engagement field to embrace, embed and systematise diversity, equity and social inclusion paradigms. Dr. Rasekoala with a professional background in Chemical Engineering and industry internationally, has championed, advocated, researched, presented and written widely on public innovation and transformative development through advancing diversity, socio-cultural inclusion and gender equality issues in science communication and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, skills and entrepreneurship development.

 

What were the main intentions when you started the organization African Gong: the Pan-African Network for the popularization of science & technology and science communication?

African Gong came out of my many years of experience of being involved in the international public communication of science and technology field. My involvement in the field started during the years when I was based in the UK from around 1994. I was in the chemical engineering industry, but was struck by some of the challenges of gender, race and social class inequalities—not just within the engineering profession, but within the wider society of the UK at the time. interestingly enough, this was also at the very early stages, where the public communication of science movement was really emerging in the global North, in Europe and North America.

The visioning at that time, we had hoped, was that these issues of diversity, equity and social inclusion would also grow with the movement over time. However, I have to be really honest that African Gong really came out of my disappointment and that of many others, that as the international science communication field/movement grew, it just seemed to carry on reinforcing a very Euro-centric and male hegemony. These issues somehow—once in a while they get discussed in conferences—in panel sessions, but are not really addressed as a mainstream drive, and are not really embedded into the consciousness of the movement.  You could be cynical and say that the movement seemed to be just about growing itself, growing the field—which is all well and good. But also even then growing the field very much within a global North perspective, that didn’t seem to be the same drive as to what growing the field in the contexts and realities of the global South, would deliver in a grounded sense.

There were exceptions, of course, and these were role models for us in African Gong. Our colleagues in Latin America have done a sterling job of really making the science communication field grow in their region and address some of those issues; and our colleagues in Asia as well. Frankly, the African continent is really the last kid on the block, and we started African Gong from the PCST conference that was held in 2014 in Salvador, in Bahia, in Brazil. That empowering global south scenario really was the energiser for us, because we were so motivated by the good practice and the networking of our Latin American colleagues, who really had got the field growing in their region, with the support of UNESCO.

There were also representatives from UNESCO who challenged us to take up the baton of leadership to drive the growth of the field in Africa, in saying: Africa is the only continent that doesn’t have a regionally representative network to bring to the global stage in this field. And so to people like myself and others, the few of us Africans who were there, and had been involved for many, many years in the field, this challenge was really like a call to arms!!, And we felt that we had no option but to put up or shut up!! It was also very daunting as we knew there was a lot of work and leadership involved,  but we realised that we really needed to bite the bullet and start our own pan-African network, African Gong, for the African continental representation and development of the field across our continent.

In your presentation at the Science communication conference in Stellenbosch you outlined an understanding of societal literacy. Is this connected to scientific literacy?

Yes, very much so. Societal literacy is connected to scientific literacy but it is within a wider context of societal transformation, and as we have been talking about in this conference, within the context of growing socially cohesive democratic African societies and civic citizenship, because we don’t just want to be pushing science for science sake. This is about being very ambitious to assert that the scientific enterprise should be delivering even greater returns on our investments from the scientific footprint on the African continent, especially given the pressing myriad developmental challenges that we face as a continent. We cannot afford the luxury of just doing science for the sake of some kind of esoteric prestige, or beauty contest!! It is far more important than that, and for us in Africa, this literately is about life and death!  Thus, for us in Africa, it is very important to locate the ambition for scientific literacy or societal literacy for science communication and the scientific enterprise, in this continent, within these larger multi-level development parameters and quality of life contexts.

Democracy is a key point in your concept. Could you elaborate more on the relationship between democracy and science communication?

As I said in my presentation, notwithstanding what is happening within the global scenario in this part of the 21st century, in terms of the growing dissonance of nationalism, populism,  fake news and post truth, these ruptures have been within the African continental space for very much of the postcolonial era. The drivers of these ruptures have been and continue to be, pretty much what we are now seeing in the global North – societal structural inequalities and globalisation that hasn’t delivered on its neo-liberal promises of prosperity for all. So we on the African continent know better than anybody else the real damage of lack of democratic governance. This has been a very pressing problem for us and the biggest disappointment for many African countries in the postcolonial era.

Unfortunately, we have become the continent of seemingly systematic poor governance nations. We have been the continent of military coups, the continent of dictators (for life!!), and the continent of one-party states. You name it!! And we are the continent of strong men, as I said yesterday – and yet, never of strong women!! You know, almost every other African country has got a strong man, and even when it is dressed up as democracy, if you want it to be benign, you could say that a democratic dictatorship is about the best, yet, that we get!! This has been a long-standing challenge for us in the postcolonial era and it is directly linked to the anti-democratic backlash of the failure of our postcolonial governments to deliver on the massive promises and hopes of the liberation movements that ended the colonial era on our continent. There has been so much euphoria and expectation! and yet so little has been delivered in terms of development!! That is a huge challenge! And this is where the enhanced foot-print of scientific and societal literacy on our continent can bear the most fruit, since, as I indicated in my presentation, ‘Ultimately, the ideal democracy is one in which voters are armed with the most objective information, so that they can make the most informed and most empowering choices for the greater good of society and for themselves.’

To link it back to the science question and to link it to the AU roadmap Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024: The governments you just described also signed this roadmap. Do you see any progress in that regard?

Credits: African Union

That is a very good question, because the history of African science, technology and innovation (STI) policy development and implementation—whether it is at national levels or sub-regional levels in terms of our regional economic communities (REC’s),  or at the continental level, is also a longstanding bedevilling one.

And at the risk of showing my age, I have to take you back to the 1980s when there was the Lagos plan of action. That was the first strategic continent-wide framework agreed to by African governments under the umbrella of the organisation of African unity (0AU), which is now the African Union (AU). So under the leadership of the organisation of African Unity in the 80s, all the African countries for the first time signed up to this continental science & technology development strategy. Critically, at the core of that continental framework was a strong commitment, not just to policy but also to the funding of R&D!! This was why in my presentation I was talking about one of our biggest challenges: It is not just about poor science policy landscapes on our continent, but also poor science funding regimes.

