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SGC delegates lobby for ‘knowledge society’

COMMUNICATION of scientific outputs to the community has been identified as a weak link that undermines uptake of research findings, according to a survey.

African Science Granting Councils (ASGC) annual meeting delegates emphasised recently the need to exploit the opportunities under open science, to promote sharing of information and strengthening knowledge use through strategic communication and public engagement.

The 2019 African science week and ASGC in sub-Saharan Africa Annual Forum was held in Dar es Salaam, last week (from November 11-15, 2019).

This year’s annual ASGC- week aimed at strengthening partnerships, sharing experiences and practices on emerging topics and networking among themselves and with other science system actors on and outside the African continent.

During the meeting, the delegates observed that Open Science is not a new concept in Africa, and that some of its components are already being practiced by African researchers and institutions in such areas as open access publications.

Approximately 250 participants from across the region and the globe attended the events hosted by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) in partnership with the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and the Scinnovent Centre.

A number of sessions were in progress during the week and papers were discussed and presented during the meeting, focusing on monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL), open science, gender and inclusivity and the SGCI Council Committee meeting.

The theme for the 2019 Annual Forum was, “Open Science in Research and Innovation for development, where among other things participants noted that information needs to be released to society in a comprehensible way. This requires positive mutual engagement with society.

They further observed that African Science Granting Councils are already working collaboratively in bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation, sharing resources, infrastructures, skills and capacities.

These collaborations promote openness and in some cases have led to peer – to – peer learning, experience and knowledge sharing and replicability.

The initiative convenes high-level Annual Forums that bring together the participating councils with other science systems to deliberate on key topical issues of strategic importance to the councils and national development as well as to enhance African voices on regional, continental and international policy debates.

However, the emergence of ‘research as an enterprise’; the new general-purpose technologies and new priorities for development have brought new dimensions to open science approaches.

The meeting noted that the transition to a ‘knowledge society’ in which productivity and innovation would be hinged more on knowledge – its generation and application – and less on natural resource endowments.

They said that this transition is underpinned by the digital revolution as a key enabler of open science.

However, the digital revolution also leads to a “Tsunami of Information” – its acquisition, storage, manipulation and potential for applications is ubiquitous.

To be relevant and useful, the meeting also noted that development challenges are complex and characterized by emergent behaviour.

It is not easy to predict future outcomes based on current events hence the need for society to accept and organize to mitigate the associated risks.

COSTECH Director General, Dr Amos Nungu said that the commission is part of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub- Saharan Africa, a five-year body launched in 2015.

According to the DG, the Science Granting Councils Initiative aims to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in sub- Saharan Africa to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development.

“Science Granting Councils Initiative is strengthening the capacity of science granting councils, leading to more effective research investments and strengthened research leadership for development in sub-Saharan Africa,” the DG said.

He noted that the meeting is preparation for the Annual 2020 meeting to be held in Durban, South Africa next year. During this annual meeting the members of ASGC has recommended that Open Science presents an opportunity to address the complexities of development.

The ASGC members called upon African governments to enact and harmonize policies, strategies and incentives for data acquisition, publication, use and disposal.

They said that Policies and strategies for managing data is very important since data is the fuel that drives open science.

Delegates emphasized the need for enhanced computational ability for the continent to harness the potential for open science.

This should be accompanied by skills and capacity enhancement, support for researcher mobility, sustainable funding and creation of accredited data centres.

There’s need for increased intra-African collaborations in both the generation of knowledge (research) as well as in its application (innovation).

Such collaborative action could focus on African grand challenges such as food security, climate change and disease burden, among others or build on-going continental initiatives such as the African free Continental Trade Area (AfCTA),” one of the key speakers said during the forum. Continuous dialogue is required to set priorities, goals and ambitions.

There’s need to create platforms and forums for regular engagement of the different players including public and private sectors as well as the funders. Community and consensus building: Noting that open science is embedded in cultural and institutional contexts characterized by diverse languages – English, French, Portuguese and Swahili as well as numerous dialects – the delegates emphasized the need to harness the opportunities presented by this diversity to promote valorization of research findings, enhance inclusivity and participation.

Create frameworks to guide data ownership and access in collaborative partnerships. The Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Prof Joyce Ndalichako said that scientists and researchers across the global should exchange their technological, innovations and research activities for social and economic development.

Prof Ndalichako said that collaborative efforts from various science and technology experts around the world are needed to develop strong nations which are in line with changes taking place in the world, urging them to share innovation ideas, activities.

“It is very important to share, exchange and learn from each other across the world. This will help to improve and promote science, technology and innovation issues around the world,” the minister said when she officiated the science week.

She urged ASGC members to ensure that the annual meeting helps to further their national development. Participants during the meeting included representation from 15 African countries under the SGCI initiative, including, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côt e d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Also representatives from Guinea, Sweden, Germany, United State of America, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, Japan and France.

The Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) aims to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development.

The Initiative is jointly funded by United Kingdom’s Department for International development (DFID); Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC); South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub- Saharan Africa (SGCI) is an eight-year initiative that aims to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development.

MZEE Shoka tested HIV positive ten years ago. ...

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Author: FATMA ABDU

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