African Scientists Directory fosters collaboration, counters populism
By Mark Paterson | University World News
The obstacles facing budding scientists in Africa are exacerbating a brain drain of some of the continent’s top minds. Poor coordination within and among national scientific communities has damaged mentorship opportunities, impeding the development of the next generation of academics and researchers.
It has also led to duplication of efforts, with scientists working in silos oblivious of each other’s research. Political, cultural and geographical barriers, particularly between Anglophone and Francophone, as well as Lusophone African countries, have aggravated the lack of communication among scientists. They often simply don’t know where to look for potential collaborators.
In addition, public debate is devalued in the absence of a pool of readily available scientific experts who can provide factual, informed comment on issues of the day – and help stem the widespread distrust of science which has mounted with the rise of populism globally.
Building a public understanding of science
In response, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the International Science Council Regional Office for Africa (ISC ROA) have launched an African Scientists Directory, which aims to forge inter-institutional engagement across the continent to train future scientists and foster joint research efforts.
“Collaboration is required to prevent the loss of thousands of professionals to developed countries,” Richard Glover, a programme specialist at ISC ROA, told a webinar organised by ASSAf as part of Open Access Week, internationally observed from 19-26 October.
Hailed as a new online ‘yellow pages’ for African scientists, the directory initiative, which is co-funded by South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation, acknowledges the increasing importance attached to collaboration in the international academy, both in producing multi- and inter-disciplinary research and as a funding requirement.