Thus, in the 1980s, in the Lagos plan of action—that was supposed to be the game changer, African governments signed up to a commitment of spending one percent (1%) of national GDP on R&D. We are sitting here in 2018 and it is absolutely heart rending to tell you that from the 1980s up till now, barely up to six African countries have yet met that one percent of GDP commitment to funding R&D on our continent. It is very shameful and demoralising indeed!!!

So we started with the Lagos plan of action, and then over the years the precursor to STISA 2024 was what they called the CPA (Consolidated Plan of Action)—again, a lot of commitments, a lot of strategic objectives. Some of those have been delivered, but the little that gets delivered—and this is where it is also frustrating—is always with international funding. African governments are still not putting their money where their mouth is, in terms of funding R&D, research and scientific development on this continent. And it then becomes very difficult for us to question some of the negative aspects in these collaborations with our international partners, when the painful reality is that without them, there wouldn’t be much scientific research happening on our continent!, because it is still so heavily predicated on international funding and international donors. This huge dependency on international funding for R&D on our continent is very profound and causes its own set of unfortunate unintended consequences.

That then leads very neatly to our last question: What is your vision of the future, where research collaboration is more equitable, fair and sustainable?

To be honest, and the reality is that—we are human beings. There are basic features of human nature, unfortunately, that are not going to change. There are no saints in this world!! There is no free lunch anywhere!! The only way that the dynamics of international research collaborations will change is when African governments equitably come to the table, and they also put money down. As long as the dominance, as long as the dominant partner, the funding partner in these collaborations is from the international community, those power, unequal power relationships, will continue to be the norm. These inequities of power and dominance will continue to undermine the goodwill, the supposed goodwill of these so-called international collaborations. These unequal power dynamics will continue to skew the research agendas, outcomes, etc., in favour of the international partners— after all, there is the saying: He who pays the piper calls the tune!

This constant complaint we get about the skewed nature and inappropriate focus of much of STI Research and Development in Africa, in  that it is skewed towards the agendas and the interests of international donors will also continue, because they are the ones who are bringing in most of the money. And it is wholly understandable that directly or indirectly they will be influencing the research agendas, the topics, the themes, the areas of focus, etc., to suit their own priorities! It is only human nature! And I know that is very hard and painful for many people on our African continent to live with, but we have to be grown-up about these things. This is the real world! there is no charity out there. Nobody gives you anything for nothing. You know, there is always a payback, and we really must stop being naïve. This is why I really place the blame fully, firmly and squarely on our African governments that are allowing this kind of unequal power dynamics and exploitation to happen, because we do have the funding – right here on our continent!! We just need our African governments to make the concerted funding commitments to R&D that will show that they take STI research and development on our continent, very seriously indeed, and are prepared to give it the budgetary priorities that it so well deserves!

But how do we make this happen?

The problem is three-fold. First of all: How do we get African governments to really take science, Technology & Innovation (STI) seriously and  to  then place it firmly at the heart of development and the transformation of  African societies and countries? That is the first thing that we are still struggling with in many African countries, 50, 60 years down the line, in the postcolonial era. That core belief, that strategic enrolment, is still not there in many of our African governments. So that is the first problem.

That then leads to the second problem: If you don’t believe in something, if you don’t see the efficacy, you are not wired into it. You are not going to set the policies into place that will make it an imperative. So we end up with very poor, patchy and uneven STI policy environments across our continent.

And this then ultimately leads to the third problem -that of the funding: If you don’t believe in it, if you don’t have the policies and the legislation for it, then you are not going to commit in a sustainable way, to the strategic funding regimes and budgets that you need to make that scientific endeavour and the research and its impact on societal development, happen in your country.  and so it is a ‘no brainer’ as to how we got to where we are in Africa and what needs to change. The challenge is: How do we actually get this mind-set change and the recognition and championing of science by African governments—at national levels, at the sub-regional levels, and at the continental level. There are a lot of warm words; there is STISA 2024 in place, but the real taste of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating!! The real evidence of the commitment to STI for development is when you actually put your money on the table and that is what is not happening across our continent!! And how long do we wait for change, transformation and socio-economic development on the African continent to be realised??

Thank you for this interview Dr. Rasekoala

 

Science diplomacy – a catch-all concept in public policy?

Science diplomacy is a concept one crosses quickly when engaging with international research collaborations and specifically with their funding mechanisms. Foreign ministries and other public institutions have research cooperation and research capacity-building in their tool-boxes. This naturally includes the policymakers of countries in the Global South, as outlined by the former South African Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor or by other Southern perspectives. Moreover, recent workshops in Sub-Saharan Africa reflect how scientists are equipped with the skills of diplomacy. But what does the concept of science diplomacy mean? Nicolas Rüffin offers a take on the sometimes fuzzy concept from a European perspective. We invite you to discuss the concept with us in the comments.

Nicolas Rüffin

Science diplomacy has attracted a lot of attention during the last decade. Actors as different as the US State Department, the European Commission, the Royal Society, UNESCO and a great many of other intermediary organizations have adopted the term to re-brand their activities, programs, and agendas. The contexts in which the term science diplomacy emerges are just as diverse as the actors. It almost seems like science has become a panacea for most of the problems in public policy-making. For instance, when looking through the volumes of the journal Science & Diplomacy, we encounter topics like the global challenges, health diplomacy, issues of security and proliferation, international mega-science projects, and trade policies, not to mention regional priorities like the Arctic, Africa, the Middle East, or East Asia.

