How come that research in Africa in invisible?
July 3, 2013 : The following is a collection of reactions from a discussion posted on facebook by George Achia early last month, discussing the question on Why Research is Invisible in Africa.
George Achia: We know nothing about research happening outside the US and UK. When you look at science coverage you get a sense that the world consists of [only] the UK and the US.” That was the opening salvo by the moderator, Vibeke Hjortlund, at a session discussing science reporting in the so called ‘neglected regions’ during the world conference of science journalists in Helsinki. How much do you agree or disagree with this statement.”
Cosmas Butunyi: “I totally disagree – especially in the case of Africa. There is huge coverage from this side. The moderator was obviously speaking from a point of ignorance.
Mercy: “interesting…and I think I am hopeful now that there is a change and Africa is getting covered positively. Mhh…there was time when science writing in Africa was all about disease and how Africa is suffering when it comes to issues of development. And through my years as a science journalist, there has been a sort of revolution
George Achia, and now we are having A LOT of positive stories coming from Africa, of development, of innovations, of how Africa is rising from the ‘ruins’ and doing a lot when it comes to science, research and development. A lot has to be done, but there is hope :)”
Patrick Luganda: “There is just very minimal research going on in Africa for it to steal the show. Something is being done but a lot more needs to be done. For science reporting most of the agenda setting is by the west. Who do we write for in Africa? Do we write these science stories for a senior citizen in Embu or Kericho or the youth in Gulu or Kampala…NO it is for the educated in our midst and then only a paltry following. Otherwise it is much in line with what is desired by the western universities, research agendas etc. Even stories that concern our scientists in Africa have a bias towards the sponsors of the research from the west. A good example is in GMO coverage. Depending on who is paying the ‘piper’ you can get the feel of the tune and lyrics. The same goes for climate change, technology promotion and also health stories. We still have a lot to get done. One of the approaches is to get more people to understand and therefore appreciate what science and science reporting is all about. That is a big demand among so many competing interests!!”
Jonathan Odhong: “In certain fields of science, yes but generally that’s a false statement by the moderator. Let me try and paraphrase what s/he meant to say: “Both in the UK and US, we are generally ignorant about the research that goes on in the rest of the world. Not only are we ignorant about the science, but also the general news and developments in other regions of the world. “This can be the only true statement s/he could have wanted to make because it only takes a click of the button to find out what research or science is going on in the African continent. We may have not as a continent graduated into the more sophisticated science branches like nanotechnology and others of that kind, but there are numerous other scientific researches going on. Yes most of the funding for on going research from Africa is from the West, but African researchers have lately had more voice in setting the research agenda.”
Redemtor Atieno: “He definitely does not read widely”
Patrick: “Jonathan you raise an interesting point. This is the assumption that people who live in the western world because they have the facilities at hand to access scientific research they actually do so. That is wrong. Most of the ordinary people who access the internet do so for entertainment, general news, shopping, gossip (disguised as chatting) and other seemingly simple reasons (but which are important to them). It is therefore true that they are ignorant about the science news and information first around them but more so from beyond their boundaries. By the way apart from science information most westerners do not even have a wink about where such countries as Uganda or most of the 53 countries in Africa are located or even what they are called. Then how would they bother to learn about science from here. Except that is if you were from a London School of Tropical Medicine etc and you would just most likely know about a small spot on the continent.”