The RISE networks 101

Yesterday, the leaders of the RISE networks met here in Benoni to discuss their experiences and the challenges ahead. Today, the discussions continue. There’s a lot I want to write about here, not least the exciting research pursued by RISE students, but to set the scene, I think I first need to outline the current status of the networks.

RISE funds five networks—the African Materials Science and Engineering Network (AMSEN); the African Natural Products Network (RISE-AFNET); the Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products Network (SABINA); the Sub-Saharan Africa Water Resources Network (SSAWRN); and the Western Indian Ocean Regional Initiative (WIO-RISE).

Each network involves universities in a number of African countries. All are multi-disciplinary in nature and try to involve not only academics, but civil society and industry to create a “new type of graduate” that can bring their findings to bear on local challenges.

The networks are approaching the end of their 2.5-year first phase, funded by US$800,000 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York with matching support (in terms of supervision, etc) from participating universities. Thus far, their main output is the soon-to graduate MSc and PhD students (each network sponsors between one and two dozen students). The materials science and engineering network has already lodged a provisional patent and had its first scientific article published in a US journal.

In other words, it’s still early days for the networks and this meeting discusses a work in progress.

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist

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