The rise of the concept of science diplomacy

Science diplomacy thus is first and foremost a new umbrella term to characterize the role of science and technology in numerous policy fields that have an international, boundary-spanning, component. As a matter of fact, a number of examples and documents illustrate that considerations regarding science and technology (S&T) have played a role in international policymaking before (e.g. Neureiter & Turekian, 2012). For instance, policy instruments like bilateral science and technology agreements (STAs) have been used at least since the 1950s (Rüffin & Schreiterer, 2017). These STAs formed a global network of legal commitments long before any remarks on a strategic use of science diplomacy emerged.

However, the scope and number of S&T related policies have increased over time. For instance, we are witnessing the emergence and differentiation of agencies explicitly dedicated to matters of international science policymaking (Flink & Schreiterer, 2010; Rüffin, 2018). Several countries, including Germany, the UK, Switzerland, and Denmark, have established S&T outposts abroad in order to access new markets, buttress their innovation capacities, and to foster bilateral relationships. In addition, non-state actors like academies or research associations pursue their own objectives in terms of international science policy. They maintain offices overseas, conclude collaboration agreements, and some even establish joint research laboratories (e.g. the French Centre national de la recherche scientifique or the German Max-Planck Society). The idea of science diplomacy, then, provides a new, more strategic and—more or less—coherent framework to integrate existing instruments in international S&T policymaking. Actors use the concept to propel their own agenda regardless of policy field or research area.

From my point of view, there are two items on the current research agenda regarding science diplomacy: The aspirations for the meaningful, “optimal” use of the concept (Van Langenhove, 2017) and the scholarly reflection on its role in a broader context.

Future directions for science diplomacy

There are several well-known and often cited examples of successful science diplomacy. For instance, physicists were the trailblazers in establishing diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel in the 1950s. The Pugwash conferences provided venues for low-key exchanges between scientists and policymakers from Western and Eastern countries during the Cold War. International research organizations like the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, or the International Space Station, ISS, illustrate the opportunities that emerge if international partners join forces to pursue daring and high-quality big science research.

But aside from these famous examples, we know that the systematic implementation of the concept of science diplomacy faces serious challenges. Sometimes, scientists and officials from research organizations even are reluctant to use the term, stating that they would rather prefer to stay “under the radar” of politics. It is true that science diplomacy, as a type of track 2 diplomacy, always constitutes a balancing act between governmental interests and scientific autonomy. A strategic use of science diplomacy must take these concerns into account. Moreover, questions arise from the tension between competition versus collaboration of different actors.

In Europe, both the European Commission and a great number of Member States are engaging in science diplomacy, yet the relations between the different players, the division of labor as it where, often remains unclear. Propelling European science diplomacy thus means that the stakeholders must define the domains of (shared) responsibility, explore areas of common interests, and coordinate joint programs where advisable. Hence, scholars should investigate the subjects where science diplomacy can contribute to the peaceful and sustainable coexistence, increased scientific collaboration, and eased tensions between countries across the globe. But they should also continue to examine the limitations of the concept and how it might play into increasingly tough economic competitions and races for innovation. Overall, researchers should be aware that they contribute to the evolution of the concept by introducing new tools, structuring established instruments, and by identifying new applications.

Contemplating the nature of science diplomacy

However, it is important to remember that science diplomacy is only one expression of a broader “elusive transformation” of policymaking (Skolnikoff, 1993). We need to put science diplomacy into perspective by drawing connections to other mega-trends in science policy like the turn towards innovation and the increasing importance of the global challenges. This strand of research could include historical studies on the origins of the concept, analyses of coalition building, or in-depth case studies of how foreign affairs and S&T interact.

Luckily, the community of researchers engaging with science diplomacy—both in substantial and in reflexive ways—is growing. Already, scientists from many countries are contributing to this endeavor, and within Horizon 2020, there are a number of projects that advance the study and implementation of science diplomacy (e.g. EL-CSIDInsSciDE, and S4D4C).

After all, science diplomacy is a moving target and it will be interesting to watch which directions, trajectories and shapes the concept will take in the future.

 

Nicolas Rüffin is Research Fellow of the President’s Project Group at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. He joined the WZB in 2016, after receiving a master’s degree in science studies from the Humboldt-University of Berlin, and a bachelor’s degree in business psychology from the University of Bochum. Before moving to Berlin, he had worked as Programme Manager at Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, a joint initiative of companies and foundations for the advancement of education, science, and innovation in Germany. His research mainly focuses on issues of international science policy, the politics of intergovernmental big science projects, and science diplomacy.

 

References

Flink, T., & Schreiterer, U. (2010). Science diplomacy at the intersection of S&T policies and foreign affairs: towards a typology of national approaches. Science and Public Policy 37(9), 665–677.

Rüffin, N. (2018): Science and Innovation Diplomacy Agencies at the Nexus of Research, Economics, and Politics. EL-CSID Working Papers 10. Brussels: Institute for European Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Rüffin, N., & Schreiterer, U. (2017): Science and Technology Agreements in the Toolbox of Science Diplomacy. Effective Instruments or Insignificant Add-ons?. EL-CSID Working Papers 6. Brussels: Institute for European Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Skolnikoff, E. B. (1993). The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology, and the Evolution of International Politics. Princeton, NJ: University Press.

Turekian, VC; Neureiter, NP (2012) Science and Diplomacy: The Past as Prologue. Science & Diplomacy. A Quarterly publication from the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy. March, 2012; http://www.sciencediplomacy.org/editorial/2012/science-and-diplomacy

Van Langenhove, L. (2017). Tools for an EU Science Diplomacy. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

 

This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge.

