Africa must adopt good data management system for development

02Dec 2019
Aisia Rweyemamu
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Africa must adopt good data management system for development

The African Un- ion’s Agenda 2063 and its Sci- ence, Technology and Innovation (STI) Strat- egy for Africa (STISA 2024), as juxtaposed within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), provide the framework for developing and enhancing strong strategic partner- ships in ...

support of STI on the African continent.

Science granting councils (SGCs) in Africa are building and sustaining partnerships to advance an internation- ally competitive knowledge enterprise.

Since 2015, the African SGCs have hosted an an- nual series of high-level dialogues and engagements to strengthen partnerships, share experiences and prac- tices on a range of emerg- ing topics, and network amongst themselves and with other science system actors within and outside the African continent.

Among this annual series of events are the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) in sub-Saharan Af- rica Annual Forum, and the Global Research Councils (GRC) Africa Regional Meet- ing, this year the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology COSTECH) has recently hosted the meeting that took place recently in Dar es Salaam.

Open science for public disclosure and engagement was among the topic dis- cussed. By using the open sci- ence, African scientists have called on their governments to establish a data manage- ment system that enable re- searchers in the countries to collect their own data, store it, and make it available to researchers by using the open science concept that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other re- search processes are freely available.

Dr Nicholaus Ozor, Execu- tive Director of African Tech- nology Policy Studies (ATPS) based in Nairobi, said that the concept of open science is carried out and communi- cated in a manner that en- able researchers to contrib- ute, add, and collaborate on research effort that anybody undertakes. “This means the research results and findings that come out of it are free and accessible to everyone,” Ozor said.

He added that “If we are using public funds to sup- port research process, the knowledge product that are produced from that should also be made public, not only the findings but also the data that have been generat- ed from such public-funded research”.

Ozor explained that, dur- ing the conference, they have recognised that African countries are not in a better position to embrace the con- cept of open science since they do not have good infra- structures and policies that support open science.

Some countries have policies that support open science but some countries do not. The conference came up with the opinion that each country should take home the basic concept of open science and have dialogue to conceptualise what open science means for them.

Scientists need to have open science area in Africa where data that have been generated from research pulled out on government’s money should be made available publicly for other researchers to use. “So that we do not have to go and carry out the same research that another per- son has carried out and gen- erate the same data which have already being gener- ated,” Ozor explained.

With the presence of open science, a lot of money can be saved for carrying out primary research activities, it save time, cost and pro- duce more.

Scientists have also re- quested African govern- ments to establish robots data management system that en- able researchers to collect their own data and store it, then make it available to researchers and still produce more knowledge out of it.

The director explained that be- cause of lack of infrastructure and capacities in African countries, even data from research that have been conducted in Africa are not available in the country.

He cited an example of Ebola saying; “when we had an Ebola outbreak it is countries from the western world that came to af- fected countries and intervened as they have enough data relat- ing to that particular disease but if you ask any of the African gov- ernments to give you national data about the disease you may find out that data are not in Africa they are abroad, this is because they have a good data manage- ment system.

Meanwhile, participants of the discussion also advocated for inclusion of women in research. Mkyba Ayinde from United State National Science Foundation said that including women in research is universal and a pertinent issue which should not be ignored.

“We found out that African continent culture is very diverse, we can learn from each other on what we have achieved in the United States in promoting gen- der inclusivity that can also be applicable in Tanzania and other African countries.

Hildegalda Mushi, a senior re- searcher of Commission for Sci- ence and Technology (COSTECH) said upgrading of policies is need- ed to boost women’s participation in research and other sectors.

Mushi added: there should be an enabling environment for re- search students and there should be specific criteria that will speak out how research funding will benefit both genders. “Women should be empowered so they can participate and ben- efit from research funding,” she explained.

Mushi noted that the biggest challenge is lack of data that show women’s participation in various sectors. Furthermore, African scientists have also acknowledged the ef- forts by all African governments in investing in science for social and economic development.

Malapo Qhobela, the Chief Ex-ecutive Officer (CEO) of National Research Foundation (NRF) based in South Africa said that the investment in science today is much more than they were years ago.

“We would love to have more but we must recognise that our governments are investing more now and things will keep on im- proving years to come,” he said. He added; “let us remember where we were 20 years ago, where we are today is much bet- ter than where we were years ago,” The NRF CEO added: there is no country in the world which says they are spending enough in science, all of them want to spend more including ourselves.

Qhobela said they believe they can do more if they will have more money in science but it does not mean that they cannot do well with what they have now. “We do the best that we can with what we have got, the best way to do when you have little is to learn from others,” he said.

Moreover, the CEO added that as an African community they have made a choice to work col- lectively together to strengthen the African sciences and en- sure African science is part and parcel of the global sci- ence.

He said being in African continent does not mean that there is no excellence or nothing good ever happens, we begin to play a better role in the development of the global sciences.

For his part, the Ellie Osir, Senior Programme Special- ist, Technology and Infor- mation for International Development Research Cen- tre (IDRC) clarified that it is not funders who determine what should be done.

“It is us who determine what we want and when we want it so that when the pro- ject is over we will continue to talk to each other,” he elaborated Osir added that despite the fact that IDRC provide funds for research in devel- oping countries and support the initiatives the councils themselves will set their agenda and priority.

“We all believe that sci- ence and technology and innovation has a link to social and economic development but you must have strong sience and technology in- novation system to be able to contribute to the develop- ment.”

Opening the meeting, the Minister for Education, Science and Technology, prof Joyce Ndalichako called on the council member states to identify scientific and technological problems and implement jointly the flag- ship research innovation programme in social sector for the future benefit of sci- ence and technology.

According to her, science forms the basis for sustain- able economic growth and prosperity in the society through increase in produc- tivity, employment creation and competitiveness. For this to happen there must be investment in sci- ence as well as technology transfer resulting to new products,” she said. She added:

“Economic progress requires more and better use of technology and research; in this regard research plays a crucial role in economic development of any society.

The COSTECH board chairman, Prof Makenya Maboko said that in order to have a good result scien- tists need to come together, collaborate and work hand in hand to support equality and status of women in re- search. Director General for COSTECH Dr Amos Nungu said that the commission is part of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub- Saharan Africa, which is a five-year initiative launched in 2015.

Nungu explained that council’s initiative aims to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa to sup- port research and evidence- based policies that will con- tribute to economic and social development.

The meeting brought on board research funding agencies, scientists, innova- tors, policy makers and de- velopment partners from 15 African countries.