OPEN SCIENCE AND HARDWARE AND DIY BIOLOGY, MODELS BEYOND FUNDING TO ENCOURAGE BASIC SCIENCE RESEARCH IN AFRICA.
My article on the “Plight of a Ghanaian PhD student heralded several comments form leading scientists in academia and friends from the diaspora. The question of how African PhD students, scientists and researchers be encouraged to conduct basic science research had several feedbacks and many of which can be tied to funding. Many argued that funding for basic science research is a prerequisite to getting major scientific equipment and reagents.
Inasmuch as I agree with that school of thought, I hold some reservations to that. Again, very strong arguments can be made to support how important funding is in carrying out research. In evaluating funding mechanisms for research on the African continent, it will surprise us to know that little support comes from African governments with majority coming from external funding institutions. The priorities of most governments in Africa is most often polarized towards social programs to the neglect of basic science research hence their investment into the field is just a little over zero per cent.
Therefore, in a continent where little attention is paid to basic science research means that the over reliance on funding as the only way to propel the agenda of basic science research will invariably cripple how research in the field is carried out.
Rethinking how scientists in Africa view research will go a long way to solving most of her local problems.
A typical rethinking scenario is stated below;
“A section of scientists in Africa today believe in the power of using sophisticated scientific technologies like Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in carrying out their research work. The former which usually is expensive becomes a challenge to the researcher hence affects the output of research conducted. Recognizing how expensive this and many other scientific technologies are should enable us to rethink and ask ourselves basic questions like, how can technologies such as that be made locally using low cost inexpensive materials to achieve the same purpose.”
The rethinking underpinning the scenario above is largely based on the open science and hardware model. The advent of open science and hardware and Do-it-yourself (DIY) biology have largely solved the challenge of instrumental access and reagent availability. The two have enabled biohackers to build their own scientific equipment and purified their own biological enzymes and proteins to carry out their own researches.
Therefore, building capacity for African scientists in biohacking and open science will go a long way to encouraging more basic science research while championing African grown scientific innovations.
Harry Akligoh, MLS