News, Calls and other Links #5/2018

Calls for Applications (Grants, Fellowships, scholarships and awards)

  • The Africa Research Excellence Fund (AREF)/The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) make a joint call on Preparatory Fellowships. Deadline is the 1. February 2019.
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) through DAAD calls highly qualified university graduates in all scientific fields; and graduates should have completed their final degree examination no longer than six years previously to apply for DAAD research grants. No deadline.
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering through invites the applications for UK-South Africa Industry-Academia Partnership Programme to build international links between industry and universities. Deadline 12. December 2018
  • Calls for PhD funding for international researchers from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. No deadline.
  • Call for Applications: Germany (DFG)/South Africa (NRF) on Partnership on International Research Training Group (IRTGs). Deadline is the 31. December 2018.
  • The UK Department for International Development (DFID), the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Wellcome make a joint call for global health trials. Deadline is the 5. February 2018
  • The Collaboration for Evidence-Based Healthcare and Public Health in Africa (CEBHA+), calls for applications of doctoral scholarship in the area of Non-communicable diseases, with the aim to build long-term capacity and infrastructure for evidence-based healthcare and public health in Sub-Sahara Africa”. Deadline is 26. November 2018.
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) invites interested grantees to submit proposals for the Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP) Programme. Deadline is 30. December 2018
  • The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Initiative invites applications for the NEF fellows. Deadline is 15. January 2019.
  • The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) calls for proposals of the German-African Innovation Incentive Award 2018. Deadline is 15. January 2019.

 

Conferences

  • The Society of Social Studies of Science’s (4S) annual meeting 2019 will be in New Orleans, USA. Call for papers, closed panels and others opens 15. December 2018.

 

Interesting Reads 

  • The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency partners with IDRC to „deepen and sustain the work of the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI). The SGCI aims to build capacity of 15 science granting councils in sub-Sahara Africa; as well as provide funding to the participating councils for administering research calls.
  • A new book on a comprehensive study on “the next generation of scientists of scientists in Africa”, providing thorough insights into the funding landscapes, the career perspectives, publication opportunities, and other important issues for the young generations of scientists.
  • A new book on Research Universities in Africa “provides the best analysis to-date on the state of higher education in Africa, and discusses key policies to steer their positive transformation.”
  • Strengthening the EU partnership with Africa initiative leads to a new training alliance between EU and Africa through the Erasmus plus programme. More than 100,000 African students and academics will benefit from this new Africa-European deal
  • van der Merwe reviews the bibliometric study that was conducted on African science. The study shows that African researchers tend to produce high impact research when they receive international funding.

A Seminar on Research Integrity

Teaching Science Studies
(Photo by Nathan Dumlao on unsplash)

During the summer semester I had the opportunity to teach a course on research integrity and international scientific collaborations with my colleague Tim Flink from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The course was part of a Master-program in science studies and turned out to be very interesting with a lot of input, critique and ideas from the students when we discussed the the texts.

To facilitate the exchange on teaching about this topic, especially with focus on research collaborations with participants from the Global South, I am publishing the syllabus here. Feel free do use the material or add to the course outline through comments. It will be great to discuss further options of how to place the topic in science studies. So my questions to you include:

What are your courses on this topics? What texts and material do you use when teaching research integrity in your field? And at which departments do you teach these subjects?

So here is our syllabus:

Outline
Research integrity matters for North-South collaborations. Colonial histories, continuous economic inequalities, the scientists‘ labour migration, a dominance of Northern approaches to scientific topics and unequally equipped research environments are crucial factors that structure these relationships. The seminar invites students to develop a conceptual understanding of research integrity under the aforementioned conditions, of research collaborations and of globalized norms of science. Moreover, in the seminar we will study the operationalization of research collaborations through mobility, co-publications and the funding and we will look at policy responses to these inequalities. Eventually, we will develop a model of research collaborations with African and European participants that tries to factor in the different original conditions, the goals of actors within different systems, their approaches in international scientific/science-policy affairs and their styles of planning and doing research. In the seminar, we will use first-hand empirical data from field research.

1. Session:  What is Research Integrity and what is the difference to Research Ethics

1. Fuchs, S.; Westervelt, S. D., 1996. Fraud and Trust in Science. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 39(2), 249–269.
2. Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, 2010
3. Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations, 2013

2. Session: What do we mean by research collaborations?

1. Katz, J.S., Martin, B.R., 1997. What is research collaboration? 1Research Policy 26, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0048-7333(96)00917-1
2. Kosmützky, A., 2018. A two-sided medal: On the complexity of international comparative and collaborative team research. Higher Education Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1111/hequ.12156

3. Session: How did science become international/global?

Short intervention/Lecture: Tim Flink on the base of
Stichweh, R., 2003. Genese des globalen Wissenschaftssystems. Soziale Systeme 9: 3–26.

4. Session: Which particular norms of science evolved when?

1. Daston, L., 1991. The Ideal and Reality of the Republic of Letters in the Enlightenment. Science in Context 4: 367–386.
2. Merton, R.K., 1973. The Normative Structure of Science. S. 267–278 in: N.W. Storer (Hrsg.), The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

5. Session: How do we operationalize research collaboration

I: Mobility (Student presentation)
1. Gaillard, J., Gaillard, A.M., Krishna, V.V., 2015. Return from Migration and Circulation of Highly Educated People: The Never-ending Brain Drain. Science, technology & Society 20, 269–278.

How do we operationalize research collaboration II: Bibliometrical analysis (Student presentation)

1. Adams, J., Gurney, K., Hook, D., Leydesdorff, L., 2014. International collaboration clusters in Africa. Scientometrics 98, 547–556.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-013-1060-2
2. Onyancha, O.B., and Meluleka, J.R. (2011). Knowledge production through collaborative research in sub-Saharan Africa: how much do countries contribute to each other’s knowledge output and citation impact? Scientometrics, 87, 315–336.

How do we operationalize research collaboration III: National and international R&D funding models (Student presentation)

1. Hyden, G., 2016. The role and impact of funding agencies on higher education and research for development, in: Halvorsen, T., Nossum, J. (Eds.), North-South Knowledge Networks: Student presentation Towards Equitable Collaboration between Academics, Donors and Universities. African Minds, Cape Town, pp. 1–39.
2. Gaillard, J., 2010. Measuring Research and Development in Developing Countries: Main Characteristics and Implications for the Frascati Manual. Science Technology & Society 15, 77-111. 4.http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/fs42-global-investments-in-rd-2017-en.pdf
4. European Commission, 2014. Mapping of Best Practice: Regional and Multi-Country STI Initiatives Between African and Europe. Publication Office of the EU, Luxemburg, p. 7-10.

6. Session: What integrity-problems arise in North-South collaborations? (Group discussion)

Kombe, F., Anunobi, E.N., Tshifugula, N.P., Wassenaar, D., Njadingwe, D., Mwalukore, S., Chinyama, J., Randrianasolo, B., Akindeh, P., Dlamini, P.S., others, 2014. Promoting research integrity in Africa: An African voice of concern on research misconduct and the way forward. Developing world bioethics 14, 158–166.
Zingerli, C., 2010. A Sociology of International Research Partnerships for Sustainable Development. European Journal of Development Research 22, 217–233. https://doi.org/10.1057/ejdr.2010.1

7. Session: Interpretation of interviews (Group Work and discussion with prior homework)

Introduction to interview analysis
Sources: Two anonymous interviews from field research

8 Session: Policy responses to integrity issues: Guidelines and ethical review committees as institutional safeguards (Student presentation)

1. Maselli, D., Lys, J.-A., Schmid, J., 2004. Improving impacts of research partnerships. Geographica Bernensia, Bern, p. 13-37.
2. Botti, L., IJsselmuiden, C., Kuss, K., Mwangi, E., Wagner, I.E., 2018. Equality in Health Research Cooperation Between Africa and Europe: The Potential of the Research Fairness Initiative, in: Cherry, A., Haselip, J., Ralphs, G., Wagner, I.E. (Eds.), Africa-Europe Research and Innovation Cooperation. Springer  International Publishing, Cham, pp. 99–119. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69929-5_6
3. Ndebele, P., Wassenaar, D., Benatar, S., Fleischer, T., Kruger, M., Adebamowo, C., Kass, N., Hyder, A.A., Meslin, E.M., 2014. Research Ethics Capacity Building in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of NIH Fogarty-Funded Programs 2000–2012. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics: An International Journal 9, 24–40. https://doi.org/10.1525/jer.2014.9.2.24

9. Session: Students present their essays ideas (peer review)

10. Session:  Conclusion and outlook

1. Parker, M., Kingori, P., 2016. Good and Bad Research Collaborations: Researchers’ Views on Science and Ethics in Global Health Research. PLOS ONE 11, e0163579. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0163579
2. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-01696-w

 

Further recommended reading:
Adriansen, H.K., Madsen, L.M., Jensen, S. (Eds.), 2016. Higher Education and Capacity Building in Africa: The Geography and Power of Knowledge Under Changing Conditions. Routledge.

Boshoff, N., 2009. Neo-colonialism and research collaboration in Central Africa. Scientometrics 81, 413–434. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-008-2211-8

Bradley, M., 2008. On the agenda: North–South research partnerships and agenda-setting processes. Development in Practice 18, 673–685.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09614520802386314

Hountondji, P.J., 1990. Scientific Dependence in Africa Today. Research in African Literatures 21, 5–15.

Mouton, J., Gaillard, J., van Lill, M., 2015. Functions of Science Granting Councils in Sub-Saharan Africa, in: Cloete, N., Maassen, P., Bailey, T. (Eds.), Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in African Higher Education, African Minds Higher Education Dynamics Series. African Minds, Cape Town, pp. 148–170.

Wagner, C.S., 2008. The New Invisible College: Science for Development. Brookings Institution Press.

Zdravkovic, M., Chiwona-Karltun, L., Zink, E., 2016. Experiences and perceptions of South-South and North-South scientific collaboration of mathematicians, physicists and chemists from five southern African universities. Scientometrics 108, 717–743. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-016-1989-z

Neue Fördermodelle für wissenschaftliche Nord-Süd-Kooperationen

Kurz gefasst

Internationale Forschungskooperationen sind auf Förderer und neue Kooperationsmodelle angewiesen. Das gilt besonders für Partner aus Ländern mit niedrigem Ressourceneinsatz für Wissenschaft und Innovation. In einer Studie zu Kooperationen zwischen europäischen und afrikanischen Forschenden zu den Themen vernachlässigte Tropenkrankheiten und erneuerbare Energien geht es um die ungleichen Bedingungen, unter denen die Kooperationen stattfinden und um die Handlungsoptionen, die Beteiligte zum Ausgleich entwickeln. Öffentlichen und privaten Forschungsförderern kommt dabei eine zentrale Gestaltungsrolle zu.

Summary

International research collaboration depends on grantors and new cooperation models. This holds true especially for partners from countries with low resources for research and development. In a study about research collaborations with European and African participants in the fields of neglected tropical diseases and renewable energies I look at the unequal starting conditions and choices researchers, grantors, and science-policy maker take to balance their effects. Public and private funders have a central role in fostering more equality.

 

„Global Challenges“ brauchen Forschungskooperationen

Globale Herausforderungen, so die These, lassen sich gegenwärtig am ehesten von forschungsstarken Wissensgesellschaften bewältigen, die intensiv miteinander zusammenarbeiten. Afrikanische Forschende stehen sind in derartige globale Wissenschaftskooperationen oft nur unzureichend eingebunden. Nord-Süd-Asymmetrien beeinflussen das Agenda-Setting ebenso wie die Finanzierung und Arbeitsteilung im Forschungsprozess. Das stellt die Beteiligten oft vor schwierige Entscheidungen mit ambivalenten Folgen. Die Förderung von Wissenschaftskooperationen rückt zum einen als Instrument für soziale und ökologische Nachhaltigkeit, aber auch als Untersuchungsgegenstand zunehmend in den Blickpunkt der Sozialwissenschaften.

Die Geschichte dieser Kooperationen zeichnet ein ambivalentes Bild. Afrikanische Akteure waren zwar immer schon in internationale Forschungskooperationen eingebunden. Zu Beginn waren sie vor allem Gegenstand der Forschung, später allenfalls Hilfskräfte für die Sammlung von Rohdaten, die dann an den Universitäten der Kolonialmetropolen London, Paris oder Berlin ausgewertet wurden. Diese Praxis änderte sich in den afrikanischen Staaten auch nach der Erlangung ihrer Unabhängigkeit nur wenig, da Ressourcen und Expertise an den neu gegründeten Universitäten für eine gleichberechtigte Teilhabe an internationalen Kollaborationen nur minimal vorhanden waren. Heute jedoch zeigen bibliometrische Analysen, dass Forschende aus afrikanischen Institutionen zunehmend häufiger an internationalen Kollaborationen beteiligt sind und sich auch innerhalb Afrikas immer intensiver vernetzen. Jedoch bleibt der relative Anteil an der globalen Wissensproduktion weiter überaus niedrig. An der Rolle als Datensammler ohne substanzielle Beteiligung an der Theoriebildung und Publikationen scheint sich jedoch noch nicht viel geändert zu haben.

Die globale wissenschaftliche Abhängigkeit und Versuche, Auswege zu finden, waren in den internationalen Foren seit langem ein Thema, u.a. bei einerprägenden United Nation Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD)-Konferenz im Jahr 1979, aus der das „Vienna Programme of Action on Science and Technology“ resultierte. Und sie bleiben bis heute drängende wissenschaftspolitische Fragen, denn bisher werden in vielen afrikanischen Staaten weniger als 0,6 Prozent des Bruttosozialprodukts (BSP) in Forschung und Entwicklung investiert (im Kontrast zum OECD-Durchschnitt von 2,4 des BSP (2013)). Ausnahmen bilden Staaten wie Südafrika und Ägypten, aber auch kleine und bisher kaum beachtete Staaten wie Tunesien und Malawi. Aufgrund minimaler privatwirtschaftlicher Investitionen in eigene Forschungsabteilungen gibt es derzeit aber wenig Alternativen zu staatlicher und internationaler Förderung, um Forschung zu betreiben. Externe – öffentliche wie private – Förderer erlangen so eine zentrale Rolle in der Gestaltung und Nachhaltigkeit von Forschungsstrukturen. Afrikanische Forschende benötigen diese Investitionen dringend, um adäquate Antworten auf drängende lokale Forschungsfragen geben zu können und fordern von ihren Regierungen die notwendigen Investitionen, um unabhängiger von internationalen Förderern zu sein und mehr Süd-Süd-Kooperationen eingehen zu können (siehe hier und den jüngsten Bericht der African Academy of Science)

Finanziers mit verschiedenen Interessen, Instrumenten und ethischen Verpflichtungen

Der Blick auf das Feld der Forschungsbeziehungen mit Afrika ist deshalb notwendig, um genauer zeigen zu können, wie Organisationen und einzelne Forschende mit diesen Asymmetrien und daraus resultierenden Ambivalenzen umgehen und welche Entscheidungen sie treffen. Private wie öffentliche Forschungsförderer bewegen sich in diesem Feld entlang verschiedener Zielerwartungen zwischen Wissenschafts-, Entwicklungs- und Außenpolitik. Mit der Gestaltung ihrer Programme reagieren Förderer auf diese Anforderungen, wobei neben der Förderung von Einzelpersonen und Forschungskooperationen das organisatorische capacity-building zur eigenständigen Forschung und Forschungsadministration immer stärker im Vordergrund steht.

Dabei sind die Instrumente, die mehr Gleichheit in Forschungsbeziehungen herbeiführen könnten, längst bekannt. Förderer können die Zugänge zu Ausschreibungen und zu Netzwerken für alle Beteiligten verbessern und die Anforderungen in den Ausschreibungen beeinflussen. In ihren Review-Mechanismen können sie die wissenschaftlichen Anforderungen und den lokalen Innovations- und Übersetzungbedarf ausbalancieren, ohne den wissenschaftlichen Anspruch aufgeben zu müssen. Durch kontinuierliche Begleitung und Anpassung ihrer Verwendungsrichtlinien haben sie zudem die Möglichkeit, die bestehenden Machtbeziehungen in den Kooperationen zu beeinflussen. Oft treten solche Machtbeziehungen ungewollt besonders bei der Mittelverteilung, dem Antragsprozess und auch bei der Bearbeitung von Proben und Materialien in den besser ausgestatteten Laboren auf. Und die Förderer können durch Nachbereitung der Projekte zur weiteren Verbreitung der Ergebnisse und ihrer Nachhaltigkeit beitragen. Eine wesentliche Verbesserungsmöglichkeit auch für europäische Partner besteht allerdings in der Dauer der Förderung. Oftmals lassen sich in den üblichen drei Jahren Projektförderung keine nachhaltigen Partnerschaften und Infrastrukturen auf- und Asymmetrien abbauen. Dieses Problem teilen afrikanische Forschende mit ihren europäischen Kolleginnen.

Einige der Förderer haben sich dafür ethischen Standards verpflichtet, die zu mehr Gleichheit in Forschungspartnerschaften beitragen sollen. Die Schweizer Kommission für Forschungspartnerschaften mit Entwicklungsländern hat bereits in den späten 1990ern einen Leitfaden herausgegeben, der auch an die UNCTAD-Diskussionen von 1979 anschließt. Die Research Fairness Initiative aus der Gesundheitsforschung ist ein jüngeres Beispiel der ethisch orientierten Harmonisierung von Kollaborationen zwischen noch ungleich ausgestatteten Kooperierenden.

Neue Datenbank, um Förderprogramme und ihre Entwicklungen zu vergleichen

In meinem Forschungsprojekt widme ich mich diesen Entwicklungen in der Förderlandschaft und untersuche ihre Effekte auf Kooperationen zwischen afrikanischen und europäischen Partnern. Im Mittelpunkt der Studie stehen öffentliche und private Förderer der ehemaligen Kolonialmächte Frankreich, Großbritannien und Deutschland sowie Schweden und die Schweiz. Zudem ziehe ich Initiativen der Europäischen Union heran, um multilaterale Initiativen zu erfassen. Quantitative und qualitative Erhebungen helfen, das institutionelle Feld adäquat beschreiben und die Entwicklungen besonders seit dem „Vienna Programme of Action“ erklären zu können. In diesem Rahmen entstand eine Datenbank mit derzeit 144 Förderprogrammen aus den Forschungsfeldern der vernachlässigten Tropenkrankheiten und den erneuerbaren Energien. Sie umfasst einen Zeitraum von 1961 bis heute und hat Programme im Blick, in denen zumindest ein Teil für kollaborative Forschungen oder auch für institutionelle Förderung aufgewendet wird. Würde man Stipendienprogramme für einzelne Forscherinnen und Forscher ebenfalls erfassen wollen, würde die Zahl um ein Vielfaches ansteigen. Nichtsdestotrotz erlauben die meisten Forschungspartnerschaften oft auch die Fortbildung und den Austausch von Masterstudierenden und Doktoranden. Viele der Programme sind den öffentlich zugänglichen Datenbanken der jeweiligen Förderer entnommen, von denen wir in den untersuchten Ländern bisher 59 identifizieren konnten. Nimmt man die jeweiligen Partnerorganisationen in anderen europäischen und afrikanischen Ländern hinzu, sind derzeit 90 Förderorganisationen in der Datenbank erfasst.

Diese Datenbank erlaubt einen explorativen Zugang zu Intentionen, thematischen und geografischen Förderschwerpunkten und den Auswahlkriterien. Vorläufige Analysen der Daten lassen bereits einige Rückschlüsse auf die Forschungs- und Förderbeziehungen zwischen Afrika und Europa zu. So werden medizinische Forschungen wesentlich häufiger und bereits länger gefördert als Kollaborationen in den erneuerbaren Energien. Die Kollaborationen werden hauptsächlich aus Sonderprogrammen finanziert, die sich explizit entweder auf afrikanische Länder oder auf einen Entwicklungsaspekt beziehen. Als Förderer treten in Frankreich, Deutschland, Schweden und Schweiz hauptsächlich Bildungs- und Entwicklungsministerien als öffentliche Förderer auf, während es in Deutschland auch einen nennenswerten Teil privater Förderung, etwa durch die Volkswagenstiftung gibt, die seit 2005 ein eigenes Förderprogramm für Afrika hat. Großbritannien bildet insofern eine Ausnahme, weil hier der private Förderanteil deutlich überwiegt. Das lässt sich mit dem hohen Anteil an privaten Stiftungen erklären, die im anglophonen Bereich auch mehr Wissenschaftsförderung betreiben. Der Wellcome Trust zum Beispiel ist der größte Akteur in der medizinischen Forschungsförderung. Darüber hinaus kooperieren private und öffentliche Förderer in Großbritannien im Vergleich zu den anderen Ländern häufiger, etwa bei entwicklungspolitischen Programmen für wissenschaftliche Kapazitäten. Damit treffen verschiedene Organisationstypen und -ziele aufeinander, die sich oft in der oben beschriebenen Grauzone zwischen Entwicklungspolitik und Wissenschaftsförderung bewegen.

Auch die Förderer kooperieren zunehmend international. Sie tragen damit der internationalen Verflechtung afrikanischer und europäischer Wissenschaftler Rechnung. Die Modelle der Finanzierung und sind dabei ebenso wie die Motivation dazu unterschiedlich. Zwei Dimensionen müssen dabei unterschieden werden: Die Finanzierungsquellen einerseits und die Organisation zur Umsetzung der Programme andererseits. Es zeigt sich, dass seit 2010 immer mehr Kooperationen zwischen europäischen und afrikanischen Ländern für wissenschaftliche Förderprogramme entstehen. Allein das deutsche Bildungsministerium hat mit Tunesien, Ägypten und Marokko seit 2008 mehrere bilaterale Finanzierungsmodelle für Forschende aufgelegt. Die Programme werden über ein gemeinsames Konsortium implementiert und sollen damit die Forschungsagenden mehr als bisher auf lokale Fragen und Herausforderungen ausrichten. Der europäische Förderer tritt damit im Idealfall operativ stärker in den Hintergrund und agiert nun eher als Finanzier. Zu untersuchen bleibt, inwiefern dass den Einfluss auf die Forschungsthemen verändert. Neben diesen bilateralen Abkommen stehen multilaterale Programme, in denen zum Beispiel die Europäische Union Förderungen ermöglicht (European Research Area Network Africa als ein Beispiel) oder in denen sich europäische private Stiftungen zugunsten des Stärkung medizinischer Kapazitäten und Süd-Süd-Kooperationen zusammenschließen, wie im Fall des African Research Networks for Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Mehr Handlungsmöglichkeiten afrikanischer Forschender aber auch anhaltende Dominanz des Nordens

Was bedeuten diese Förderstrukturen für den Grad der Autonomie afrikanischer Forschender, selbst Ziele zu setzen und Forschungen zu unternehmen? Die Ambivalenz von Abhängigkeit und Selbstermächtigung bleibt ein prägendes Merkmal. Zum einen dominieren ressourcenstärkere Akteure und Wissenssysteme sowie Theorien und Methoden noch immer die Ausbildungswege und Forschungsinfrastrukturen und damit auch Kollaborationen. Afrikanische Forschende erhalten nur langsam größere Wahlmöglichkeiten zwischen Finanzierungsquellen, da ja die afrikanischen Regierungen mit wenigen Ausnahmen noch keine nennenswerten eigenen Mittel für Forschungen bereitstellen und auch die niedrigen bis fehlenden Investitionen aus der Privatwirtschaft nicht ersetzen können, die in vielen OECD-Ländern eine entscheidende Rolle spielen. Interviews mit Forschenden und Vertretern von Wissenschaftsministerien in Afrika bestätigen diese Abhängigkeit.

Auf der anderen Seite stellen Forschungskooperationen die Möglichkeit dar, das entsprechende Wissen und die notwendige Infrastruktur aufzubauen, Doktorandinnen auszubilden und die Expertise vor Ort einzusetzen. Damit geht ein Selbstermächtigung einher, die es erlaubt, viele Schritte der Analyse biologischer Proben in der Gesundheitsforschung vor Ort vorzunehmen und nicht mehr nach Europa oder in die USA ausfliegen zu müssen. Von bilateralen und multilateralen Förderkonstellationen wird zudem erwartet, dass sie Wissenschaftsministerien und damit afrikanische Regierungen enger einbinden, deren administrative Expertise fördern, damit durch eigene finanzielle Beiträge die afrikanischen Stimmen im Aushandlungsprozess der Forschungsagenden und allen anderen Forschungsaspekten mehr Gewicht erhalten. Die Dominanz ressourcenstarker Akteure wie Deutschland oder Frankreich in globalen Wissenschaftskooperationen wird jedoch vorerst fortbestehen. Über die Analyse der Förderprogramme lässt sich jedoch zumindest festhalten, wo Veränderungen stattfinden und wie die neuen Fördermodelle zu mehr Gleichheit in internationalen Kollaborationen beitragen können.

 

Zum Weiterlesen

Adriansen, Hanne Kirstine, Lene Møller Madsen, and Stig Jensen, eds. 2016. Higher Education and Capacity Building in Africa: The Geography and Power of Knowledge Under Changing Conditions. Routledge.

Halvorsen, Tor, and Jorun Nossum, eds. 2016. North-South Knowledge Networks: Towards Equitable Collaboration between Academics, Donors and Universities. Cape Town: African Minds. (available as open access)

Hountondji, Paulin J. 1990. Scientific Dependence in Africa Today.” Research in African Literatures 21 (3):5–15.

Moyi Okwaro, Ferdinand, and P. W. Geissler. 2015. “In/Dependent Collaborations: Perceptions and Experiences of African Scientists in Transnational HIV Research.Medical Anthropology Quarterly 29 (4):492–511.

 

Dieser Text erschien zuerst in: WZB Mitteilungen, Nr. 159, März 2018 und wurde für diesen Blogeintrag angepasst.

 

News, Calls and other Links #3/2018

Call for Applications (Grants, Awards, Scholarships, topics)

Conferences, call for papers and announcements

Interesting Reads

News, Calls and other Links #2/2018

Call for Applications (Grants, Awards)

  • The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) is inviting nominations for her EDCTP 2018 Prize. Categories are scientific leadership, outstanding female researcher, outstanding research teams, and the Dr Pascoal Mocumbi Prize. Deadline is the 28. February 2018.
  • TWAS is inviting nominations for one of its nine prizes for researchers from developing countries. Deadline is the 15.3.
  • The Africa Oxford Initiative calls for applications for its postdoctoral Visiting Fellow Programme. Deadline: 11.3.
  • If you are from South Africa (the only African country) you can apply for the Newton Mobility Grants to build research partnerships with UK colleagues. Deadline 14.3.

Conference call for papers and announcements

Interesting Reads

Abidjan Calling – Sustain Science Locally!

On the 29. and 30. November the African Union and the European Union met in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for their regular summit. This year the African leaders where also confronted with science policy. A large group of scientists has issued the ‘Abidjan Appel’ in Abidjan on the 29. November, calling on their leaders to finally support science more effectively and sustainably. The open letter was signed by over 60 eminent scientists. (First news coverage here and here)

Beside the funding researchers receive from outside of Africa, the investment by national governments still lags behind their own set goal of at least 1% of the national GDP. And this goal is as old as the Lagos Plan of Action, drafted as an alternative development strategy for Africa in 1980. According to the authors African public leaders invest about 0,5% on average in research in their countries. Certainly, this number can be subject of debate and some may say that some governments have other priorities than building and maintaining large scale research facilities (slavery in Lybia and job creation for youth being dominant themes at this summit). However, the scientists have underlined that science is an important development driver as is to be seen in the histories of emerging and industrialized countries.

What are the scientist demanding?

In their Appeal (French version only to my knowledge), the scientists identify the insufficient or lacking funds for research, the weak impact of scientific productions on public life and the above mentioned ill perception of science’s contribution to development in Africa. To get out of this situation the scientists have developed ten demands, which I will translate and summarize here quickly:

  • Create a body modelled after the European Research Council to support excellent individual and collective research. In fact (this body is part of the African Union’s Science Technology Innovation Strategy for Africa, STISA 2024);
  • Favor the establishment of new research teams to increase creativity and knowledge production on the continent;
  • Define an “African vision” starting from concerted research network activities;
  • Assure with help of adequate financing the enforcement of research capacities in all areas;
  • Improve the research environment with regard to infrastructures and functioning equipment;
  • Encourage research teams to put their expertise into the service of change on national and international levels;
  • Stimulate scientific collaborations in Africa between the regions;
  • Make universities and research centers more attractive and competitive through more research dynamic;
  • Favor exchange and networks of research institutions at the pan African and international level;
  • Broaden and reinforce financial structures for the promotion of science and consequently of economic, social and cultural development.

These 10 claims reflect a broad range of challenges researchers face in African science environments. While many initiatives have been started with international donors to support either individual researchers, organizations or the scientific environment, many wait for the decisive budget decision of their governments. The authors expect nothing else than to become the drivers of their own research development, a claim responding to the widely shared analyses of scientific dependencies, which I have summarized here recently.

I will follow up on this as soon as I have laid hands on the final communiqué of the summit to see whether the call was heard.